Turku, Penafiel and Torres Vedras are the first cities to join the Green City Accord.
Turku, in Southwest Finland, sits within the northernmost range of the oak tree. Since joining the Green City Accord, the city has shared plans to protect the diversity of nature, such as the endangered hermit beetle, found in the old oak trees on Turku’s Ruissalo island.
The city has also implemented a progressive forest strategy in recent years and is working to conserve the Baltic Sea.
For example, the 10-year forest plan, tackling almost 5,000 hectares of forest prohibits clear-cutting on city grounds, considers forests to be valuable carbon sinks and prohibits felling of all forests over 130 years of age.
In fact, Turku is already working towards many of the goals included in the Green City Accord. According to the city’s Mayor, Minna Arve, “Turku’s ambitious climate action goes hand in hand with environmental protection and the promotion of circular economy.”
To this extent, Turku is currently drawing up the first city level plan in Finland for transitioning the entire region to the circular economy. The city plans to achieve zero emissions, zero waste and a low ecological footprint with the sustainable use of natural resources by the year 2040.
In keeping with the ideas of the Green City Accord, the city already monitors air quality and noise pollution, and has taken active measures to improve these indicators, such as lowering speed limits in the city centre to reduce noise.
Penafiel’s steadfast commitment to sustainability started 20 years ago, and since then it has been part of many international initiatives, such as the Local Agenda 21 and the Covenant of Mayors.
As well as focussing on education, and including people in the process of change, the city has already made headway in many initiatives that link to the Green City Accord.
For example, its bicycle sharing system encouraged people to leave the car behind, thus reducing CO2 emissions and improving air quality. Meanwhile, several new green spaces in the city allow a route for rain and flood water to circulate.
“It’s a great honour for us to be part of the Green City Accord community. Given the environmental challenges we face, working together to share our experiences is the best way to achieve better results for everyone,” said Antonino de Sousa Mayor of Penafiel, Portugal, which was the first city to sign the Accord.
A cyclone that left a trail of destruction in the fast-growing city of Torres Vedras, a decade ago forced the municipal council to think about increasing the city’s resilience.
“Becoming part of the Green City Accord community is an important step for Torres Vedras to make our territory more sustainable, green and efficient. It is our duty to improve our cities to safeguard the health and well-being of our citizens from growing environment-related risks and impacts,” said Carlos Bernardes Mayor of Torres Vedras, Portugal.
Indeed, the city has made good progress and even received the European Green leaf Award for its sustainable mobility strategy in 2015. The city currently plans to invest in expanding its network of bike paths and extend the network of bike stations within the city limits.
Moreover, in 2011 the first electric vehicle charging stations were installed in the municipality, and, more recently, investment in electric mobility has continued, with 12 vehicle loading points that, during 2019, allowed a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption.
What is the Green City Accord
The Green City Accord is a European Commission initiative to mobilise cities to take environmental action. It aims to improve the quality of life of all Europeans, and accelerate the implementation of relevant EU environmental laws at the local level.
By signing the initiative, cities are committing to improving air and water quality, protecting biodiversity, reducing noise pollution and promoting the circular economy. The cities will report on their actions on a regular basis; the idea is to also spread good practices throughout the network.