Monday, June 24, 2024

Urban Green Infrastructure Innovative European Union Policy Advancements | Luigi Petito

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Another significant policy milestone achieved this year was the European Parliament’s adoption, with a significant majority, of a report on the revision of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD). This report promotes green and blue infrastructure solutions for stormwater management, significantly enhancing the original proposal initiated by the European Commission. It addresses a gap in the over 30-year-old Directive, by emphasizing the role of green infrastructures in mitigating the adverse effects of stormwater overflows. The UWWTD mandates Member States to prioritize green and blue infrastructure solutions whenever feasible in their mandatory integrated urban wastewater management plans.  This will result in an increase in urban green spaces and the curbing of stormwater overflows through nature-based solutions. Additionally, the European Parliament directly mentions green roofs as a wastewater management solution when outlining the mandatory plan contents.

In the upcoming quarter of 2024, the closure of this file will ensue following negotiations between the European Parliament and Member States. Commencing negotiations with a robust stance on green infrastructure from the European Parliament will undoubtedly fortify these policies.

I’m pleased to also acknowledge the recent resolution by the European Parliament on a revised Pollinators Initiative. This resolution underscores the necessity to incorporate biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services into urban planning, specifically to protect pollinator populations. It calls upon Member States to monitor pollinator populations in urban areas and share best practices to create an active network of cities focused on urban pollinator conservation. Crucially, the resolution highlights the role of green roofs and walls in providing habitat for pollinators and contributing to urban resilience and enhancing the quality of life for city residents. This resolution essentially outlines the European Parliament’s priorities and requests for successful implementation of the Commission’s Revised Pollinators Initiative. Furthermore, the text proposes the establishment of a ‘nature fund’ in the upcoming European multiannual financial framework (to be defined in 2027) to drive this agenda forward.

Finally, last week, the co-legislators successfully reached an agreement concerning the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). Despite facing significant challenges during negotiations, the directive now incorporates language conducive to fostering the widespread adoption of green infrastructure within the built environment. Notably, the directive states that Member States of the European Union, in meeting their obligatory requirement to install solar systems on buildings, must establish and publish national-level criteria for effectively implementing these obligations. In devising these criteria, various factors including structural integrity, integration of green roofs, and appropriate attic and roof insulation must be taken into consideration.

This language is further emphasized in a recital that underscores the importance for Member States to consider integrating solar installations with other roofing functions, such as green roofs or additional building service installations. Moreover, the directive outlines the necessity for upcoming National Buildings Renovation Plans, scheduled for completion by June 2025, to prominently feature the planning of green infrastructure policies and measures. Lastly, the directive mandates that new buildings and those undergoing substantial renovations must address climate change adaptation, indirectly contributing to the advancement of green infrastructures, which play a pivotal role in this regard.

The final version of the EPBD text, agreed upon by the co-legislators, is now due for formal approval by the European Parliament and Member States in the forthcoming weeks.

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