The Green City Accord is a new urban initiative launched by the European Commission in October. Eurocities is coordinating the initiative’s implementation, together with ICLEI Europe and CEMR
To find out more, Alex Godson interviewed Laura Baroni, Project Coordinator at Eurocities, who is working on the Green City Accord.
What makes the Green City Accord stand out from other environmental initiatives launched on the European level in recent years, such as the Covenant of Mayors or the climate neutral mission?
The Green City Accord focusses on improving air and water quality, conserving and enhancing nature and biodiversity, making progress towards the circular economy, and reducing noise in cities. As such, it complements the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy and the Climate Neutral and Smart Cities Mission by addressing environmental topics which are not the primary focus of these other initiatives.
The Accord also differs from other environmental initiatives by tackling multiple topics in one package. By covering five environmental areas, it represents an overarching commitment to holistically improve cities’ environmental performance. It is therefore more comprehensive than existing single-topic initiatives, covering the main fields of EU environmental policy which are in the remit of cities. By tackling the five topics under one framework, cities can also leverage double wins – for example, some nature-based solutions will deliver benefits to several of the five topics simultaneously; mobility-related actions to improve air quality may also reduce noise; and so on.
What do you hope to achieve with the Green City Accord?
The overall aim of the Green City Accord is to help cities deliver a better environment and thereby improve the quality of life of all citizens. It offers a framework for cities to take further action across the five environmental areas, and also to learn from each other.
The initiative is also intended to foster closer collaboration between cities and the European institutions to achieve the ambitions of the European Green Deal and better implement EU environmental laws, most of which must anyway be put into effect at local level.
What’s in it for cities? Why should they sign up?
Joining the Accord is an opportunity to be part of a community of ambitious cities driving the transition towards a more sustainable, pollution-free Europe. It is also an opportunity for cities to share knowledge and good practices with each other, and to gain international visibility for their commitments and environmental efforts.
Signatory cities will gain access to the capacity-building opportunities offered by the initiative, such as peer-learning visits and workshops. A dedicated helpdesk will provide expert advice to support cities in implementing their commitments, direct signatories to relevant resources (such as guidance materials, tools, case studies), and advise signatories on relevant funding opportunities.
The Accord is also an opportunity for cities to benchmark their achievements against progress in other cities. In fact, we are working on a set of indicators to help cities do this, which we hope to have ready by the end of this year.
What commitments must they make?
In signing the Accord, cities commit to taking further action to achieve five goals:
- Significant improvement in air quality, moving closer to respecting the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Guidelines, while ending exceedances of EU air quality standards as soon as possible.
- Important progress in improving the quality of water bodies and the efficiency of water use.
- Considerable progress in conserving and enhancing urban biodiversity, including through an increase in the extent and quality of green areas in cities, and by halting the loss of and restoring urban ecosystems.
- Advance towards the circular economy by securing a significant improvement in the management of household municipal waste, an important reduction in waste generation and landfilling, and a substantial increase in re-use, repair and recycling.
- Significant reduction in noise pollution, moving closer to the levels recommended by the World Health Organization.
After signing the Accord, cities will have two years to define their own specific targets for 2030 in each of the five areas. They will then report on their progress every three years to the European Commission.
How does a city sign up?
To join the initiative, mayors should first present the Green City Accord to the city council (or equivalent decision-making body) for an official decision. Once the city council decision is obtained, the mayor can sign the commitment document electronically through this form.
More information can be found on the Green City Accord website.
The GCA helpdesk is here to guide cities through this process; interested cities should send an email to email@example.com