Ric Eales, Owen White and Rolands Sadauskis (all Collingwood Environmental Planning), Catarina Heeckt (LSE Cities) and Ivone Pereira Martins (EEA)
European Environment Agency
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
The coronavirus crisis has had wide-ranging impacts on cities and is likely to remain deeply intertwined with efforts to transition towards more environmentally sustainable urbanisation patterns for years to come. However, the research for this report and the development of the EEA's approach to urban environmental sustainability was largely finalised before the coronavirus emerged in Europe.
We know that cities have been at the forefront of the health crisis from the very beginning, not only bearing the worst impacts but also becoming essential actors in proactively and innovatively addressing the health emergency, as well as dealing with the wider social and economic ramifications. It is clear that city, national and EU budgets will come under strain as a result of the economic crisis, which may result in reduced budgets for core environmental initiatives in the years ahead.
At the same time, many policies that have been implemented primarily to deal with the health emergency will also have long-term environmental benefits (e.g. improved active travel infrastructure), and there is a growing movement of cities in Europe actively committing to a green recovery from the crisis — supported by initiatives at the EU level, such as the European Green Deal.
As regards cultural shifts, similar uncertainties exist. While people may be more attuned to the importance of clean air and high-quality green spaces, we are also seeing, for example, growth in single-use plastics, and a renewed preference for the use of private cars over public transport, which may have serious environmental consequences.