METREX hosted a special event at the EU Week of Regions and Cities that brought together a number of Members to examine the most effective green projects and initiatives and discuss solutions that look beyond the pandemic to achieve a green recovery.
METREX members Helsinki, Gdańsk, Wrocław, Stuttgart Region, Torino and Nürnberg presented how they are redefining their responsibilities to support citizens, civil society and businesses to translate green policies into action.
Jakub Mazur, First Deputy Mayor of Wrocław and President of METREX
Jan Olbrycht – Member of the European Parliament
Dr Nicola Schelling, Regional Direktorin Verband Region Stuttgart
Kaisa-Reeta Koskinen, Head of the Climate Unit, City of Helsinki
Moderated by Henk Bouwman, Secretary General of METREX
With video postcards from
Metropolitan Region Nürnberg
Città Metropolitana di Torino
‘When we think about the big issues – from climate to mobility – these are not just the problems of the big cities’, Jan Olbrycht MEP said as he advocated the metropolitan dimension as the level at which urban and rural issues can be solved.
And indeed, it was clear that the invited metropolitan regions and cities were working towards concrete solutions for a green, post-pandemic recovery.
Changing behaviour and enabling change
Almost all case studies we heard, included the idea of implementing projects – big and small – to change behaviour and therefore have a bigger and more long-lasting impact. This was evident in projects such as Wrocław’s Tap Water campaign, which seeks to reduce the use of plastic bottles, and Stuttgart Region’s focus on the enhancement of the natural landscape, which aims to boost associated health benefits for people. In Helsinki, the result of the energy challenge served to highlight the role of authorities as designers of systems that can enable change.
Helsinki outlined the lengths it had gone to in order to generate and pool new ideas on reversing climate change through its EUR 1 million Energy Challenge. However, aside from the practical function this will play in a city heated by coal, Helsinki is going further by saying that the expertise reaped is of little use if not shared with others who are facing similar problems. There were 252 solutions that were submitted from teams across 35 countries which, Helsinki’s Deputy Mayor said, ‘is concrete proof that there are solutions available’.
Sharing the burden to compound action
Nuremberg is transforming policies into action by inspiring others to help fund a local climate pact, which is designed to deliver on Paris goals. This approach, they say, will share responsibility whilst delivering projects that investors can be proud of. Meanwhile in Wrocław, they are enabling cooperation between business, research and public agencies to bring ideas to fruition. This approach has launched the world’s first perovskite solar cell factory.
Health should go hand in hand with the green recovery
Wrocław, Stuttgart, Torino and Gdańsk each shared details of projects that had been designed to improve the natural environment. But behind each of the projects was an underlying human benefit – whether mental or physical. In Wrocław, we heard about educating young citizens to grow produce, while the metropolitan city of Torino was rejuvenating public squares and social housing to create healthier and greener environments in which to live. In Gdańsk, the regeneration of a large former port was leading the city’s charge for recovery from the pandemic.
METREX will continue this theme of inquiry with a follow-up event in early 2022.
Take away message
- Metropolitan regions and areas are the optimum level at which urban and rural challenges can be met.
- A green recovery will require changing behaviours as much as physical interventions.
- The ideas to meet green goals are out there, but the willingness to adopt, and indeed share them must come next.
- Health should be the driver behind green recovery projects.
- Inviting other stakeholders to invest in climate-related projects is a concrete way to bring action and inspire further change.
‘When we think about the big issues – from climate to mobility – these are not just the problems of the big cities.’
Jan Olbrycht MEP
‘This year is all about change, but this change also brings lots of opportunities.’
‘We want to clean up our own house, but at the same time, we want to take seriously our global responsibility. We want to work alongside other cities, and make sure our learnings and solutions are shared.’
Anni Sinnemäki, Deputy Mayor of Helsinki