Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Investing in green infrastructure will bring multiple returns to nature, society and people

BELGIUM: The European Commission has adopted a new strategy for encouraging the use of green infrastructure, and for ensuring that the enhancement of natural processes becomes a systematic part of spatial planning.

Green infrastructure is a tried and tested tool that uses nature to provide ecological, economic and social benefits. Instead of building flood protection infrastructure, for example, a green infrastructure solution would be to allow a natural wetland to absorb the excess water from heavy rain.

Environment Commissioner Janez Poto─Źnik said: "Building green infrastructure is often a good investment for nature, for the economy and for jobs. We should provide society with solutions that work with nature instead of against it, where that makes economic and environmental sense."

Green infrastructure is often cheaper and more durable than alternatives provided through conventional civil engineering. Biodiversity-rich parks, green spaces and fresh air corridors can for example mitigate the negative effects of summer heat waves. In addition to the health and environmental benefits, green infrastructure also brings multiple social benefits: it creates jobs and makes cities more appealing places to live and work. And it allows for wildlife to thrive, even in an urban context.

The strategy launched will focus on:

* Promoting green infrastructure in the main policy areas such as agriculture, forestry, nature, water, marine and fisheries, regional and cohesion policy, climate change mitigation and adaptation, transport, energy, disaster prevention and land use policies. By the end of 2013, the Commission will develop guidance to show how green infrastructure can be integrated into the implementation of these policies from 2014 to 2020.

* Improving research and data, strengthening the knowledge base and promoting innovative technologies that support green infrastructure.

* Improving access to finance for green infrastructure projects – the Commission will set up an EU financing facility by 2014 together with the European Investment Bank to support green infrastructure projects

* Supporting EU-level GI projects – by the end of 2015, the Commission will carry out a study to assess the opportunities for developing an EU-wide network of green infrastructure.

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