Thursday, April 25, 2013

Free public transport in Tallinn

Since January 2013 Tallinn has provided free public transport for its citizens. See the below video on how it works.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

100 participants to discuss sustainable transport in UBC Joint Commission meeting in Tallinn 10-12 April 2013

Several topics were embraced and questioned at the Joint Commission meeting in Tallinn including, optimizing cycling, public transport and maritime under the overall theme of sustainable transport in the Baltic Sea Region.

The great variety of planning tradition from the region was on display in Tallinn, where it was made clear that there is not only on, but several, ways to succeed in planning for sustainable transport.
Tallinn opened the meeting with a presentation of the various positive aspects that has entailed their free public transport initiative for Tallinn citizens. Several presentations and discussion later, participants had received a thorough introduction to this bold political decision and its technical challenges and solutions. Tallinn si considered a frontrunner of free public transport in Europe and is therefore also one of the founding cities of European Network of Free Public Transport

The meeting participants are in front of Tallinns brand new bus which will be taken into use tomorrow.
They are going to visit the Sea Plane Harbour museum, Lennusadam

Deputy mayor Taavi Aas and Deputy Mayor Arvo Sarapuu presented the financial figures behind the initiative as well as the unforeseen benefits of letting the citizens of Tallinn use the public transport for free. Only three months after implementation, it is clear that this initiative will be followed closely in the future by the whole region and beyond. 

UBC member cities Gdynia, Ålborg and Halmstad also presented their sustainable transport measures in relation to EU funded projects including QUEST and CIVIT@S DYNAMO. The projects proved that there are several ways to go for more sustainable transport in our cities. As a last input the Baltic Sea Region Covenant Club hosted presentations and discussion on Sustainable Energy Action Plans and their potential synergies with Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans.

As the Baltic Sea is a common denominator for all UBC countries also maritime transport was on the agenda with the SNOOP Policy Forum. Experts from all over the region were discussing policies affecting the maritime industry and the sector’s contribution to CO2 emissions.

The two intensive days provided the participants with various practical and theoretical aspects of sustainable transport and food for thoughts for their daily activities within their member cities.

Monday, April 22, 2013

7th European Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns

A Green and socially responsible economy: a solution in times of crisis

Nearly 1000 registered participants gathered up in Geneva to hear and to discuss if the sustainable Europe could be created through green and socially responsible economy. UBC Commission on Environment participated the conference by facilitating a session on future sustainability management.

Basis of any economy will always lay on natural resources, but what else would a shift to green and socially responsible economy require?

Firstly, the plenary speakers concluded that we have to admit that currently our economy is socially and environmentally irresponsible leading us to vicious circles of unsustainability. Also, there is a need to clarify what are the reasons of the current economic crisis and what are the consequences and make sure that we do not mix them. Unfortunately, there was no time for discussion but obviously there was certain disagreement in the audience regarding the reasons and consequences expressed by the panelists.

In the same moment when the new Community-Led Local Development initiative was introduced, it became clear that the European Commission has acknowledged that the local authorities play a key role on a shift to new economy. One of the urgent tasks listed for the local authorities to start working with was that sustainable investments should be included in the investment portfolio of local authorities.

Between the plenary sessions, discussions in several parallel sessions were getting hot along with the weather outside. Finally, the participants were allowed to see the sun while entering the multiple excursions demonstrating the existing sustainable practices in the beautiful City of Geneva.

On the way to hotel my head was filled with questions: Are the cities able to make the necessary changes or will everything continue as it has always been? Are the cities able to reorganize their resources to be able to respond to the current challenges instead of the challenges of the 20th century? Are there enough initiatives for this change? Is there enough information and support available for the right decisions and can we communicate that information properly.

Text by our rapporteur in Geneva, Switzerland, Pekka Salminen.
7th European conference on sustainable cities & towns

Thursday, April 18, 2013

QUEST project gathers together cities interested in sustainable urban mobility planning


 Many European cities are facing challenges when it comes to set up and implement truly sustainable mobility policies and measures.  QUEST project has developed a Quality Management tool to help small and medium sized cities to set-up and further develop their sustainable mobility policies with the assistance of an external expert - the QUEST auditor. The aim of QUEST is to support cities in making real progress towards a more sustainable urban transport system and help them to find solutions to achieve excellence in sustainable urban mobility planning!

During the QUEST project nearly 50 cities, with different levels of experience and contexts, from 14 European countries have gone through the QUEST process, demonstrating that there is a high level of demand for advice on sustainable urban mobility planning.

QUEST cities meet in 5 international workshops

QUEST does not aim only to help cities to improve their policies but wants to facilitate active exchange of experiences with other cities. During the spring 2013 QUEST organises 5 workshops, where cities involved with QUEST have a chance to discuss the most pressing challenges in relation to urban mobility with their European peers, but also share their good practices. During the workshops the cities also have an opportunity to compare their experiences about the QUEST tool.

The workshop participants admire the public bicycle hire scheme in Bath was  introduced  as part of the Civitas Renaissance project. 

6 QUEST cities met in Bath, England

5 QUEST cities Halmstad and Lidköping, Sweden; Opava, Czech Republic; Ptuj, Slovenia and Satu Mare, Romania  were invited to Bath, a World Heritage site, to familiarize themselves with the mobility solutions Bath has implemented and to discuss the results and outcomes of QUEST. UBC Commission on Environment  assisted the organisation of the workshop.

The workshop results showed that QUEST had helped cities to reflect upon their mobility policies in a critical way and  it really helped them to take a next step towards sustainable urban mobility policies. The external QUEST auditor facilitated the process and helped to view the work from different point of view and to find blank and weak spot in own planning and policy practices, but in a collaborative manner acting as a critical friend. One of the biggest benefits of QUEST is that it helps cities to identify which measures are effective in achieving energy savings in transport, and which are possible to achieve. In other words QUEST helps cities to make the right choices.

During the workshop the participants discussed the measures the cities had implement in different fields of urban mobility.

QUEST also facilitated the establishment of a dialogue among different groups like the city departments, service providers, end users, private companies etc. and the creation of a common problem understanding among local stakeholders.The participants agreed that transport and mobility planning is a cross-sectoral issue that concerns many different fields such as education, urban planning and health sector.

If your city is interested to join the QUEST family, please contact the project team and it will find the right auditor for you! QUEST is also looking for new auditors to join the QUEST team of experts.

More information about the QUEST tool can be found at:
Download the QUEST Brochure!

For more information, please contact:
Maija Rusanen
Project Coordinator
Union of the Baltic Cities Commission on Environment

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mobilizing political will and commitment to address water issues in Belarus

"Joint actions for clean water" was the title of the Water Management Policy Forum that was organized on 27 March 2013 in Minsk, Belarus. After the Environmental and Technological forums, it  was the third  bilingual event organized by the international technical assistance project PRESTO (Project on Reduction of the Eutrophication of the Baltic Sea Today) lead by UBC Commission on Environment. PRESTO project develops joint actions between the EU and Belarus to combat transnational pollution risk and eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. The project has been officially registered in Belarus in May 2012 and supports the goals of both the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region and the National strategy for sustainable development and Water strategy of the Republic of Belarus for the period to 2020. Project supports Belarusian cities in their attempt to reach the HELCOM recommendation in nutrient removal from their wastewaters.

"It is impossible to solve the Baltic Sea’s challenges without the holistic approach to its entire basin. EU cannot achieve a healthy status of the Baltic Sea alone and thus cooperation with Russia and Belarus are of great importance" said Mikhail Durkin from Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, HELCOM.
Water Management Forum participants. Photo by Tuuli Ojala, John Nurminen Foundation
More than 100 invited guests from Belarus and Baltic Sea Region including representatives of Ministries, research experts and NGO’s attended the Forum. Intention of the Policy Forum in Minsk was to accelerate cooperation, investments and funding possibilities between EU member states and Belarus by drawing together different experts across the water management sector. The Forum provided a platform for policy dialogue and promoted best practices in sustainable management of water resources.

Sustainable water management is essential for our future and requires international cooperation. Year 2013 is officially recognized by UN General Assembly as International Year of Water Cooperation. We hope to intensify the cooperation in the Baltic Sea region to increase cost effectiveness of our common actions towards better water management and better state of environment” stated Björn Grönholm from UBC (Union of the Baltic Cities) Commission on Environment which is responsible for overall management of the project.

Laura Saijonmaa from the Ministry of Environment of Finland spoke at the Forum and highlighted the importance of communication across the borders and common goals in the framework of HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP). “It has been calculated that in a long term, benefits of BSAP implementation will significantly exceed the costs thus more action from all stakeholders in the region is needed. New innovative approaches, capacity building and alignment of funding lies in the core of the future success” said Ms. Saijonmaa.

According to Sergei Zavyalov from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus “Much has been done recently in the field of water resources management in Belarus but much more is ahead. We are actively working on implementation of objectives of the Water Strategy for the period up to 2020 which foresees among others harmonization of EU and Belarus water legislation, revision of Water Code of the Republic of Belarus and increased public participation in decision-making”. Belarus has signed two transnational agreements regarding river basin management: trilateral agreement Belarus-Lithuania-Russia and bilateral intergovernmental agreement with the Russian Federation.  

In the afternoon session the possibilities of investments in water sector in Belarus and available financing instruments in the Baltic Sea Region were presented to all participants. Invited speakers shared their experiences on public-private partnerships and presented examples of successful investments in Belarus.

Panel discussion lead by prof. Dr-Ing Matthias Barjenbruch from Technical University of Berlin.
Photo by Tuuli Ojala, John Nurminen Foundation

The Forum concluded with the panel discussion where not only successful stories but also challenges in water sector were discussed. It became clear that overcoming these challenges requires sustained commitment, cooperation and investment of all stakeholders. Involvement and active communication is crucial for developing and implementing new opportunities and solutions for more sustainable water management policies and practices in future.

For further information please contact:
Pekka Salminen
Project Manager
Union of the Baltic Cities Commission on Environment Secretariat
Phone: +358 44 9075999

Check the Forum newsflash from the local media coverage.

Text by: Agnieszka Ilola, UBC EnvCom, Project Officer, PRESTO Project