A sustainable European city

Councillor Steve Burgess today secured backing for City of Edinburgh Council to sign up to the European Sustainable cities declaration. 

At the last European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns, held in the Basque Country last year,  a declaration was proposed by the ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, which outlined new pathways for European Cities and Towns to create productive, sustainable and resilient cities for a liveable and inclusive Europe.

This, so called, ‘Basque declaration’ acknowledges the role of Cities and towns in achieving more socially and environmentally sustainable living;

It was agreed that European cities be encouraged to endorse this declaration: a significant declaration of intent for European Cities, whether inside or outside of the EU.

The Declaration states;

‘We, the Mayors and representatives of European Cities and Towns,

“In light of our responsibility towards the well-being of our current and future citizens and the global dimension of our local development, lifestyles and resource consumption,

“Acknowledge the need for a technological, socioeconomic, and socio-cultural transformation of our societies, in order to ensure a decent quality of life for our population whilst respecting the limits of our local and global ecosystems and available natural resources.”

The declaration sites 10 major goals:

  • Decarbonise our energy systems and reduce total energy consumption,
  • Create sustainable urban mobility patterns and accessibility for all,
  • Protect and enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services,
  • Reduce the use of greenfield land and natural space,
  • Protect water resources, water and air quality,
  • Adapt to climate change, and reduce the risk of disasters,
  • Improve public space to create convivial, safe, and vibrant environments,
  • Provide sufficient and adequate housing for all,
  • Guarantee the social inclusion and integration of all parts of the society,
  • Strengthen our local economies and local employment opportunities.

It could be argued that each of these 10 goals, are goals that this council is already working towards – but it would be a confirmation of intent and overall purpose to publicly endorse these goals.

There is clearly only one way that cities are going in the future and that is set out in this declaration.

Edinburgh can chose to be in the lead in reaching that end or chose to be reluctantly dragged towards it. I think that Edinburgh should be one of those cities in the lead.

The commitments in the declaration are broad, and some of the goals are already in the council’s business plan. This is really a public re-statement of intent and declaring common ground with other European Cities at a time when the UK’s commitment to common prosperity is under question.

Sustainability should rise above party politics and any council administration, this one or a future one should be more than willing to take the principles of this declaration forward.

The motion was backed by all parties in the chamber, except the Tories.