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Wetlands near building

EU Adopts Green Infrastructure Strategy

Wetlands near buildingThe European Commission has adopted a strategy to promote green infrastructure by enhancing biodiversity in urban areas. The EC says the strategy will create new jobs, provide economic benefits and be a key step in implementing the European Union’s 2020 goals to protect biodiversity and ecosystems.

To achieve these goals, the Commission wants to ensure that spatial planning improves natural processes. In areas where flooding occurs, for example, it wants to encourage a green solution such as a natural wetland that will absorb excess rain water, instead of building flood-proof infrastructure.

Environment commissioner Janez Potocnik says infrastructure should work with nature, instead of against it, wherever it makes economic and environmental sense. Potocnik says green infrastructure is often less expensive and lasts longer than conventional civil engineering choices.

Green solutions such as biodiversity parks and fresh air corridors that help combat heat waves in the summer would also make cities more appealing, create jobs and allow for wildlife to thrive in urban areas, the Commission says.

It plans to develop a framework by the end of this year to show how green infrastructure can be integrated with broader policies on agriculture, forestry, marine life, energy, climate change and land use by 2020. It will also focus on promoting innovative technologies, improving funding for green projects through the European Investment Bank and assessing opportunities for developing a green infrastructure network across the EU.

The Commissions says it expects a high return on investment on green projects that will outweigh the costs. The new strategy also fits in with the EU’s 2020 targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions and increase renewable energy usage to 20 percent – goals that have been slowed down by the financial crisis in the Eurozone.

The European Commission’s announcement follows a January report from the World Economic Forum’s Green Growth Action Alliance calling for more spending on green infrastructure. The report finds that governments should spend an additional $36 billion annually on clean energy, which could spur up to $570 billion a year in private capital.

After Hurricane Sandy, a report prepared by the NYS2100 commission recommended adding green infrastructure features, such as dunes, wetlands and oyster beds, to New York’s industrial shoreline to help infiltrate, evaporate, retain or reuse storm water.

Photo Credit: Center for Neighborhood Technology via Flickr

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