EU Commission adopts new strategy to drive green infrastructure

The European Commission is encouraging the use of green infrastructure by adopting a new strategy which also ensures that the enhancement of natural processes becomes a systematic part of spatial planning.

The Commission says that green infrastructure is a tried and tested tool that uses nature to provide ecological, economic and social benefits.

One example of this is instead of building flood protection infrastructure, a green infrastructure solution would be to allow a natural wetland to absorb the excess water from heavy rain.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "Building green infrastructure is often a good investment for nature, for the economy and for jobs. We should provide society with solutions that work with nature instead of against it, where that makes economic and environmental sense."

According to the Commission, green infrastructure is often cheaper and more durable than alternatives provided through conventional civil engineering.

"Biodiversity-rich parks, green spaces and fresh air corridors can for example mitigate the negative effects of summer heat waves. In addition to the health and environmental benefits, green infrastructure also brings multiple social benefits: it creates jobs and makes cities more appealing places to live and work. And it allows for wildlife to thrive, even in an urban context" the Commission states.

The strategy will focus on promoting green infrastructure in the main policy areas such as agriculture, forestry, nature, water, marine and fisheries, regional and cohesion policy, climate change mitigation and adaptation, transport, energy, disaster prevention and land use policies.

By the end of 2013, the Commission will develop guidance to show how green infrastructure can be integrated into the implementation of these policies from 2014 to 2020.

It will also aim to improve research and data, strengthen the knowledge base and promote innovative technologies that support green infrastructure.

Other areas the strategy concentrates on are improving access to finance for green infrastructure projects. The Commission will set up an EU financing facility by 2014 together with the European Investment Bank to support green infrastructure projects.

By the end of 2017, the Commission will review progress on developing Green Infrastructure and publish a report on the "lessons learnt" together with recommendations for future action.

Leigh Stringer


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