The world’s cities are responsible for over 70% of global carbon emissions and urban greening initiatives are urgently needed, says the European Commission.
The Commission says it is working to support 100 European cities, including Dublin and Cork, to become carbon neutral by 2030 through measures such as the development of urban farms and soil regeneration.
These 100 cities will then act as “experimentation and innovation hubs to inspire all European cities to follow suit by 2050”.
It says this work will involve stakeholders, including local authorities, food producers, citizens, businesses, investors and regional and national authorities.
In Europe, cities take up only 4% of all land area and are home to 75% of Europe’s population.
Urban farming, seen by the European Commission as a means of 'greening' European cities, is the practice of cultivating and producing food in an urban setting, according to Maynooth University PhD student Stuart Lang.
Lang has conducted research into the opportunity for urban farms in Ireland.
It is envisaged that food produced in urban areas, close to high population densities, reduces carbon emissions through shortened supply chains and a carbon sequestration effect.
Lang says that urban farming is more varied in its approach to food production than conventional farming.
He said urban farms generally have much less land to work with than a conventional farm and many do not have access to heavy machinery.
“As a result of these limitations, they use a wide range of novel farming practices and most tend to run mainly on manual labour, with a minority relying on highly specialised technology,” he said.
Lang claimed that while urban garden and vegetable allotments “have been in the country since the early 20th century, Ireland has seen something of an urban farming revolution in the last 10 years alone, with many projects and businesses having sprouted”.
He said more people are wanting to eat and drink organic produce that is grown and distributed with a low carbon footprint and that, therefore, “growing and raising urban food is slowly becoming an integral part of our towns and cities and is likely to become an important part of a sustainable future for all”.
One of the projects the European Commission highlighted in its plan to help 100 European cities be carbon neutral by 2030 - ‘Clearing House’ - is investigating the potential of the establishment of urban forests.
The Commission says trees and forests can contribute to sustainable urban development by delivering ecosystem services, enhancing biodiversity and contributing to the wellbeing of urban societies.
It says forests provide food and fodder for animals, bring shade and mitigate temperature, rainfall and wind.
Clearing House seeks to assist city planners, business and citizens in reaching the full potential of growing and caring for urban forests.