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More than three quarters of Europeans live in urban areas. What urban residents produce, buy, eat, and throw away, the way they move around and where they live all have an impact on the environment. At the same time, the way a city is built also affects the way its residents live. We asked Roland Zinkernagel from the City of Malmö in Sweden about concrete actions to make their city sustainable.
Climate change is impacting and will continue to impact Europe. Are cities ready to face rising sea levels and temperatures and more extreme events like floods, droughts or heat waves? We asked this question to Birgit Georgi, working on regional vulnerability and climate change adaptation at the European Environment Agency.
Martin Fitzpatrick is a Principal Environmental Health Officer in the air quality monitoring and noise unit of Dublin City Council, Ireland. He is also the Dublin contact point for a pilot project run by the European Commission DG Environment and the EEA aimed at improving the implementation of air legislation. We asked him how Dublin tackles the health problems linked to poor air quality.
With population growth, urbanisation and economic development, the demand for freshwater in urban areas are increasing throughout Europe. At the same time, climate change and pollution are also affecting the availability of water for city residents. How can Europe's cities continue providing clean freshwater to their residents?
Copenhagen, 2 July 2011. Up to 150 mm of rainfall in two hours – a city record since measurements began in the mid-1800s. Homes destroyed. Citizens and emergency services struggled to cope. This is one example of how excessive extreme weather events can affect a European capital – events that are expected more often under climate change.
Did you know? A city affects a large area outside its own boundaries. For example, London alone is thought to need an area of almost 300 times its geographical size to satisfy its demands and to dispose of its waste and emissions. (SOER 2010)
Water is critical for life and is integral to virtually all economic activities, including food production and industry. Not only is clean water a prerequisite for human health and well-being, it provides aquatic habitats that support healthy freshwater ecosystems.
Over the last decades, continuous urban expansion at rates much higher than population growth has resulted in a massive urban footprint on Europe – fragmenting rural space, blocking ecosystem services and increasing the demand for transport and energy.
Soil is the earth's living skin and provides us with essential services for life in our planet: production of food; infiltration and cleansing of water and protection against flooding; habitat for plants; areas for recreation and mental health; micro climate regulation, etc. It is such a crucial resource that it can't be ignored. However, particularly in urban areas, soil is being sealed off with increasing housing and infrastructure.
The electric car finally seems to be on the verge of breaking through, offering significant environmental benefits, especially in urban areas. Innovative business models are on the way which should boost consumer acceptance and overcome the remaining barriers, such as high battery costs, green electricity supply and charging infrastructure.
Cities and towns are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and will need to find innovative ways to adapt. Now is the time to start rethinking urban design and management — yet few have taken concrete action.
Barcelona is becoming a leader in solar energy use, Malmö is developing a carbon neutral residential area and London is setting ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets. Cities are joining in the fight against climate change.
As a major contributor to greenhouse gases, the transport sector figures high on the international climate change agenda. But for many living in cities, under flight paths or near major road and rail links, it's another of transport's by-products that causes most immediate harm: noise.
This document is part of the SOER 2015 product.