Measures for the implementation of European Green Deal in urban areas

What do the European rules provide in general?

In order to ensure the restoration of biodiversity and the resilience of nature throughout the territory of the Union, it is necessary to establish rules at the EU level for the restoration of ecosystems, contributing, at the same time, to mitigating climate changes and adapting to them. Through the European Green Deal and the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030, the Union aims to become a fair and prosperous society with a modern and resource-efficient economy that protects and conserves the Union’s natural capital, ensuring the health and wellbeing of citizens against risks and a low impact on the environment. According to the provisions, Biodiversity must be valued, conserved, restored and used wisely, maintaining ecosystem services, supporting a healthy planet and having essential benefits for all people. The strategy has the goal of restoring Europe’s biodiversity by 2030, to benefit both people and the planet, the
climate and the economy. It proposes a plan for restoring nature, including legally binding targets for restoring degraded ecosystems, with an emphasis on carbon capture and storage and reducing the impact of natural disasters. (synthesis of art. 1-3, 7)

How can we contribute to the fulfillment of the
requirements of this pact in urban areas?

The objectives of the pact can be achieved through green solutions dedicated to the urban environment, where constructions predominate. Green roofs and facades create a synergy with multiple ecological and economical effects, of which we list the most important:

  • promote biodiversity by conserving flora and fauna, by providing food and shelter for small animals and by creating ecological corridors, which ensures a link for animals between the green spaces of cities;
  • offer a solution to the problem of the disappearance of pollinating insects, which have an important role in the ecosystem and in food security: the colorful flowers and the pleasant smell of the plants attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators whose habitat has been reduced in urban areas;
  • greatly contribute to mitigating the urban heat island effect: due to the thermal insulation and evapotranspiration capacity of plants, the temperature of surfaces with vegetation is significantly lower than on built surfaces (the temperature
    difference can reach 31.3 °C, according to studies);
  • facilitate rainwater management, have a role in retaining and delaying rainwater runoff and avoiding overloading the urban sewage system;
  • mitigate atmospheric pollution, as plants have the ability to capture a significant amount of carbon dioxide and other atmospheric pollutants (a green roof of 1,000 m2 with Sedum carpet can capture 8.5 kg of pollutants annually), which can make cities more resilient to climate change;
  • contribute to the recreation of the natural environment in built-up areas, because green roofs and facades have the advantage of allowing installation in congested urban areas, where it is not possible to create green surfaces at ground level;
  • ensures a viable and healthy green environment for society.
Measures for the implementation of European Green Deal in urban areas

What do some significant articles require and how can we provide an appropriate approach to implementing green roofs and facades?

In the resolution of 9 June 2021, the European Parliament supported the development of a legislative proposal for the restoration of nature, with mandatory and specific objectives for various ecosystems and species, including forests, meadows, wetlands, pollinators, free-flowing rivers, coastal areas and marine ecosystems. It is recommended to enhance urban green spaces with ecological features such as parks, trees, forest strips, green roofs, gardens and other elements that take into account local biodiversity and resilience to climate change. (synthesis of art. 8)

Restoring nature in the urban environment is achievable through the implementation of green roofs and walls, which offer an ecological solution for the preservation of local biodiversity, and contribute to the restoration and revitalization of ecosystems affected by urbanization and development.
The Commission’s 2020 State of Nature Report finds that the European Union has failed to halt the decline of protected species and habitats due to intensive agriculture, poor management, urbanization, pollution, unsustainable exploitation of forests and species, and invasive alien species and climate change are increasing threats to local flora and fauna. (synthesis of art. 12)
Green roofs and facades contribute to creating new habitats for threatened species in
congested and continuously developing urban environments. Flowering plants attract pollinators, and these green spaces facilitate the connection between different green areas of cities, acting as ecological corridors for the ecosystem. In addition, they provide a solution to the problem of air pollution in cities by absorbing a significant amount of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

Securing biodiversity and combating climate change are closely linked, with nature-based solutions and healthy ecosystems playing a crucial role in the fight against the climate crisis, while climate change is already affecting ecosystems and requires action to recover them and reduce security risks food. (synthesis of art. 15)

Green solutions can solve both problems at the same time; thanks to the evapotranspiration of the plants, the surfaces are significantly cooled and insulated. The temperature difference can reach as much as 31.3°C between built and green surfaces, helping to alleviate urban heat islands. On the other hand, green areas that help biodiversity, provide shelter and food for many endangered pollinator species, contributing to food security.

Regulation (EU) 2021/1119 of the European Parliament and Council requires the European Union to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and to promote measures to reduce emissions and increase natural absorption, with a focus on restoring ecosystems and
promoting nature-based solutions to combat climate change, together with mainstreaming adaptation in all policy areas and enhancing adaptive capacity.(synthesis of art. 16)

By approaching a practice that imposes promoving and implementing as many green surfaces as possible in urban spaces, this goal can be achieved, because the natural absorption capacity of plants contributes to a large extent to the reduction of atmospheric pollution.
The 2021 Commission Communication highlights the importance of nature-based solutions for effective adaptation to climate change, including protecting wetlands, restoring coastal and marine ecosystems, developing urban green spaces, installing green roofs and walls, and sustainably managing forests and farmland. (synthesis of art. 17)
Green roofs and facades are ecosystems rich in biodiversity, provide increased resilience and reduce the risks of ecological disasters.

Contributes to the management of rainwater, facilitates urban sewage systems in case of torrential rains.

The Future of Europe Conference aims to protect biodiversity, landscape and oceans, eliminate pollution and promote knowledge, awareness, education and dialogue on the environment and climate change. (synthesis of art. 20)

Promoting the importance of implementing green spaces in the urban environment can contribute to achieving this goal; nature brought back into the built environment can raise society’s awareness to the impact and multiple positive benefits of green roofs and facades.
Directive 92/43/EEC aims to maintain and restore to an appropriate state of conservation natural habitats and species of wild flora and fauna of Union interest. (art. 26)
Natural habitats are threatened and limited in the urban environment; managed green spaces can contribute to their preservation, which provide shelter and food source for numerous species of insects and other small animals (e.g. greening of tram lines with Sedum rolls).
Urban ecosystems represent approximately 22% of the Union’s land area and constitute the area where most of the Union’s citizens live. Urban ecosystems provide important habitats for biodiversity, especially plants, birds and insects, including pollinators. They also provide many other vital ecosystem services, including natural disaster risk reduction and control (e.g. flooding, heat island effects), cooling, recreation, water and air filtration, climate change mitigation and adaptation to these. The expansion of green spaces is an important parameter for increasing the capacity of urban ecosystems to provide these important services. (synthesis of art. 43)
Increasing the area built with Sedum vegetation on roof terraces contributes to a healthy ecosystem by: slowing down stormwater runoff, reducing the risk of pollution of rivers by facilitating the drainage system, resilience to climate change, insulating the building and keeping the temperature lower in summer (reducing energy costs for heating and cooling).

To protect and enhance urban green spaces and provide essential ecosystem services, trees and green infrastructure such as green roofs and walls should be strengthened and integrated into building design through clear legislative provisions to stop the loss
of green areas
and to support their recovery. (synthesis of art. 44)

Green roofs and facades can contain numerous indigenous species, adapted to the local climate, which can directly contribute to nature conservation. The number of trees in urban areas can be increased by designing buildings with adequate load-bearing capacity for the installation of intensive green roofs, which can also include large trees.
The number of pollinators in the European Union has fallen significantly, with one in three species of bees and butterflies in decline, and one in ten species on the edge of extinction. These pollinators are essential to terrestrial ecosystems, human well-being and food security, contributing by pollinating wild and cultivated plants. Over €25 billion of the EU’s annual agricultural production depends directly on insect pollinators. (synthesis of art. 46)
Vegetation on green roofs and facades attracts pollinators, providing food and shelter for endangered species that can reappear in the urban
environment, contributing directly to food security.

Recovery objectives and measures for protected habitats, pollinators and diverse ecosystems must be complementary and work in synergy to achieve overall ecosystem recovery objectives in the European Union. Recovery plans should take into account climate change, natural disaster prevention and optimization of the ecological, economic and social functions of ecosystems. The public should actively participate in the development of the plans and Member States should cooperate to ensure cross-border connectivity and adequate restoration of biodiversity. (synthesis of art. 58)

Through the creation of areas that promote biodi-versity, green roofs and facades contribute to the achievement of these objectives, providing multiple ecological and economic benefits for both the environment and society.
Biodiversity restoration and renewable energy development must work in synergy, and Member States should plan restoration measures strategically to effectively contribute to the recovery of nature across the Union, taking into account the environmental impact and protecting vulnerable areas. (synthesis of art. 61)
Such synergy can be achieved when green roofs are installed together with the solar system; the two systems support each other, have an improved function, show an increase in efficiency through simultaneous use and have an essential role in the urban ecosystem (biosolar roof).
The Regulation of the European Parliament and Council on the restoration of nature can be accessed on the following link:

Text adopted – Nature restoration
12 July 2023

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