In its short existence, the Galway National Park City (GNPC) initiative, based on connecting people and nature in an urban environment and with an ethic of sustainability, has had a positive impact on the local landscape by offering opportunities and collaborations to citizens and organizations from different sectors. working together creatively to successfully develop pioneering new environmental and sustainability programs.
These include the city’s first-ever nature trail mapping; hosting the very first inter-school eco-forum for young people and secondary school students; the first-ever planting of a wildflower meadow in a Galway business park; the first international seminar for the benefit of the town hall on the theme of integrating the natural environment into future sustainable urban development; the first-ever citizen science air quality monitoring system; the first-ever visitor/volunteer center in a park in Galway; the first-ever eco-expo led by off-campus third-grade students and bringing teachers together to work towards providing outdoor classroom kits and a complementary curriculum for primary schools.
The initiative has also spawned a new social enterprise engineering venture that aims to produce low-cost weather stations; led to the compilation of a green directory for the city of Galway; secured funding for environmental and educational community projects, including the provision of financial (and human) resources for Galway Community College’s wonderful regeneration project in Lough Atalia. The GNPC website has become a repository of information related to the fantastic world-class sustainability programs taking place in the areas of business, community, health, research, arts and culture. education in Galway.
In January, GMIT incorporated the Galway National Park City initiative into its first multi-campus biodiversity strategy. NUI Galway has done the same as part of its sustainability strategy. Earlier this month, the National Park city of Galway was showcased by the university at a United Nations event attended by over 300 scholars from around the world as an example of how a third level provides assistance and proactively collaborates with civil society to advance the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals through innovative ideas, projects and solutions that combine academic knowledge and resources with those of other stakeholders and the wider community. Feedback from participants has been exceptionally positive.
In the coming months, the GNPC will host webinars for policy makers and the wider community on Greenways and Blueways (Water) examining best practices internationally, nationally as well as local proposals ( city/county). Learning about the experiences of other cities and their hinterlands could help, in the case of the Greenways Webinar, to establish a safe city-wide pedestrian, cycling and public transport infrastructure for Galway , something which was supposed to be in place by 2012 and help it become a regional hub for greenways linking Connemara, Headford, Athenry, Tuam, Kinvara and the whole country.
In December, Adelaide became the world’s second national park city (London being the first) in what a delighted South Australian government says is an international achievement. South Australian Environment and Water Minister David Speirs said: “This is a historic moment for South Australia. Adelaide has already been recognized as the third most livable city in the world and by officially becoming a National Park city, that reputation will be further enhanced.
Adelaide National Park City status is not just another title for our city, it is a trigger to promote and connect people with action on the ground to care for our environment for health and well-being of all, as well as to stimulate our economy through increased tourism.
This week, Southampton City Council is expected to pass a motion asking the town to work towards national park town status. The UK government is considering a proposal from its environmental agency Natural England for the maximum number of English towns to gain national park town designation. Lord Benyon, UK Minister for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, said “The UK government welcomes the National Park City model. It has never been more relevant… Natural landscapes have proven our salvation during COVID shutdowns.
Never been so important
But in the UK, one in three people are not connected to nature. 80% of Britons live in urban areas. One in eight people does not have access to gardens or green spaces. Thus, the concept of a national park city has never been more important. He also mentioned that the National Park City model is aligned with government policies, providing an opportunity to make a quantum shift in improving access for all to green spaces, protecting more natural landscapes and l helping to restore nature as well as benefit mental and physical health. citizens’ health.
Cardiff Council adopted this designation. Jonathan Maidment, Head of Parks and Port Authority, said: “Cardiff is one of the greenest cities in the UK and aims to be a carbon neutral city by 2030…Community engagement is essential for the council and council sees the national park city movement as a tool to engage with a wide range of stakeholders.
Martin Gettings, a member of the London National Park City Developers’ Forum and Group Director Sustainability of the Canary Wharf Group, Europe’s largest urban regeneration project, told an online meeting hosted by GNPC for the benefit of managers and Councilors from Galway City Council: “Is National Park City status a barrier to development? No! It’s the contrary. He is a facilitator!! When a city has national park city status, it promotes quality planning and development that takes into account the needs of all its inhabitants, young and old.
The municipality of Breda wants to become the first European city in a park by 2030 and the first city in the Netherlands to join the family of national park cities. Their action plan of a “city in a park” is to be a biodiverse green metropolis connected to the natural and rural landscapes surrounding the city.
Kathryn Tierney, recently retired as a civil servant in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Environment and policy coordinator for the European Green Deal, believes that the initiative of the city of Galway National Park is the implementation implementation of the Green Deal at the local level.
Unfortunately, despite all of these cross-sector successes and partnerships, the experiences of other progressive cities around the world, the local support from all sectors, the sponsorship of Irish President Michael D. Higgins and the support of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, The Council Municipality of Galway has decided not to include the designation of Galway National Park in the City Development Plan 2023-2029.
Agree with the concept
But that said, City Hall senior management said they are fine with the concept of the GNPC designation and that it could be included in other key board strategies/policies. This is particularly important as Galway City may be chosen as one of 100 EU cities to be carbon neutral by 2030.
A crucial element of this application is a local City Climate Contract which will have to be co-constructed with local actors and citizens. The National Park City of Galway and its champions could become an important mechanism and opportunity for achieving this contract.
The recent report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published on February 28 confirms that the impact of the climate change and biodiversity crises is far worse than previously thought. . But it also indicates that while large cities are hotspots for climate impacts, they also offer a real opportunity to avoid the worst impacts of global warming, and that as cities continue to grow, they can push for renewable energy, greener transport and buildings. According to IPCC Co-Chair Debra Roberts, “We are very clearly pointing to the cities of the world as a key place for mobilization”.
Moreover, the war in Ukraine has exposed Europe’s dangerous over-reliance for its energy needs on oil and gas, especially from Russia. Global food security could also be affected by this conflict, as Ukraine and Russia are global grain producers, while the two countries are also key sources of rare metals used in mobile communications. However, as EU President Ursula von der Leyen and Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans have said, now is the time to accelerate the introduction of renewables and the implementation of the circular economy approach. of the EU Green Deal.
At a dark time of a global pandemic, a brutal war affecting the whole of the European continent and with the ever-increasing destructive effects of the climate and biodiversity crises, people need to hope that there is a better future that we can, working together, help to achieve. The Galway National Park City initiative is needed now more than ever and can be a shining light for other Irish cities to follow. Neil McCarthy, chief executive of World Urban Parks and a highly respected senior Australian government official for decades, said the question for the city of Galway now is, “Are you leading or following?” »
So let’s take up the challenge and rediscover the pioneering spirit that has made Galway a vibrant artistic, scientific, technological, educational, environmental and community collegiate community that was and still is the envy of the rest of Ireland. The reason couldn’t be more obvious, as the very essence of life on the planet is at stake.