Interview with Mayor of Lisbon Fernando Medina
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Lisbon was the first capital to sign up to the EU Covenant 2030 targets. The Portuguese city has just been awarded with the European Green Capital 2020 title. We thought it was high time we gave you an insight into their energy and climate action!
Lisbon is the only capital city in Europe with a biodiversity plan in its climate action plan – What does your biodiversity strategy bring to the overall climate strategy?
Mayor Fernando Medina:
Biodiversity is part of a strategy of delivering ecosystem services to our citizens, improving public health, air quality, and increasing resilience to climate change. Biodiversity provides us with an indicator of the efficiency of our green infrastructure in delivering the results that make it an effective adaptation tool and provide those ecosystems with services.
The degree to which an artificial habitat such as a city can be “naturalised” is an important measure of that efficiency. Taking action on biodiversity is sometimes as simple as using native species, replacing traditional lawns with adapted species, not using pesticides for vegetation control or establishing ecological continuity with tree alignments or ecological passages such as green bridges across large roads.
Your city was the first capital city to sign up to the 2030 objectives of the European Covenant of Mayors, in 2016. How has the Covenant of Mayors movement helped you develop your climate and energy strategy?
It has been quite important. Cities occupy only 2% of the world’s landmass but they consume over 2/3 of the world’s energy and are responsible for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions. As urban areas continue to grow, their impact on the climate increases. But they also present a huge opportunity to mitigate the effects of climate change with a significant impact.
As the Mayor of a European capital and coastal city, I am fully aware of the challenges of a changing climate but also of our responsibility and ability to win the world’s fight against climate change. For that, we need a global approach and coordination. Having organizations and groups like the Covenant of Mayors as platforms for cooperation and exchange of knowledge is essential to advance this change which is of absolute necessity. Participating has improved our action plans and strengthened our commitments for 2030 and beyond.
Lisbon is the 2020 European Green Capital, congratulations! How did you prepare your application?
This has been a goal for some time. Not for the award itself, but for the possibility of showcasing the efforts of European cities towards urban sustainability and partnering with the winners and finalists in the European Green Capital Network.
We are delighted to have been chosen as the European Green Capital for 2020 and we are looking forward to inspiring other cities to travel the same path. Lisbon has been strongly committed to a sustainable future where green growth is part of an active governance. We have been investing in urban green infrastructure as a climate adaptation tool, opening a total of 9 green corridors and more than 350 ha of new green spaces - an increase of over 20% in little more than a decade. This was central in our application and this vision was made clearer by our team, strengthening our strategies over the course of our three applications.
What are your plans as part of the 2020 Green Capital Award celebrations? What are the events not to be missed?
Our main goal is to engage every citizen, every day. We will only be successful in fighting the climate emergency by enacting change in our everyday life, both on a personal and professional level.
To do that, we have an inspiring program. We’ll soon release a full list of amazing initiatives, but we definitely want to highlight the official opening ceremony (10 January 2020), the Urban Future Global Conference 2020 (1-3 April), the Planetiers World Gathering (23-25 April) and the opening of European Green Week (1st June). Lisbon is the first Southern European capital to achieve the European Green Capital recognition. We will leverage on this award to helps us raise awareness and push for a more ambitious global agenda for sustainable development.