Leon Smet: lifting the Green City to a European level

#Benefits of green #green agenda #the green city

Leon Smet is secretary at the Royal Trade Association for Nursery Stock and Flower Bulbs (Anthos), one of the organisations that have put their weight behind The Green City. We spoke with him about the EU application for a European Green Cities program of which he is the initiator.

With your organisation Anthos you have committed yourself to The Green City. Can you briefly explain  the purpose of this platform?

‘The Green City projects are aimed at stimulating the interest for ‘green’ among governments, organisations, and companies who are professionally engaged with the planning and development of urban areas. The overall goal is a larger, more thoughtful use of green in order to create a healthier living and working environment’.

‘Scientific findings, best practices and innovations from around the world are identified and form the content of the argument. Through various activities in the field of information and public relations ‘the story of The Green City’ is brought to the attention of decision makers at different levels in politics, government and business in a creative and compelling way. This ‘story’ is also told to schools, hospitals and care homes, organizations and businesses in order to communicate the ideals of The Green City in an active way’.

‘The Green City distinguishes five main themes:

  1. Health
  2. Economy
  3. Climate
  4. Biodiversity
  5. Social cohesion’

Program for 3 years

The ambition is to transform this platform into an active European network. Which steps are being taken in this respect?

‘We are currently preparing an EU grant application for a European three-year program. This program will be initiated in 2017 and continue until 2020. Eight European countries already pledged their participation: the Netherlands, Germany, France, Bulgaria, United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal and Denmark. The objective of this application is to create an active network of European Green City programs and to promote the importance of green spaces in European cities in a more uniform and simultaneous manner. The deadline for this application was April 28th. During autumn the European Commission will make a decision about our application’.

Can you explain some more about the program proposal?

‘The applicant of the program is the European Nursery Stock Association (ENA). Member organizations of the ENA jointly prepared the application. The purpose of the program is that all the national Green City programs will be connected to each other in order to realize a more coherent structure. Because of this, knowledge can be exchanged in an optimal way so that the awareness of the importance of green will be increased’.

‘The goal of all European Nursery Stock Association members, participating in this proposal, is to cooperate more intensively in order to create greener cities and infrastructure. The common denominator for this is the ‘Green Cities for Europe’ program’.

‘Urbanization will ensure that by 2050 70% of the population will live in urban areas. However, citizens do not want to live in a polluted, non-green area. Green in cities is becoming increasingly important’.

‘The project Green Cities for Europe should ensure that professionals – especially decision makers in government and business that have to make choices in the field of environment management – are permeated by the value of green in cities’.

‘Green Cities Europe, when provided with a larger budget, has the capacity to create an environment in which national, regional and local initiatives will have a bigger impact. It also provides an international platform where substantive, creative ideas and experiences can be exchanged. This will increase the enrichment of content’.

‘The European green businesses show, through their engagement with ‘Green Cities for Europe’, that they believe in the positive impact of our products and services on the well-being of people and the environment,  and that they believe in consistency, especially in our industry, between health and wealth. At the same time, we recognize the fact the greening of our cities contributes to higher revenues for the green industry’.

Strengthen the cooperation

What will be the role of The Green City in this proposal?

‘This application aims to strengthen the partnership between the participating countries and to jointly carry out the importance of green. The Green City as a platform is the link between all the countries that participate. This creates a European network of people and companies that are committed to green. Best practices, research and other information can be easily shared and distributed in this way. For example, there will be a common agenda with conferences, which will contribute to the transparency of the activities in different countries. An active link on the platform with the ‘Green Agenda’ is an example. The Green Agenda is a program initiated by iVerde and FloraHolland, in which universities develop and test together with entrepreneurs to create innovative green concepts’.

How is this program funded?

‘Every country will develop their own program. Conferences, leaflets, websites, social media and other means will be developed and organised in order to raise awareness and attention to green in Europe. Brussels in terms of financing will provide 80% of the total cost, since it is a multi-country program’.

What will be the role of the Netherlands in the European Green Cities Program?

‘The Netherland will offer an important part of the infrastructure for a European platform with The Green City. Results of relevant scientific research will be classified and disclosed in a more structural way. There will be annual conferences where business, science and representatives of (local) governments are invited’.