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Thinking green: the EU Green Week 2016

June 17, 2016

The EU Green Week 2016, the annual occasion to explore and discuss European environment policy, took place betweem 30 May and 3 June 2016, under the slogan “Investing for a greener future”. ‘Investing’ in the broadest sense of the word, means to use any capital goods in hopes of making a profit for a sustainable world, in terms of creating jobs, bringing growth and prosperity and ensuring the planet’s conservation. A green investment will benefit both the economy and the environment. It is a key factor in moving to a circular and low-carbon economy and to achieve the commitments established during the past years, as the commissioner Karmenu Vella mentioned in his review of the week.

Therefore, diverse events were held across the EU together with online activities related to 5 main areas where financing could help to reach a “greener future”. Hence, each day of the week brought about a different aspect of the theme:

On the first day, the investing for greener cities day, among other events the Green Week’s official opening was held in Ljubljana, European Green Capital for 2016, with the presence of the city’s Mayor, Zoran Janković, and Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director General of DG Environment. Previously, a Uniting for Sustainable Cities session had commenced in Amsterdam where EU Ministers for Urban Affairs met to agree on the Pact of Amsterdam which establishes the Urban Agenda of the EU and lays out its key principles, helping to achieve “sustainable cities and communities” through EU policies in cities in the fields of environment, transport, employment, etc. Sustainable development of urban areas is an essential aspect to take into account from which a major impact is expected on the future of the European Union and its citizens due to the fact that the EU is one of the most urbanised areas in the world.

The investing in our countryside day took place on the second day and was dedicated to exploring how to ensure that the countryside stays healthy and productive for future generations. The day started with a full-day conference on Sustainable Food & Biowaste Management hosted in Valletta, Malta where best practice examples of managing food waste and biowaste taken from around Europe were presented by experts and policymakers.

For more information about the current status of food waste management systems in EU-28 and more specifically for FR, DE, HU, NO and the UK you may check Food Waste Statistics in Europe report by the PlasCarb team, an FP7 project where Geonardo Ldt. is leading dissemination and exploitation activities.

One of the highlights of the day was in Brussels, where the European Commission announced the winners of the LIFE best Awards for 2015 (the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action, targeting successful green projects). 11 winning projects from 7 different countries embodied the three strands of the LIFE programme: Nature; Environment; Information & Communication. Also on Tuesday a seminar looked at the crucial role fiscal policies can play in implementing the recent Paris Climate Agreement.

The third day was dedicated to the investments that make it happen, in order to obtain a financial system that is more sustainable. Existing innovative ideas and solutions were examined to finance green initiatives moving towards a greener future. In Sweden, a seminar was focused on how ‘green bonds’ can be used most effectively. The results’ analysis of the Eurobarometer survey indicated that over the last few years, 73% of the European SMEs undertook some type of circular economy related activity, showing that the circular economy model for businesses is receiving more and more interest from small businesses. Since a financial system is needed for a sustainable development, in Brussels European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella discussed how the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) can mobilise finance for green projects.

On the fourth day the theme was investing in our oceans, and the discussions aimed to ensure healthy and productive oceans in the long run. The day started with the first Seanergy Convention, a three-day networking event for Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) professionals to explore the possibilities of tidal and wave harnessing as an alternative energy production, including innovations in wind offshore energy, wave energy, solar floating energy and ocean thermal energy. Meanwhile in Bussels, the importance and value of natural resources were discussed at the European Business Summit. Over the week the ‘Eco-Days: Greening Greece’ project carried out a series of events to encourage the general public to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle in Greece. Later on a webinar on how to access EU financing for sustainable ocean projects explored the different programmes to finance sustainable blue projects.

Investing for future generations, the final day of the Green Week, looked at how the action and efforts taken today can help bring long-term prosperity and well-being for a sustainable world. The final large-scale event, the, ‘Sustainable Development Goals for a Green Future: Investing for Future Generations’ conference, was weld in Vienna, where policymakers and young people examined how to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The EU is committed to implementing the integrated and universal vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development both in Europe and worldwide. Subsequently, a debate took place in Brussels on how to make the change towards a more circular economy following the release of the circular action plan from the European Commission at the end of 2015, while online a Twitter chat focused on the green skills to succeed in the labour market of tomorrow.

The EU Green Week brought together EU citizens and different stakeholders from across the globe– from young people and business leaders to policy experts and EU officials to tackle together the opportunities and challenges of investing for a greener future. It cannot be regarded as a coincidence that the EU Green Week overlapped with the World Environment Day held on 5th June, the United Nations’ most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment.

 “Green investments pay dividends – literally. That was the take-home message for Green Week 2016.”

COMMISSIONER VELLA

 

By: Irene Ramirez

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