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Urban environment

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


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


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

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


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