By Michel Delebarre - 12th April 2013
We have no intention of slowing down in our efforts to achieve more sustainable development
The Dunkirk urban community was one of the first regions to invest actively in sustainable development and it shows no signs of slowing down, writes Michel Delebarre.
The seventh European conference on sustainable cities and towns will take place in Geneva from 16-19 April on the theme of governance and finance for sustainable development. The declarations made in Dunkirk, which hosted the last conference in 2010, marked an important stage in the process of recognising the role of cities and towns in tackling climate change and, more generally, the creation of a new more sustainable urban development model. At the end of the European conference on sustainable cities and towns, the city of Aalborg and ICLEI local governments for sustainability will launch an online platform to help European cities implement initiatives and programmes to support urban sustainability. This follows on from the Mexico City pact in 2010 and the Rio+20 Earth summit in 2012, to which the Committee of the Regions made an active contribution with its Copenhagen declaration on 23 March 2012. The platform will be based around the Aalborg charter (1994) and commitments (2004) and will provide cities and towns with optimum support in their respective approaches, offer support tools and provide a means of exchanging experiences and promoting them. It should be pointed out that since 1990, ICLEI has been the mouthpiece of local government in the Rio process, seeking to support the international movement of cities as key players in improving environmental conditions globally and pioneers of new systems and solutions for sustainable urban development.
Since signing the Aalborg charter in 1996, the Dunkirk urban community has been one of the first regions to invest actively in sustainable development. This willingness was reaffirmed when it signed up to the Aalborg commitments in 2009. Sustainable development also forms the underlying thread to the 2009-2014 Dunkirk conurbation regional project, which was named Agenda 21 in 2010. In 2009, the community council adopted the regional energy climate plan (PCET) which aims to provide an operational framework for the Dunkirk urban community’s commitment under the European covenant of mayors, which is supported by the Committee of the Regions, on the basis of the following objectives: a 20 per cent reduction in its CO2 emissions by 2020, a 20 per cent increase in energy efficiency and to produce 20 per cent of the energy it consumes using renewable sources. In addition to the PCET, the local biodiversity strategy was approved by the community council in 2011. It gives practical form to the strong positions taken by the urban community under its international commitments (the Aalborg commitments, especially those concerning the chapter on “promoting and improving biodiversity”) and is aimed at monitoring fauna and flora with a view to evaluating the impact of climate change on biodiversity, promoting the preservation and development of wetlands and improving the management of green spaces with an eye to carbon neutrality.
Each of the awards regularly received by the Dunkirk urban community recognises the progress of its approach. In October 2011, the community received first prize for the 2011 French biodiversity capital which was on the theme of biodiversity and urban planning. This prize is awarded for partnership-based work involving a broad range of local stakeholders. In late 2011, the Dunkirk urban community was also awarded the title of Cit’ergie for the demonstrable outstanding results it achieved for its climate energy policy. It is the first urban community in France to be awarded the title of Cit’ergie. In 2013, the Dunkirk urban community intends to apply once again for the title of Cit’ergie, in order to achieve the “gold” standard (awarded to local and regional authorities which obtain a score higher than 75 per cent of their potential).
Finally, in 2014, a sustainable city learning centre will open in Dunkirk. It will be an important centre for documentation and resources, it will promote exchanges with experts and it will enable the Dunkirk urban community to capitalise even more on its experience of urban sustainability over recent decades. As you can see, we have no intention of slowing down in our efforts to achieve more sustainable development.
Michel Delebarre is mayor of Dunkirk