You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere

You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere

Pedro Marín Cots, Secretary General of CAT-MED Platform

The economic crisis, which, in some European countries, has worsened as an unknown recession since the postwar years, has concurred with the use of austerity policies that have further aggravated the citizens’ social situation, mainly unemployed population or at risk of social exclusion.

The measures of the “Gini” coefficient from the last seven years give us a negative interdependence on the incomes’ distribution and the rising of social inequalities that were not happening in Europe for many years.

The economic recession and the austerity policies have diverted the attention from the environmental problems arising from Climate change. However, the threats from the latest reports of the UN Panel of Experts are seeking for radical and immediate policy changes against CO2 emissions, before a significant part of the planet’s population  is affected by  sea level raising, or sudden climate changes that could have economic consequences such as a GDP GDP’s contraction between  1.0 and 2.5%, depending on the country.

Although the environmental situation has worsened since 2007, the Operational Programme of the European Commission for 2014-2020 canceled from its priorities the fight against Climate Change, and what it represents as a set of integrated tools to promote a territory and society less dependent of carbon consumption.

The new priorities for 2014-2020 have a more indirect or passive relationship with the reduction of CO2 emissions, through drivers or Programmes such as Horizon 2020, which deal with energy efficiency and savings, or the extension of the diffuse concept of “Smart City, whose main recipients are large companies linked to the energy, communications or transport industries.

The city, the territory where 80% of the activities are performed in Western Europe, is in this context only a part of pilot projects where to test the consistency of the new proposals.

The URBAN program, its derivatives URBACT, associations of cities as CAT-MED Platform or, even, the European Framework of Sustainable Cities, which are seeking to recover the idea of sustainability from an integrated approach which bring together own territory, do not just have a conclusive support by the European Commission.

In fact, except in the case of URBAN, the European Union has never legislated on land use or cities’ configuration. In the last decades, dozens of proposals or legislations related to air pollution, noise, solid waste and water treatment have been prepared. The non-inclusion of housing as an objective of ERDF has recently been amended, but just to make effective energy saving policies.

There are no comprehensive, integrated policies to develop the new paradigm that we should clearly differentiate from the twentieth century in relation with the structure of carbon consumption, and, even more, in relation with the promotion of citizens’ relationships in a more livable urban space.

It is unable to carry out policies for energy efficiency in buildings, in cars or Smart infrastructures, whether in parallel it is not planed a territory less dependent from the car and from the distances, which drive us to cities more extended. In fact, the recovery of the Classical Mediterranean City Model, with its high density, building compactness, complexity of uses and functions and proximity to basic services, is a guarantee of efficiency and energy consumption.

Meanwhile, while promoting public transport in medium and long distances, proximity is covered walking or cycling. It is a more efficient urban model regarding the costs arising from accidents on roads or highways, or by the waste of time in endless traffic jams. The different  meetings held by the CAT-MED Platform with the European Parliament, with EUROCITIES or with the European Commission, aim to show the need to consider integrated urban policies that modify the performance associated with the carbon consumption, while promoting urban spaces with proximity and greater urban comfort in cities.

It is not useful to build green buildings if they are isolated from each other, creating only residential spaces, where the private car is needed to move to shops or school zones. The energy savings produced by one measure is lost by the other factor, and the running time spent by the continuous movements becomes ridiculous.

The next European Commission Programmes, from Horizon 2020 to the MED Programme, should concentrate on making innovative and integrated proposals containing the territory and the city configuration as central core, as part of energy efficiency or sustainable mobility policies.

11-02-2015

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