Eco-innovation is the new driver of Europe's cities and regions  
Eco-innovation is the new driver of Europe's cities and regions

Markku Markkula intervenes at Informal Meeting of Environment Ministers today in Tallinn

Markku Markkula has addressed the Ministers of Environment of the EU 28 Member States today in Tallinn. The President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: "Eco-innovation is the driver for transforming our cities and regions into truly smart and sustainable hubs that create quality jobs. Eco-innovation can bring economic growth and contribute to our objectives to become carbon neutral by 2050. It can speed-up the transition. The European Union must give its means to win the war against global warming while improving the lives of our citizens.'

In his keynote speech, President Markkula added: ‘Cities are the engines of change. They are best placed to support the development of eco-innovation best practices as they have strong links with local economic, social and environmental actors. This interconnectivity between eco-innovation and local authorities is the perfect opportunity to bring us closer to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, notably number 11, which relates to sustainable cities and communities’.

Markkula presented four actions that cities can implement to promote eco-innovation towards a low-carbon circular economy. First, to develop green economy strategies based on the proximity with stakeholders and citizens. Second, to support societal innovation with initiatives such as collective urban farming, recycle and repair-cafés and other sharing economy projects. Third, to invest in ecosystems that support innovative urban circular economy models, which promote collaboration between science, entrepreneurs and local authorities to establish new forms of businesses and services. The objective is to use industrial symbiosis, nature-based solutions, the bio-based economy, or Industry 4.0, to name only a few. Fourth, to promote the take-up of green products and services through public procurement as cities and regions must stimulate the market take-up of eco-innovation and environmental technologies including the transition to sustainable urban mobility.

To promote eco-innovation, the European Committee of the Regions is currently managing a number of projects together with the European Commission such as "Science meets regions", a "Knowledge Exchange Platform", and "Innovation Camps".

The ministerial meeting was opened by Siim Kiisler, Estonia's Minister for Environment, and Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. Additional speakers were the Executive Director of the European Environment AgencyHans Bruyninckx and Simon Upton, Director for Environment of the OECD.

The European Committee of the Regions will defend its positions on eco-innovation and its climate change objectives to reach the Paris agreement. A solid delegation will be present at COP23, the UN climate talks to take place next November in Bonn.

From July to December 2017, the Republic of Estonia holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU for the first time since joining the Union in 2004. Together with Bulgaria and Austria, the Estonian presidency is said to include a focus on eco-innovation as a key element in Europe’s energy transition.