A conference held in the French city of Lyon this week has been helping European cities get to grips with ecological challenges. The Eurocities network is providing leads. The umbrella organisation covering some 135 urban centres in 34 countries has issued a common declaration against climate change.
The current president of Eurocities, Mayor of Lyon Gerard Collomb, said: “This declaration is the cities’ commitment to follow urban policies, energy policies and transport policies so that the way they develop changes, so they can, for example, reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases – pollution problems.”
All the cities in the network are to be signatories of the document. The mayor of Copenhagen, which will host next year’s post-Kyoto summit, said cities are in the front line in the fight against climate change: “For us as a city it’s very important to emphasize that cities play a crucial role in the solution of the climate challenge. Over 7O% of the world’s CO2 emissions come from cities, so if the global organizations, if the national governments don’t work together with the cities to find a solution to this problem, it will not succeed.”
After everyone has signed the declaration, all the good intentions will have to be put into practice.
A senior official from Nantes, Jean-Marc Ayrault, who conceived the declaration agrees there will have to be help: “There’ll have to be concrete action on transport, habitat, on urban sprawl, water quality and air, and for that the cities are willing and determined. But they will not be able to do it alone. There has to be parallel action of the cities and governments, and Europe as well.”
Individuals shouldn’t underestimate their potential to contribute, said ecologist Véronique Cloup: “Question the individual car, for instance: Share vehicles. Four people in their own cars… immediately you go from four cars down to one! And use the car only for important getting around.”
To make that possible, more and more cities are providing cheap alternatives, such as bikes almost free of charge in Lyon. Less energy-hungry buildings, or ones that even produce their own power are another concrete ambition that is spreading. The Lycée de la Martinière high school in Lyon generates 950 kWh per year, using solar panels on the roof.
TheEU’s ‘Concerto’ programme is giving three million euros towards modernising one of Lyon’s old warehouse districts. Maxime Valentin, working on the Confluence project, said: “These buildings consume very little energy – around an eighth of that in a conventional building. Moreover, they produce renewable energy. These islets here… 80% of their energy is produced from wood. We also have solar power, which gives us our hot water. Here, we have subsidised housing, mixed in with non-subsidised housing. There are also some offices in islet C, so you have a real combination of social mix and functional mix.”
The eco-residential area is under construction, completion expected in 2010 at the earliest.