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News (August, 2017)

 

30 August 2017

Power to the people: the rise of participatory budgeting in Europe

The ceaseless advances in digital technology are breathing new life into an old concept. Across Europe, a growing number of cities are adopting a form of citizen engagement that was first trialled in the 1980s in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Participatory budgeting encourages citizens to decide how a pre-defined portion of their local budget is spent. By doing so, it puts decision-making power in the hands of residents.

While offline interaction is still a vital part of participatory budgeting, the internet has allowed for city officials to reach out to residents in a way that wasn’t possible before. And while each city has their own approach, the core tenets remain the same.

“The most basic form [of participatory budgeting] is that there is a portion of the municipal budget that the city decides to hand over to the citizens, so that they can decide how it is spent,” says Ania Rok, Coordinator at ICLEI Europe and an expert in urban governance. “The ideas are submitted by local residents in an open, participatory process and the final decision is usually made through some kind of online voting.

“Cities really want to engage with citizens and money is an incentive for people to take part. It flips the usual script where people bring in ideas only to find out there is no money available to make them a reality. With a budget set from the beginning, people can trust that this process will produce tangible outcomes and feel motivated to shape them. On the other hand, cities are also realising that good ideas are not so easy to come by and local administrations don’t have a monopoly on them.

“People from different groups, different walks of life, see the city from multiple perspectives and, as residents, have a better understanding of local needs.”

For local governments, there are significant benefits to inviting citizens in the decision-making process.

“I think more and more local governments are recognising that there are different types of knowledge and expertise,” says Ania. “Working in a particular department does not make you the only person capable of providing valuable input on a topic. Involving people makes the process more effective and successful. By developing it together with users, it makes it easier to create a better solution.

“Participatory budgeting also has the benefit of giving people a better understanding of how the city works, meaning it can improve the trust in local government and the feeling of ownership. It’s interesting for people to see how much things cost – if you realise how much maintaining green spaces costs, you will perhaps appreciate them more.”

While cities are afforded an attractive opportunity through participatory budgeting, there is a need to ensure a balance between online and offline interaction. The internet may allow cities to reach larger numbers of people than before, but it is important that outreach is complemented with offline activities, ensuring those without IT knowledge are not left out entirely.

“Digital exclusion is a common criticism, but many cities provide the opportunity to vote via publicly accessible terminals or through offline means. A good participatory budgeting process should have a significant offline public engagement, such as face-to-face meetings and campaigns to make it visible in public spaces across the city,” says Ania.

To be successful, cities must be certain that they can take on board the suggestions that they are getting from citizens. “The biggest risk is that the city is not able to follow through and implement the projects selected” says Ania, noting that if mutual trust is broken, it is very difficult to regain.

“Most participatory budgets run every year, and can be adjusted every year. It’s a cyclical process that has learning built in, both for the local government and the public. I think it’s important to design the process in such a way that you don’t allow full ideas to emerge that cannot be implemented. You need a co-creation process where people say this is what I need, and experts help them to translate it into regulations, budgets, and so on. These processes can also inspire changes in regulations where existing frameworks are not working anymore.”

Another concern regarding participatory budgeting is that it is more suited to larger cities with a larger budget. Some contend that smaller cities will struggle to raise the capital needed for interesting public works or services. Ania says that it’s not the case.

“[Participatory budgeting] is good for all cities. Cities that have little money should invest more time in thinking how to spend it wisely, and in educating people about how they come to decisions regarding spending this money. Having a limited budget may not be a barrier, quite the opposite.

“It’s also about the attitude of the administration: it requires a certain openness to deal with the ideas of citizens and to have confidence that you are able to organise such a process and make these ideas happen.”

In the end, Ania says that it is just another method for cities to interact with citizens, and that having an open mentality is more important for creating an positive and vibrant city than adherence to any one mode of engagement.

“I can understand that some cities are hesitant to try it, or they prefer different forms of civic engagement, and that’s fine. But it can be an interesting instrument. It’s the one that requires a certain commitment. It makes sense once you start to do it annually: you need to be open and have resources to organise online and offline engagement. It’s not like one local workshop, it’s a more complex process that requires a greater commitment. In principle though, it is possible for every city to do it.”

For cities that are keen to try participatory budgeting, Ania stresses the importance of promoting the results of citizen participation.

“It’s important to make the contribution of participatory budgeting visible, to mark the things that were funded thanks to this, to communicate it. If people see that something happened as a result of participatory budgeting, they will be keener to take part next year.”

ICLEI held a session to explore the potential of participatory budgeting in Brussels (Belgium) earlier this year as part of its long-running Breakfast at Sustainability’s series. The session saw a lively discussion on how tools such as participatory budgeting and civic crowdfunding can create a new culture of co-creation, and featured input from co-organiser the City of Wrocław (Poland), as well as the City of Antwerp (Belgium).

For more information on the event (including the presentations given), click here.
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25 August 2017

A new parking garage against bicycle chaos in Utrecht

In the Netherlands cyclists benefit from wide, protected bicycle paths and special traffic lights. However, finding parking space for thousands of bicycles can cause difficulty. At the station of Utrecht (the Netherlands) an underground bicycle park will soon be created as a solution to this problem.

With this new underground car park, the city of Utrecht wants to calm the situation in the station square, which is currently being redesigned. Utrecht is not only a student centre, but also a major traffic hub in the country.

The underground bike park will have space for 12,500 bicycles spread over three floors. In the last years, several guarded parking lots have been built in the Netherlands, which have proved unsuccessful due to their cost. As Wim Bot, from the Dutch Cyclist's Federation, commented: "Our cyclists are simply not used to paying for parking".

As far as Utrecht and the world's largest bicycle garage are concerned, they have found a compromise: the first 24 hours cost nothing. This way the people who ride to the station and then take the train to work can leave their bikes safely.

For more information, click here.

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24 August 2017

Call for cities to shape Urban Water Agenda strategy extended to 9 October

In response to concerns about water quality issues and delays in the implementation of EU water policy, the European Commission has turned its attention to cities and their potential for innovation and improvement in managing water more effectively. With the new Urban Water Agenda 2030 initiative, the Commission hopes to mobilise local governments – including their water utilities – to better share effective policies and practices between themselves, increasing ambition in realising sustainable water management.

Relevant for all stakeholders in the urban water sector, local governments are set to play a central role in the Urban Water Agenda 2030 process. The European Commission is urging public water professionals and policy-makers to devote 15 minutes of their time to participate in the currently running consultation on the draft strategy of this initiative. The feedback will be taken into account in the future design of the Urban Water Agenda, ensuring that it is relevant to cities’ local circumstances, needs and interests.

Coordinated by city-networks ICLEI and EUROCITIES, the first version of the strategy has been compiled with a core group of cities closely involved in the development of the initiative. The current version suggests that cities can voluntarily commit themselves to actions in five strategic directions: local level, river basin, European Union, and global level, with the fifth direction highlighting direct exchanges between local governments as an essential mechanism for making an impact on the ground.

The public consultation is open until 9 October 2017.

For more information, visit www.urbanwateragenda2030.eu or contact water@iclei.org

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23 August 2017

Lowering energy use in family homes - the FIESTA approach

Household energy bills represent a major expense for families across Europe, but with a few simple changes, significant savings can be achieved. By making families aware of how their behaviour impacts their energy consumption, the EU-funded FIESTA project aims to reduce energy use, lower emissions, and save families money.

The 25th Breakfast at Sustainability’s will explore the outcomes and lessons learned from the FIESTA project, with an interactive panel sharing experiences and discussing how behavioural change can lead to greater energy efficiency. The panel will also look at the most effective strategies to encourage behavioural change.

Speakers include: Carina Toernblom, Director of the Consumer Directorate, European Commission DG JUST; Fabio Tomasi, Project coordinator, AREA Science Park Trieste, Italy; and Nina Klemola, Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME).

The event will take place from 9.30am – 12.30pm, followed by a sustainable networking lunch. To download the programme, click here.

To register (free of charge), contact brussels-office@iclei.org

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21 August 2017

Leuven conference to discuss accessing funding for energy and climate actions

ICLEI and the province of Flemish Brabant will hold the conference "Unlocking financing for local climate action - Practical information for smaller municipalities" in Leuven (Belgium) on 11 October, providing smaller-sized European cities and towns with practical information on accessing finance for local energy and climate action.

Experts from the European Commission, the Global Covenant of Mayors and the European Investment Bank will help to shape the discussion, with input from local government representatives who have engaged in successful financing practices.

Speakers include Eugenio Leanza, European Investment Bank; Tie Roefs, Deputy Governor, Province of Vlaams-Brabant (Flemish Brabant); and Marika Rosa, Ekodoma.

Throughout the day, experts will discuss challenges and offer solutions to smaller-scale cities seeking to access financing for their local energy and climate actions. Interactive roundtables and one-to-one discussion will enable hands-on exchange of information on topics such as: private and residential buildings, transport and mobility, public buildings and procurement, renewable energy, impact funding, and civic crowdfunding.

To view the event programme, click here.

For more information and to register, contact brussels-office@iclei.org
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17 August 2017

8th International Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns awarded

The 8th European Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns, a 2016 event hosted by ICLEI, the Basque Government, and the Provincial Councils of the three regional Basque capital cities, was awarded third place in the "Most responsible event" category at the EventoPlus awards in Madrid (Spain). The awards recognise the best events of the year held in Spain.

The 8th International Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns gathered 800 people from across Europe in Bilbao to discuss ways to develop more sustainable societies. Measures were implemented to ensure a high level of sustainability at the conference, including the construction of the expo area with discarded materials, the supply of reusable bottles to attendees, the use of local products in meals, and the provision of free public transport tickets, allowing guests to move around the city without a car.

Measures were also taken to enhance water saving and lower energy consumption, leading to the event obtaining the "Erronka Garbia" certificate as an environmentally sustainable event.

The Erronka Garbia certificate, promoted by the public company Ihobe, guarantees the integration of environmental measures in the design and development of an event to minimise its negative impact on the environment.

For more information, click here (in Spanish).

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16 August 2017

European Urban Transport Roadmaps 2030 to join CIVITAS Forum

European Urban Transport Roadmaps 2030 is partnering with the CIVITAS initiative at the 2017 CIVITAS Forum (27-29 September 2017) to showcase a policy tool that allows decision-makers to analyse the relative impact of different combinations of sustainable urban mobility measures.

Commissioned by DG MOVE of the European Commission, the tool helps cities deliver on the goals of their Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) by enabling them to forecast the impact of measures and understand whether they are the best solution to the challenges they face. The focus is on transport scenarios and roadmaps for implementation that are feasible and practical.

The Forum, held in Torres Vedras, Portugal, will feature a one-day stream of six sessions in its deployment day on 28. September under the header of "European Transport Roadmap 2030". The sessions will include an introduction to the tool and a practical training workshop, as well as cover capacity building, procurement, financing SUMP solutions, and feature a row of case studies.

The Urban Transport Roadmap tool will also be presented in the Forum's marketplace, where Forum participants can try out the tool and get personal guidance on how to use its full potentials for their transport planning needs.

For more information about the CIVITAS Forum and to register visit civitas.eu/forum2017

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14 August 2017

Two weeks left to register for Urban Green Infrastructure conference

Concluding the GREEN SURGE project, the conference "Urban Green Infrastructure - Connecting People and Nature for Sustainable Cities" is taking place in ICLEI Member City Malmö on 20 and 21 September 2017. The conference will share the insights from the GREEN SURGE project and the tools developed to support urban planners and managers. The two day conference will be a platform for researchers, decision-makers, planners, and practitioners to express ideas, experiences and expectations related to effective applications, emerging opportunities and future challenges of nature-based solutions for sustainable urban development.

Over the last four years the GREEN SURGE project has identified, developed and tested ways of linking green spaces, biodiversity, people and the green economy in order to meet major urban challenges related to land use conflicts, climate change adaptation, demographic changes, and human health and wellbeing. The projects results are vital for urban planners and managers to take full advantage of the potential of nature-based solutions in solving some of these challenges.

The conference will feature keynote speakers Gil Penalosa (Founder of 8 80 Cities), Cathy Oke (Melbourne City), Cecil K.van den Bosch (professor at UBC, Vancouver CA) and Maria Yeroyanni from the European Commission. Registration for the conference will close on 1 September.

For more information and registration, visit the conference website or contact the conference secretariat: greensurge@iclei.org
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11 August 2017

EU cities invited to take-part in global pairing programme

Cities in European Union Member States who wish to exchange with a city facing similar challenges in another global region are encouraged to apply for the International Urban Cooperation (IUC) city-to-city cooperation programme on sustainable urban development.

The programme aims to foster links between EU cities (in particular those with more than 50,000 inhabitants) and those in Latin America and the Caribbean, India, Japan, North America, and Asia. Through the programme, local leaders will be able to connect and gain new perspectives on pressing sustainable development issues.

EU cities can apply to take part in pairings with cities in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, India, Japan, Mexico, Peru, and the USA until 11 September 2017. (China was included in a previous call.)

Successful candidates will be paired with an international city that faces related challenges, allowing both parties to cooperate, build connections and share knowledge. Representatives from each city will take part in study tours, staff exchanges, trainings and seminars, and will develop together a Local Action Plan to drive sustainable urban development in the selected area.

Local leaders can apply to take part in the programme until through filling in the application form.

For more information, click here or contact: coordination-unit@iuc-europe.eu

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9 August 2017

European Green Capital competitions open for entries

Local governments across Europe are invited to apply for the European Commission’s European Green Capital Award 2020 for larger cities, and the European Green Leaf Awards 2019 for smaller cities. The closing date for applications is 18 October 2017.

For the first time, the winner of the European Green Capital Award 2020 will receive €350,000 to support their environmental programmes, while the European Green Leaf Award 2019 winner will receive €75,000.

Winners will act as role models to other European cities, and will benefit from international prestige and media coverage, increased investment and tourism, and membership of an exclusive network of previous winners to share ideas and experience with.

Applicants over the years have said that the application process in itself has proved hugely beneficial in evaluating their city’s environmental progress and plans, as well as benchmarking themselves against their peers.

EU Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella said: “The European Green Capital and Green Leaf Awards are becoming increasingly important as we strive to manage our cities and towns against the challenges of population growth, pressure on resources and our responsibilities to manage climate change. European Green Capitals and Green Leafs provide vital inspiration and motivation to help other cities find solutions, on both a European and a global stage.”

For more information, visit the European Green Capital website.

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8 August 2017

Registration open for B@S event on energy efficiency through behavioural change

The 25th edition of ICLEI's long-running Breakfast at Sustainability's series will be held on Tuesday 5 September, focusing on the work of the EU-funded FIESTA project. ICLEI is hosting the event in association with project coordinator AREA Science Park Trieste.

FIESTA helps families with children to save money and lower their carbon footprint by reducing the amount of energy they consume. It aims to achieve this by teaching families to make better energy choices, such as purchasing higher rated electrical appliances, choosing efficient cooking methods, and optimising natural light in homes.

The event will take place from 9.30am – 12.30pm (followed by a sustainable networking lunch) in Brussels (Belgium).

Experts will present the results of the FIESTA project and will discuss how greater energy efficiency can be achieved through behavioural change.

Speakers include Carina Toernblom, Director of the Consumer Directorate, European Commission DG JUST, and Fabio Tomasi, Project coordinator, AREA Science Park Trieste.

The programme is available to view here.

For more information and to register, contact: brussels-office@iclei.org

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7 August 2017

Committee of the Regions urges greater renewable energy ambition

The Committee of the Regions (CoR), the body representing local and regional governments at EU level, has adopted an opinion on the European Commission's legislative proposal "Renewable energy and the internal market in electricity", calling for Member States to set binding targets for the share of renewable sources in their energy mix that surpass the EU-mandated target of 27 percent by 2030.

Within the opinion document, the CoR criticises the European Commission's proposals for not defining the role of local and regional authorities clearly enough, and emphasises the importance of their contribution to achieving climate protection goals.

Member States should intensify efforts to eliminate administrative obstacles to adopting renewable energy, and place a renewed emphasis on planning, implementing and reporting at national, regional, and local level, according to the document.

The document also notes that it is necessary “to clearly emphasise the importance of regional cooperation on the renewable energy market" as "cooperation at regional level can bring significant economic benefits as well as offering real potential for joint development of the internal market in electricity.”

To read the CoR’s opinion paper in full, visit the CoR website.

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3 August 2017

FIESTA guide aims to save families money on their energy bill

A guide released by the EU-funded FIESTA project provides European families with helpful advice on lowering their energy bill and their carbon footprint. Aimed at the general public, the document looks at general areas of household energy consumption, from heating and cooling to cooking, outlining simple ways to save money.

The guide starts from the basics, showing how energy bills are calculated and the various sources from which energy is drawn. Installation costs for items such as solar panels and biomass heating systems are weighed against long-term savings, allowing readers to easily contrast the various options.

Short explanations are provided on steps to reduce household energy consumption, such as using blinds and shutters to save energy, maintaining radiators properly, and installing high performance windows.

Each piece of advice is accompanied by a graphic displaying the amount of money that can be saved by following it.

Lighting is explored in-depth, with the energy consumption - and cost - of various lightbulbs looked at: LED bulbs emerge as the most eco-friendly choice. Recommended lighting in each room of the house is also included.

The costs involved in running household appliances is explored, with the authors noting that if every home appliance is A-class, power consumption is reduced by 55 percent on average.

Funded by the Intelligent Energy Europe programme and coordinated by AREA Science Park, the FIESTA project encourages energy efficiency by providing information to citizens.

To download the guide, click here.
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2 August 2017

Paris launches trial of autonomous shuttle bus service

As of the beginning of July, a new driverless, electric shuttle bus service has been running in Paris (France). The trials are taking place in La Défense, Europe's largest business district.

Free of charge for all users, the service offers three different routes that serve the main areas of La Défense. Two of the routes will operate at ten minute intervals at peak times during the week, whilst the third will run every 20 minutes at the weekends.

During the first three months of the trial, an operator will remain present in the vehicles. In the second phase, however, they will operate fully autonomously.

The shuttles are able to take up to 15 people and have a top speed of 45km/h, however this is often kept to 24km/h as a result of the semi-pedestrian areas in which the shuttles are navigating.

The trial is being conducted in partnership with the Paris public transport authority, with the shuttles themselves developed through a partnership between Keolis, a French company working in public transportation systems, and NAVYA, the vehicle's producers.

To find out more, visit eurotransportmagazine.com

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1 August 2017

New station-less bike-share system to enhance sustainable mobility in Florence

Transportation in Florence (Italy) has gotten smarter and more inclusive with the announcement of an extensive bike-share programme, which will see the city make 8,000 bikes available from 2 August 2017. The programme does not require fixed bike stations or docks (in which users pick up and drop off bikes), instead an app identifies the nearest available bike through GPS and allows users to reserve them. Once reserved, the bike can be used for as long as the rider wishes. When finished, riders need only leave it in the nearest designated area, ensuring it is locked.

The system involves a fraction of the costs for management and maintenance compared to the fixed stations model, with the entire process of renting, paying for and returning the bike managed through a dedicated smartphone app. The service, which will be available 24 hours a day throughout the entire year, will at first cover the municipal territory of Florence, but will be gradually extended to the metropolitan area.

“Florence has made a definitive choice towards sustainable mobility, a choice that began with electric cars and taxis and that now sees Florence become the first city in Italy to offer an innovative free-flow bike-share programme,” said Mayor Dario Nardella. “Florence is a bike-friendly city: from now on choosing to cycle around Florence is going to be easier and faster.”

To ensure safety and proper maintenance, rider behaviour is monitored and tariffs are modified accordingly, encouraging proper and responsible use. None of the bicycles’ components are reusable on other bicycles, discouraging damage, and all bicycles are traceable by GPS, discouraging theft. Other anti-theft devices have also been installed, such as the brakes not working if the bike is not activated through the app.

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