Imagine a Valletta skyline dotted with roof gardens, car-riddled streets reborn as pedestrian and bike-friendly spaces, and a business community bustling with green jobs – a carbon-neutral city of the future.
That is the vision for the island’s capital as it embarks on an EU-funded sustainability experiment that will run until 2030.
“We are focusing on Valletta to see which policies work when it comes to tackling climate change. Our objective is clear: make Valletta a zero-carbon city by 2030,” said Nadia Theuma of the EU funding advisory firm Paragon Europe.
The company is coordinating the sustainability project that will see Valletta join a prestigious club of European cities known as Smart Sustainable Districts.
Set up in 2014, the Smart Sustainable Districts programme is the brainchild of Climate KIC as part of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, an EU think tank focused on sustainability solutions.
And it’s not just talk – the programme has already achieved proof of concept in districts that include Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London; Moabit West, Berlin; Utrecht New Centre and Les Docks de Saint-Ouen, Paris – with all districts on track for reaching zero carbon in the years to come.
“The key thing is that this is not academic; the focus is on taking research and turning it into pilot projects that can then be scaled up. This is very much about going the next step, from studies and research to action and results,” said Mark Anthony Brown, Paragon Europe’s network developer for the project.
He said work had already begun to reach out to stakeholders and start hashing out the plan to transform Valletta into a green city.
A meeting was recently held between Paragon Europe and Valletta residents, the local council, the Valletta 2018 Foundation, the Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation (GHRC), Transport Malta and other stakeholders, with more meetings planned for the coming weeks.
“What we found is that we have a situation today where the government has projects for Valletta, the GHRC are doing projects, and so are many others, be they public or private initiatives,” he said.
We are focusing on Valletta to see which policies work when it comes to tackling climate change. Our objective is clear: make Valletta a zero-carbon city by 2030
A smart, sustainable district, Dr Theuma added, operates holistically, looking at how the city can best utilise the EU funds that are available and coordinating projects to achieve set carbon-reduction targets.
“Yes, so rather than people working in silos, we will change that by trying to create an integrated approach – always working towards achieving the zero-carbon target,” explained Mr Brown.
So what will this new, smart, sustainable Valletta look like? “It’s early to tell, but it will definitely be different to what it is today,” Dr Theuma said.
There are no rules for how a smart, sustainable district can be developed. Instead, each district has its own bespoke programme.
“At this stage it is difficult to say what the projects and initiatives will be, but there is interest in how this will turn out, from a European perspective,” she said.
Unlike some smart, sustainable districts, Valletta has multiple uses – a historic walled city, a tourist destination, a commercial centre, an administrative centre and a leisure and entertainment hotspot.
“All of this means the project on Valletta can serve as a pilot for so many other European destinations,” Dr Theuma said.
But they must have some idea of what projects might be implemented in Valletta?
Mr Brown said that the first meeting had already identified areas that could be explored. These ranged from traffic management solutions, such as an increased sprawl of pedestrian areas, to the outright removal of cars.
“We could also meet halfway and introduce a last-mile concept, or electric vehicles and bicycles. We’ll see what works best,” he said.
Valletta mayor Alexiei Dingli is also committed to utilising the city’s underground water-storage cisterns. Up to 95 per cent of these large, often interconnected wells are currently unused.
“This is exactly the kind of initiative that would contribute,” Mr Brown said.
The possibility of covering parts of Valletta’s roofscape with gardens will be up for discussion, as will a push for a green economy, which could be a major employment opportunity.
“It’s still early days, so the possibilities of what kind of projects could work are endless,” Mr Brown said.
The first official Smart Sustainable District Workshop will be hosted on October 20 in Valletta for all stakeholders who want to be involved in working towards Valletta's sustainable future through initiatives that focus on mobility, buildings and regeneration.
To participate, e-mail Mark Brown at Paragon Europe on firstname.lastname@example.org
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