Green not grey for urban spaces
On 10 June 2015 the Federal Minister of the Environment Barbara Hendricks and the Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture Christian Schmidt presented a joint Green Paper at the "Green cities - living for an attractive future" congress in Berlin. "'Green not grey for urban spaces' must become the slogan for cities of the future," said Minister Schmidt in his opening address.
Today there are already more people living in cities worldwide than in the countryside. According to UN estimates the number of urban residents will rise to 75 percent by 2050. This prompts the question as to how people will want to live in cities in the future.
The unstoppable urbanisation has consequences: cities consume approx. 80 percent of global energy resources and as a result they also produce the majority of CO2 emissions. At the same time urban residents will be particularly affected by rising temperatures due to dense building development and increasing traffic. This situation will be exacerbated by climate change. This raises the question as to how to develop urban areas in a sustainable and future-oriented manner.
Growing cities usually sprawl out further and further into the surrounding areas. This increases the amount of land they cover. Areas of unspoiled nature and cultivated land are affected and thus also the diversity of flora, fauna and habitats. Growing cities also limit the regenerative capacities of the air, which then leads to a deterioration of the urban climate.
Future cities must use their spaces more sustainably.
The importance of urban greenery
Cities will only remain habitable if they have, and continue to have, enough greenery. Greening is thus becoming an increasingly important challenge for the future. Healthy and long-living plants fulfil functions such as regulating the climate and filtering out dust. As green "walls", they reduce traffic noise while serving as visual cover at the same time. They also increase the value of property. Real estate prices are around 10 to 20 percent higher if the property is near a green area.
Plants and green spaces are also very valuable for people's leisure time and regeneration. They create an atmosphere of calm and relaxation, thus contributing in many ways to the general well-being of people in cities. Unfortunately, urban greenery is one of the first areas in which cuts are made when budgets are tight. It should therefore be a priority to clearly communicate the value of urban green spaces for society at large.
High-quality, long-living green cover that can also be enjoyed by subsequent generations requires long-term planning. It is not just a matter of planting a tree. It is a matter of planting it on a sealed surface so that it adds to the scenery and can be controlled in the approx. 80 years of its development, or to be short: so that it remains healthy, vibrant and safe.
Rethinking green spaces
Expanding inner-city green areas is hardly possible, especially in densely populated cities. If new spaces are not available, other solutions must be found. We need to rethink green spaces floating plots in the harbour, roof-top gardens, vertical green cover along the front of buildings and the agricultural use of urban spaces are creative ways to turn lifeless grey spaces into green spaces filled with life.
The Green Paper represents the Federal Government's multi-faceted assessment of the current situation regarding urban greenery. It identifies trends and describes the difficult situation regarding responsibilities and actors involved. The dovetailing of different processes within municipalities often leaves room for improvement. The Green Paper is intended to provide impetus to improve cooperation between the individual actors. "This Green Paper provides the basis for developing and implementing a new, integrated strategy for urban green spaces," said the Minister.
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