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Valencia has been named EU Green Capital for 2024

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Aerial view of Valencia, in Spain
Valencia has the highest water efficiency in Europe at 87% through smart metering | Photo: Giuseppe Buccola

Valencia unveiled its latest report on the carbon footprint generated from its tourist activity in 2021, demonstrating how sustainability continues to be a key priority for the city. Many findings are revealed in the report, including the fact that the city has the highest water efficiency in Europe at 87% through smart metering.

The report provides deep insight into carbon emissions generated by tourist activity, breaking the topic down into ten different categories, such as the city transport system, which, in turn, are made up of smaller subsections. This level of detail allows readers to see exactly which types of activity or stay generate the highest emissions and, on the other hand, which account for the least. For example, of all the possible accommodation options, hotel stays equate to the highest level of emissions while hostels, guesthouses, B&Bs and camping generate the least.

The reporting feeds into the bigger picture of the city’s sustainability strategy and aligns with its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. The goal, while seemingly ambitious, is also realistic; the sustainability strategy details exactly how the city intends to achieve it. The strategy is fully aligned with VLC2030, the city’s carbon-neutral mission, which is a piece of innovative research exploring the risks and vulnerabilities of Valencia’s tourism in the face of climate change. As the mission outlines alternative strategies and scenarios, it highlights just how robust the plan is and the city’s commitment to realising its goal of carbon neutrality.

Valencia’s sustainable strategy aims to highlight the city’s capacity to respond to the needs of a new model that is more inclusive and integrated, more ethical and collaborative, more visitor-friendly and responsible. The roadmap aligns closely with much of the guidance shared in the ABTA’s latest Climate Action Guidebook, such as the building and implementation of credible science-based net-zero plans.

“Climate change is the single greatest threat to a sustainable future but, at the same time, addressing the climate challenge presents a golden opportunity to promote prosperity, security and a brighter future for all.” says Ban Ki-Moon, Former Secretary-General of the UN.

Embracing the challenges which come from climate change and turning them into opportunities for growth and progression is something Valencia has initiated all across the city. The creation and protection of green spaces, such as the Albufera Natural Park, the peri-urban farmland and the Turia Garden, combined with sustainable mobility initiatives, proper urban waste management and the recovery of public spaces, such as the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, are just a few examples.

Additionally, as part of the commitment to carbon-neutral tourism activity by 2030 wider transparency and information is given to tourists. This is done through the carbon and water footprint reporting which details the emissions of cultural sites as well as the emissions from different transport options available in the city.

All of these efforts are gaining recognition as Valencia has been chosen as the European Green Capital 2024. This accolade is awarded by the European Commission to cities which have implemented projects that reduce their environmental impact and improve the quality of life for residents.

The achievement of EU Green Capital 2024 is no mean feat as it requires passing an extensive sustainability test which measures 12 different indicators. These indicators measured include: air, noise, waste, water, nature and biodiversity, land use, eco-innovation, climate change mitigation, climate change adaptation, mobility, energy efficiency and governance.

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Sustainability

Last day to enter the EU Organic awards

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Last day to enter the EU Organic awards
The EU Organic Awards was first held in 2022 | Photo: Zoe Schaeffer

Organic food producers in the EU will have until the end of the day to enter the EU Organic Awards 2024. It is the third year that the initiative will be offering a platform to a winner highlight excellence and innovation in the sector. The EU wants to increase organically farmed land to 25% by 2030.

The awards are organised by European Commission, with the EESC, the European Committee of the Regions, COPA-COGECA and IFOAM Organics Europe. The EESC supervises the nomination, shortlisting and award process for three categories: best organic food processing SME, best organic food retailer and best organic restaurant/food service.

“The EU Organic Awards give a recognition to the innovation, passion and dedication of those who truly champion organic food and production in the EU and bring it closer to everyday consumers,” says EESC President Oliver Röpke.

Last year’s winners from the categories for which the EESC supervises have also joined forces to encourage businesses to seek recognition.

Kevin Scully, whose business The Merry Mill was awarded the prize for the best organic food processing SME, urged companies to nominate themselves: “I recommend other businesses to apply for the Organic Awards because it’s very good for a company’s profile and brings a great endorsement.”

Paul Kolarik, head of Austrian eatery Kolarik im Prater that won the best organic restaurant award, said: “Winning the Organic Awards generated great interest in our business from the national media. Thanks to the awards, new collaborations have also emerged and many political representatives became aware of our commitment to the organic and sustainability sector.”

The awards ceremony takes place on 23 September 2024, which is the EU Organic Day.

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Sustainability

Applications open for the EU Organic awards 2024

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Applications open for the EU Organic awards 2024
The EU wants to increase organically farmed land to 25% by 2030 | Photo: Gregory Hayes

Organic food producers in the EU will have until May 12th to enter the EU Organic Awards 2024. It is the third year that the initiative will be offering a platform to a winner highlight excellence and innovation in the sector. The EU wants to increase organically farmed land to 25% by 2030.

The awards are organised by European Commission, with the EESC, the European Committee of the Regions, COPA-COGECA and IFOAM Organics Europe. The EESC supervises the nomination, shortlisting and award process for three categories: best organic food processing SME, best organic food retailer and best organic restaurant/food service.

“The EU Organic Awards give a recognition to the innovation, passion and dedication of those who truly champion organic food and production in the EU and bring it closer to everyday consumers,” says EESC President Oliver Röpke.

Last year’s winners from the categories for which the EESC supervises have also joined forces to encourage businesses to seek recognition.

Kevin Scully, whose business The Merry Mill was awarded the prize for the best organic food processing SME, urged companies to nominate themselves: “I recommend other businesses to apply for the Organic Awards because it’s very good for a company’s profile and brings a great endorsement.”

Paul Kolarik, head of Austrian eatery Kolarik im Prater that won the best organic restaurant award, said: “Winning the Organic Awards generated great interest in our business from the national media. Thanks to the awards, new collaborations have also emerged and many political representatives became aware of our commitment to the organic and sustainability sector.”

The awards ceremony takes place on 23 September 2024, which is the EU Organic Day.

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Sustainability

UK – Saudi research explores how AI can drive sustainability

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UK - Saudi research explores how AI can drive sustainability
The UK construction industry uses up to 40 percent of the UK’s raw resources every year

Academics from Northumbria University and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Saudi Arabia are investigating how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can make the construction industry greener.

Dr Pablo Martinez Rodriguez, from Northumbria’s Department of Architecture and Built Environment and co-investigator Dr. Osama Mohsen from KFUPM have received funding from the British Council’s UK Saudi Challenge Fund to undertake a year-long research project. They have been selected because of their expertise and history of research in this field. In particular, their work will look at reducing waste from construction sites in the UK and Saudi Arabia as part of a major drive toward greater sustainability.

The UK construction industry uses up to 40 percent of the UK’s raw resources every year, 20% of which ends up in landfills. Current UK efforts have managed to divert about 13 percent of it from landfills, looking for alternative ways of disposal or finding novel uses to certain materials, however that is far from the 99 percent goal set up for the near future. Waste reduction in the construction industry is key for any country aiming to achieve the UN sustainability goals marked for 2030.

Saudi Arabia faces similar challenges. But as a rapidly developing economy, it faces additional difficulties in ensuring growth is managed sustainably. According to Saudi Arabia’s National Centre for Waste Management, the environmental degradation caused by solid waste in 2021 had an estimated cost of $1.3 billion. Annual waste generated by the construction industry in Saudi Arabia amounts to approximately 130 million tonnes, of which less than 1 percent is recycled. The rest mostly ends up in landfills – and demand for landfill space is increasing rapidly.

Dr. Martinez Rodriguez and Dr. Mohsen will aim to develop AI models that can identify and quantify waste from a range of building materials, such as wood or plastics, that may end up in landfill sites but that could be recycled. The joint research will also help create a comparative analysis between waste management and sustainability practices in the UK and Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Martinez Rodriguez said: “Most construction sites analyse waste through modelling techniques, rather than measuring what is actually being thrown away. We need a flexible way of processing the data more quickly than we currently have, and by using AI we can install visual sensor systems that monitor skips at construction sites and derive accurately how much waste is actually being produced.

“This would give a value to the waste that is being generated at construction sites and help us better understand the capabilities of circular economy so that the building industry can become more sustainable.”

While the UK is considered to be slightly more advanced than Saudi Arabia in terms of sustainability, there is currently still no accurate waste measurement system in either country. “Our research will therefore have an impact in both the UK and Saudi Arabia and help inform policy and develop best-practice guidelines for the industry,” added Dr. Martinez Rodriguez.

Part of the British Council’s Going Global Partnerships programme, the UK-Saudi Challenge Fund offers grants for UK and Saudi institutions to support research collaboration, internationalisation, and transnational education.

Northumbria already has a successful track record of sustainability research collaboration with partners in Saudi Arabia. This includes work by Northumbria’s Dr Muhammad Wakil Shahzad to develop a sustainable solution for clean drinking water that can be deployed to rural communities and set up easily without scientific know-how. In 2021 Dr Shahzad was awarded a prestigious Energy Globe Award (Saudi Arabia) for the project.

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