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Sustainable Pilsen

How the city is gearing up for sustainable urbanisation

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Cyclists dismount near the Great Synagogue: Europe's second largest synagogue

IMAGE: www.visitpilsen.eu

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When the Czech Republic joined the European Union back in 2004 there were concerns that the inevitable rapid expansion of the Czech economy and industry would have a damaging effect on the environment. However, in the same year the Strategic Framework for Sustainable Development in the Czech Republic was put into place and has helped to ensure that its ecosystems and biodiversity have been preserved, and green growth and a sustainable economy would be going hand in hand with EU prosperity.

 

Spend any amount of time in the Czech Republic nowadays, and you'll soon come across the fruits of those labours. From the solar arrays gracing many of the hills of the Czech countryside, to the biogas plants dotted around the industrial landscape: sustainability has most certainly arrived in the Czech Republic, and in no city is it more evident than in Pilsen.

 

Pilsen has had a long history of sustainability. The Czech Act on Nature Conservation has ensured protection for all of Pilsen's plant and animal species, whilst EU membership has ensured that the standards for protection is always being raised. The European Network of Protected Areas NATURA 200 is a network built in accordance with unified criteria for all EU member states and is promoting the conservation of selected types of natural habitats.

 

The flora and fauna of Pilsen is similar to those of most cities of Central Europe, although there are a number of rare species to be found (particularly in the Bolevec Woods) and as with anywhere else in Europe: invasive species are increasingly cropping up (such as Japanese knotweed and the American mink).

 

Whilst, emission levels in the Pilsen region are currently lower than the national average, the emission levels of the City of Pilsen most certainly are not. Heavy road traffic and industrial activities are threatening the environment of Pilsen, but that's not to say that this Czech city is sitting around idly and doing nothing about it.

 

On the contrary, Pilsen is a city right on the forefront of the fight against climate change, and was recently one of the locations in which round table discussions over the adaptation of climate change took place (the others being Prague and Brno). Led by the Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation, the discussions were open to research institutions, think tanks, NGOs, non-profits, city representatives and other professionals and addressed the current issues these cities faced in the face of climate change. The UrbanAdapt Project has been supported by a grant funding from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and began in January 2015 and will run to April 2016. UrbanAdapt aims to respond to the potential impact of climate change in Pilsen, Prague and Brno and develop processes which take an ecosystem-based approach to combatting risks such as heat waves, water shortages and floods.

 

To find out more about Ecosystem-based Adaption (EbA) please visit the following UNEP page:

 

http://www.unep.org/climatechange/adaptation/EcosystemBasedAdaptation/tabid/29583/Default.aspx

 

 

Urban sustainability

 

The workshop "Adaptation of the City of Pilsen on climate change" consisted of two thematic sections. The first session aimed to explore the expected impacts of climate change within the context of the UrbanAdapt Project. Key potential problems for the city were identified and solutions leading up to the period of 2030 were presented.

 

The second session focused on Ecosystem-based Adaption measures, and presented examples of good practices currently being deployed in the City of Pilsen. Potential problems identified were flash flooding as a result of torrential rainfall, inadequate rainwater infiltration, a dropping in groundwater levels and the emergence of heat islands in the industrial areas of Pilsen, such as the Skoda factory and the Pilsner Urquell brewery. The heat island effect is expected to increase as the number of heat waves also rises in Pilsen. The participants discussed the need to developed a detailed report of climatology within the City of Pilsen in order to better understand how to tackle the problem more effectively.

 

 

Creating urban environments of the future

 

It was agreed that there were an insufficient amount of urban green areas within the city and a commitment was made to try and increase the amount of green spaces within Pilsen, particularly within the city centre. A potential compromise to the quality if drinking water was also addressed. Pilsen relies on only one source of drinking water, the Úhlava (a 108km river which begins in the Šumava mountains). This may do for now, but as the city expands and urbanises, there might be a possibility of a shortage in the future. Investment into developing alternative water sources and increased usage of rainwater/greywater recycling were all ideas put forward and certainly the issue was not being ignored.

 

The workshop proved to be very successful. It demonstrated the City of Pilsen is well aware of its environmental responsibilities and was fully committed towards developing a long term strategy to combat the effects of climate change. The jury is still out with regards to how best to fund some of the measures, although certainly it will be a combined effort of co-financing from businesses, local government and individuals. Which is perfectly okay. Just like the Paris Agreement, the UrbanAdapt Project is in many ways significant if only as a starting point. Pilsen has a goal, and knows that it wants to reach it by 2030. This ambition will surely bring with it more strategic development in the field of sustainability in Pilsen, and with the way things are going, who knows? Maybe this former European Capital of Culture could be in the running as a potential European Green Capital in the not-too-distant future.

 

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