17 Jan 2018

McCarthy: Striving for EU Green Capital a Must

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Press Release

    There are calls for Cork City Council to work more towards securing the EU Green Capital Award. The call was led by Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy who raised the award scheme with the Executive of the Environment and Recreation Section; “there is a lot of great work going on under the city council’s environment and recreation directorate, Healthy Cities programme and Lifelong Learning – these should be harnessed more to pursue European awards, which in essence develop more the idea of Cork as innovative European second city in the north west quadrant of the EU – a city and region of ideas to draw from and be inspired from”.

   The European Green Capital Award is the result of an initiative taken by 15 European cities. Their green vision was translated into a joint Memorandum of Understanding establishing an award to recognise cities that are leading the way with environmentally friendly urban living.  The initiative was launched by the European Commission in 2008.  It aims to reward cities, which are making efforts to improve the urban environment and move towards healthier and sustainable living areas.

   In reply to Cllr McCarthy, David Joyce, Director of Services outlined, that Cork City Council applied for the 2017 EU Green Capital Award in October 2014. The process involves approx a three-year lead-time but unfortunately the Council’s application was unsuccessful. While a well written application was submitted by the City Council they did not score sufficiently high enough on a number of indicators to be in with a chance of winning the evaluation process. Mr Joyce outlined: “it is still the goal of the City Council to apply in the future for the EU Green Capital Award. We are actively addressing the action points, which were identified in the previous application process and once this is achieved we would look to make a submission in the future”.

   In response Cllr McCarthy: “Preparing for such award schemes brings different relevant actors, agencies together. Joined up thinking is crucial when it comes to our region’s environment. Many of the responses from the Green Capital judges are still relevant, since their report was issued in mid 2015. Their responses are useful tools to help the Council plan and budget for. The judges who scrutinised Cork’s EU Green Capital application noted that many environmental initiatives are being pursued but more long term, regional and local committed funding was needed with more detailed plans”.

 

   Summary of Judges’s Comments on Cork’s application for the EU Green Capital Award:

  • Local Transport: In the city centre, there have been many actions aimed at promoting the more sustainable modes, including restricting car access, pedestrianisation, a walking and cycling strategy with new cycle lanes and footpaths. There has also been an upgrade of the city’s bus and train stations and many other initiatives to encourage cycling, to raise public awareness and encourage behavioural change. The city’s public transport fleet is one of the oldest of the applicant cities, with no vehicles of Euro V standard or better.

  • Sustainable Land Use: Cork has an integrated and participatory approach to spatial planning with various aspects of spatial planning such as urban regeneration, urban development regulations, development and maintenance of green and open urban areas, and climate mitigation all being integrated in the City Development Plan (2009 & 2015). Regarding green areas, the City Development Plan seeks to ensure that the network of green infrastructure linkages are protected and enhanced to provide for movement and ecological networks, and that open spaces are designed to maximise their biodiversity so that people have access to nature close to where they live. it is not exactly clear how these are integrated into a wider green infrastructure and if there are connections to the green and blue areas beyond the city.

  • Nature and Biodiversity: Cork’s application on nature and biodiversity recognizes that the city faces difficulties in terms of present and future funding for biodiversity protection and enhancement work. There has been important work in the past on a Biodiversity Action Plan (to 2014, not fully implemented) and on habitat and species (for example, on trees and otters); monitoring work is limited.

  • Ambient Air Quality: Cork has a relatively good air quality with no exceedances of any of the indicators with a constant to slightly downward trend in concentrations. It has good air quality according to the air quality health index of Irish Environmental Protection Agency and is a WHO designated ‘Health City’ where air quality is one element.

     The City has an Air Quality Management Plan from 2011 and has implemented a number of effective measures within regulation of space heating, industry and promoting more sustainable transport and land-use. An important local measure to improve air quality was the ban on bituminous coal in 1995 that reduced particulate levels by 70% and the ban was extended outside of the city bounds in 2012. Real-time and historic air quality information and also daily Twitter feed are provided by Irish Environmental Protection Agency to the public. Awareness campaigns e.g. within mobility and transport have been implemented.

  • Quality of the Acoustic Environment: Cork produced a five-year Noise Action Plan for 2013 – 2018 in which an acoustic zoning was proposed. This classification of territory focused primarily on potential noise sensitive groups (health care units, educational units, spiritual sites), however, the appropriate noise limits are missing. No mention is made to residential areas in particular. Stakeholder involvement and communication with citizens appear to be effective in what concerns the Action Plan; however, no budget or detailed schedules are provided in terms of this Action Plan thus risks exist that the outcomes may not be realised.

  • Waste Production and Management: The city has a well-functioning integrated waste management system in place which has progressed substantially over the last 15 years. More specific data and statistics in the application would help to verify the performance of the city in clearer detail.  The City has a strong track record in the area of waste prevention and awareness with innovative waste prevention and industrial symbiosis projects in place. These projects are funded by the City in partnership with other business and community organisations and this model has been successfully applied to deliver many high level treatment projects.

   Source segregated kerbside collections are widespread and growing with up to 4 different bins being provided to some households. However, this level of kerbside segregation is not widespread across the city with further progress to be made. The rate of recycling for municipal waste is estimated to be close to the European average although the date presented was a national figure.

  • Waste Water Treatment: 100 % of Cork’s wastewater is served by 2 drainage schemes and 1 WWTP. The design capacity of WWTP is well above calculated load for the year 2013. However the WWTP does not comply with the UWWTD regarding nutrient (N&P) removal. The City is aware of the need to effectively address this issue. The major issue to be addressed by future activities (required by UWWTD) is the treatment for nitrogen and phosphorous removal as well as disinfection which is considered important due to the shellfisheries.

 

  • Eco-innovation and Sustainable Employment: The application is well-structured covering many areas of eco-innovation. A cluster of private/public institutions has been established with the aim of branding Cork as European Technology Cluster (sustainable employment). The municipality is an active player in the development, i.e. providing financial support. Strategy and development plans are in place with a continuous review process. However the City is behind in Green Public Procurement and is waiting for the adoption of GPP guidance at the national level.

 

  • Energy Performance: Because Ireland’s energy operates as a pool market, there is no breakdown of energy use at a regional/city level. It is not clear how far Cork’s initiatives exceed the national ambitions. Data and information of energy performance in section A mainly focuses on sectoral energy consumption. No detailed information about the application of renewable energies or cogeneration is provided (even with regard to the specific consumption of municipal buildings (kWh/m2).  The energy plan seems to be quite new and offers concrete goals for 2020 including 39 specific actions.

 

  • Integrated Environmental Management: Sustainability and environment is an important issue of the Cork Vision, City Development Plan 20092015 and the 2015-2021 Plan. It is not clear if the vision has been endorsed by the city council and who is politically responsible for the vision. It is not clear if the City takes its exemplary role serious enough. There is no indication of demonstrative actions within its own organisation. Environmental strategies are embedded through each of the Directorates. It is not clear which department or steering committee is installed to safeguard the environmental interests.

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