Utrecht to host opening event of EU Green Week

20 December 2017

Naturvation's partner, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), was assigned the organization of the Opening Event of the EU Green Week 2018 by the DG Environment. The assignment follows the submission of a successful bid for the event prepared, on behalf of PBL, by NATURVATION’s researchers Ton Dassen and Claudia Basta. Their proposal Healthy Urban Living: Nature-based solutions for inclusive cities was chosen among 10 other European competitive proposals. The event will be held on May 21st, 2018 in Utrecht, one of Urban-Regional Partnerships at the forefront of research on NBS. The programme of Healthy Urban Living is the result of PBL’s coordination of a number of local, national and international partners, many of whom are active members of NATURVATION. The event offers a set of explorative workshops and interactive learning sessions through which visitors and representatives of local and international organizations will experience how nature-based solutions contribute to wellbeing and social cohesion in the city of Utrecht, and beyond.

At the end of the summer, the DG Environment of the European Commission launched a call open to any European cities willing to compete to host the opening and the closing events of the EU Green Week. In 2018, the theme of the week will be ‘Green Cities for a Greener Future’. The EU Green Week constitutes one of the most prominent platforms for discussing the most important points on the urban sustainability agenda of the European Union. Throughout the one-week programme, politicians, policy-makers, scientists, private and public organizations and NGOs participate in what can be regarded as the most extended European policy forum on environmental sustainability.

Traditionally, the event is held in Brussels. However, in the last three years, the Opening and the Closing days are held in the two European cities that, after presenting a competitive proposal for hosting one of the two events, are granted financial and logistic support from the DG Environment for organizing them. The criteria for being granted their organization are, among others, the consistency of the proposed programme with the theme and scope of the EU Green Week and the originality of the activities included. This year, one of the themes highlighted in the call of the DG Environment was nature-based solutions to urban challenges. This motivated Ton Dassen and Claudia Basta, with the support of Maarten van Schie and Anton van Hoorn, to prepare and submit a proposal for the Opening Event on behalf of PBL. The resulting programme ‘Healthy Urban Living: Nature-based solutions for inclusive cities' was designed in close collaboration with the city of Utrecht, where the one-day event will take place. The programme consists of three parallel thematic tracks – namely, the active, interactive and creative tracks – each of which gives access to different excursions, active learning sessions and creative workshops. The Dutch Minister of the Environment and her counterpart the European Commissioner among other prominent policy-makers are expected to attend the event’s plenary sessions. The programme will conclude with giving mandate to the European Commissioner to disseminate the key ‘lessons learnt’ on healthy urban living and nature-based solutions in Utrecht during the remainder of the EU Green Week, which will conclude on May 25th with the Closing Event in Madrid.

The event was designed in such a way to involve both individual visitors, local and international students, and families with children in explorative and creative activities through which experiencing how nature-based solutions enhance wellbeing and social cohesion. In virtue of its active character, accessibility and insightfulness, the DG Environment considered Healthy Urban Living as the best Opening Event for the Green Week 2018 among 10 other competitive proposals. Together with ICLEI Europe and other NATURVATION’s partners, Ton and Claudia are now taking the further steps necessary to organize a successful event.