Policy-makers stressed the role of urban communities in improving air quality at a debate taking place in the context of Green Week 2006.
A conference co-organised by DG Environment and Friends of Europe on 31 May looked at ways of “greening” European cities and stressed the environmental responsibility of urban communities in achieving this goal.
Speakers at the debate unanimously called for more ambitious, legally binding air quality targets, in particular on reducing concentrations of fine particulate matter in the atmosphere (the so-called PM 2.5).
MEP Dorette Corbey (PES, Netherlands) insisted on the need to better translate European policies at local level. She called on all levels of government (EU, states, local) to come together around a coherent strategy following the same regulatory standards on urban environment and clean air legislation.
Environmental Manager, Volvo Bus Corporation, added that cooperation between public bodies, business and academia should also be stimulated.
Belgian Environment Minister Bruno Tobback emphasised the need for “integrated solutions” to locally felt environmental problems. He suggested practical measures be taken such as: district heating involving renewable energy, low energy housing projects, environmental city zoning and congestion charges (such as practiced in London and Stockholm).
Tobback supported sustainable and cost-attractive public transport in European cities, but said they only make sense if they are part of a “long-term plan.” In line with these comments, the panel acknowledged the links between pursuing urban environmental goals and more accurate urban planning. A more widespread use of “green” public procurement was also urged for.