ECOCITY is an urban non-profit organisation, established in Athens in 2004, relying on voluntary participation and contribution, with time and knowledge offered by its members (scientists, professors, state and public sector officials, local authorities representatives, NGO’s, journalists, etc.). Its mission is to establish standards and to ensure promotion and adoption of best practices of Environmental protection in Greece. It is a member of the EEB, T&E, ECOS, PAN Europe, EKO Energy and MIO-ECSDE.
Tell us a bit more about the main activities, campaigns and/or projects you are working on at the moment?
Every year, ECOCITY runs two major campaigns: ECOPOLIS (Environmental sensibility awards), ECOMOBILITY & FREE MOBILITY (campaign addressed to second grade school pupils), as well as ECOCAMP (environmental camp for teenagers), along a number of public discussion on issues such as air and water pollution, geothermal energy, fuel adulteration, etc. A major event this October is ECOCITY FORUM 2018 focusing on ‘Circular Economy in Smart Cities”.
What does EEB membership mean to your organisation? How does it help you in your daily work and to bring about the changes you would like to see in Europe and beyond?
EEB is a major organisation and therefore our membership provides ECOCITY with a valuable opportunity to learn from best practices and to participate in common actions. Also, it is very important that through EEB, ECOCITY is closer to the decision-making processes in Brussels, it can join its voice with the EEB and, based on the expertise of its members, to contribute effectively towards the achievement of our mutual goals aiming at the protection of the environment.
Do you have a recent success story that you would like to share with us?
During the recent ECOMOBILITY and FREE MOBILITY presentations made by student groups in various cities around Greece, there were many instances in which local authorities not only acknowledged the problems spotted, but also committed to implementing a number of solutions proposed by the students. This shows that when local communities are sensitized, local authorities are open to discuss ways to rectify problems in the urban environment, related to free accessibility and green mobility.
This year, the first edition of the Ecocity Forum will take place in Thessaloniki, Greece. Could you tell us a bit more about this event and the principles it defends?
ECOCITY FORUM 2018 “Circular Economy in Smart Cities” is a Multilateral Mega Event focusing on the dissemination of the collective global knowledge on Circular Economy issues, as well as on raising European public awareness and mobilizing national and regional administration towards interconnectedness of today’s global challenges. The Conference organization involves assembling a broad spectrum of thinkers and doers in an environment that is both intellectual, as well as experiential, including best practices and models already implemented.
“The agenda focuses on opportunities to address climate change, resilience strengthening , work on solutions towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, provide feedback on current local or regional plans, as well as learn from best kindred practices from around the world” states Nikolas Moussiopoulos, Professor at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Chairman of Conference Committee. Plenary and thematic sessions, workshops, round table meetings, academic and research papers posting, as well as an exhibition of products and services related to urban sustainability and circular economy will be held during the Conference. Additionally, emphasis will be placed on a less investigated theme, namely the benefits related to human health and well-being stemming from Circular Economy.
What do you expect from this event?
The results of the Thessaloniki Conference will be disseminated internationally both to scientists and to the highest levels of policy, legislative and executive Bodies and agents.
More specifically, “ECOCITY CIRCULAR ECONOMY GUIDEBOOK will be a manual with performance management and measurement indicators for Healthy Smart Cities. This will be the innovated handout of “ECOCITY FORUM 2018” Conference” explains George Konstantinopoulos, MSc lawyer – Expert on European Commission’s programs evaluations and member of the Conference Committee.
The CIRCULAR ECONOMY GUIDEBOOK will constitute a comprehensive tool for the Design and Implementation of Circular Economy Practices and Policies. The Guidebook shall be developed on the basis of the experience already gained through international practice, but also upon the outcomes, presentations and discussions to be conducted during the Conference.
The Guidebook aspires also, to become a handy tool for all Local Communities all over the world, helping them to gain insight on the circular economy model, to further enhance stakeholder understanding and commitment and to gradually develop and implement an integrated policy at local level. This, in turn, will allow the introduction of Circular Economy in a sustainable manner, creating benefits for local societies in the fields of environmental protection, resource efficiency, creation of new professions and job opportunities, as well as protection of human health.
What do you expect from the EU when it comes to the transition towards ‘smart cities’? What place should circular economy have in these?
The European Union’s role towards boosting the transition of European cities on becoming “smart” is catalytic. On one hand, EU’s strategy needs to focus on bringing together the main actors, namely public authorities, industry and society, fostering collaboration among all involved stakeholders in fields such as ICT for optimal resource use and minimization of emissions, smarter urban mobility, energy efficient infrastructure, etc. Moreover, “appropriate incentives are required in order to bring sustainable integrated solutions into life. A critical number of “smart examples” which prove that such efforts are both feasible and sustainable are necessary towards a low carbon future to the benefit of public health also” states Klea Katsouyianni, Professor at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.
In general, what are the main challenges that our cities face when it comes to adapting to climate change?
A key challenge for modern cities in their race towards becoming smart is bridging the “digital divide”. Access to communication technology is a prerequisite and social, gender and economic inequalities need to be tackled. Moreover, security issues are critical. Technology needs to be backed up with answers on questions like “who has access to personal information” and “how this is exploited”.
Can you give us examples of “smart cities” changes that hadpositive results?
There are numerous examples of “smart” solutions in the European Union. For instance, a good example is the case of the city of Barcelona where conventional street lighting was replaced by LED lampposts that were equipped with motion sensors. When pedestrians walk close to the lampposts, the latter turn on, whereas they turn off when streets are empty. Another good example of how ICT technology can improve the quality of life, as well as the efficiency of public infrastructure, lies in the field of waste management, where bins (e.g. in Copenhagen) are equipped with sensors in order to support the “polluter pays principle” and also decrease any annoyance to the citizens
For more information:
Emma Ernsth, Membership and Development Manager, European Environmental Bureau