Monday, January 16, 2006

Commission proposes strategy to improve the environment in Europe’s cities

The European Commission today launched a new Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment to help Member States and regional and local authorities improve the environmental performance of Europe's cities. The Strategy is one of seven foreseen under the 6th Environmental Action Programme. Its goal is to facilitate better implementation of EU environmental policies and legislation at the local level through exchange of experience and good practice between Europe's local authorities. Four out of five European citizens now live in towns and cities and their quality of life is directly influenced by the state of the urban environment.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "Europe's cities should be sustainable and offer a high quality of life so that people want to live and work in them and businesses want to invest there. The Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment works with Member States to help regional and local authorities learn from one another about measures that are particularly effective in improving the environmental performance of our cities."

The strategy's approach

Europe's urban areas face a number of environmental challenges including poor air quality, high levels of traffic and congestion, urban sprawl, greenhouse gas emissions and generation of waste and waste water. These can cause environmental damage and affect human health.

Local authorities have a decisive role to play in implementing environmental legislation and improving the environmental performance of a city. The best performing cities have developed integrated approaches to urban management where daily decisions are guided by a strategic vision and objectives. These can improve quality of life and the city's economic performance, which in turn can attract new residents and businesses.

While local action is essential, public authorities at regional, national and European level also need to be proactive. The EU can provide support by promoting Europe's good practices. It can do so best by encouraging effective networking and exchange of experience between cities. Many solutions already exist in cities but they are not sufficiently disseminated or implemented.

The Commission has coordinated the objectives of the Strategy with other Community programmes and proposes support for investments, research and demonstration projects on key urban environment issues such as investment in urban transport and reuse of derelict land, or training in urban management. Member States should exploit the opportunities offered at the European level to make improvements in the environmental performance of their cities.

Proposed Measures

The main actions under the strategy are:

-Guidance on integrated environmental management and on sustainable urban transport plans. The guidance will be based on cities' experiences, expert views and research, and will help ensure full implementation of EU legislation. It will provide sources of further information to help prepare and implement action plans.
Training. A number of Community programmes will provide opportunities for training and capacity-building for local authorities to develop the skills needed for managing the urban environment. Moreover, support will be offered for local authorities to work together and learn from each other. These should be exploited both by the Member States and local authorities.
Support for EU wide exchange of best practices.Consideration will be given for the establishment of a new European programme to exchange knowledge and experience on urban issues under the new Cohesion Policy. The Commission will closely cooperate with Member States and local authorities. This work will be based on a pilot network of focal points on urban issues (the "European Knowledge Platform") which offers advice to local authorities across Europe.
Commission internet portal for local authorities.The feasibility of creating a new internet portal for local authorities on the Europa website will be explored to provide better access to the latest information.

Thematic Strategies

Thematic Strategies are based on extensive research and consultation of stakeholders, address issues in a holistic way that links with other problems and policy areas, and promote Better Regulation.

The other six strategies cover air pollution (), marine environment (), resources (), waste (), soils and pesticides.
See for more details on the Urban Environment Strategy.

The Strategy:


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