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Environment

Urban environment

The EU works with cities to ensure high environmental protection and a good quality of life in urban areas.

Overview

Europe is becoming increasingly urbanised, as more and more Europeans live and work in cities, towns and suburbs. The quality of life in urban areas depends a lot on the quality of the local environment. For example, it depends on the quality of the air and water, access to nature and biodiversity, levels of noise pollution, and increasingly, the ability to keep cool as temperatures rise.

Cities are where most resources are consumed and where many environmental challenges are found. At the same time, cities offer opportunities to tackle environmental issues, with people living and working closer together, managing and sharing resources efficiently using the principles of the circular economy, reducing the need for private motorised transport, and living in more energy efficient buildings.

The EU recognises that cities play a crucial role in achieving the aims of the European Green Deal, to deliver a low carbon, resource-efficient, sustainable and resilient society. The Commission funds a wide range of projects and initiatives that focus on air, water, noise, preserving and restoring green spaces, improving waste management and enhancing the circular economy. EU cities, and their local governments, are therefore essential partners in implementing laws, policies and programmes on pollution.

In the EU

Around 70%
of Europeans live in urban areas
1 in 5 people
live in areas with harmful noise levels
300 000
premature deaths caused by fine particulate matter annually

Objectives

To protect human health and the environment, the EU’s urban policy aims to improve the quality of life in cities through environmental laws on air and water  and waste, protecting nature and biodiversity, and ensuring that citizens are not exposed to excessive noise.

Initiatives like the Green City Accord and the Green Capital and Green Leaf Awards encourage cities to address environmental challenges and showcase their environmental performance.

Tools and instruments

Green City Accord

The movement of European mayors aiming to make cities greener, cleaner and healthier.

Contact

For questions about EU environmental policy, please contact Europe Direct.

News

How to increase the use of nature-based solutions in urban areas?
  • News article

How to increase the use of nature-based solutions in urban areas?

Issue 591: Nature-based solutions (NBS) offer multiple benefits to address urban sustainable-development problems, especially related to climate change and biodiversity loss. However, NBS implementation in cities still faces barriers.

Publications

  • Report
  • Directorate-General for Environment

FUTURE BRIEF: The solution is in nature – Issue 24

The research collated in this brief confirms that Nature-based Solutions (NbS) deliver simultaneously multiple benefits and shows the wide-ranging beneficial impacts of scaling up their implementation across Europe.

  • General publications
  • Directorate-General for Environment

Green City Accord - brochure

The Green City Accord is a movement of European cities committed to safeguarding the environment. In signing the Green City Accord, city leaders agree to take further action to make their cities greener, cleaner and healthier places.