Bucharest – European Green capital?

Date: 25th of April 2023, 10 00 – 13 00

Address: French Institute in Romania, Room Elvire Popesco, Bvd. Dacia 77

Bucharest is one of the European capitals with the lowest qualitative indices regarding the state of the environment. The city has less than 10 m2 of green space per inhabitant and low accessibility and quality. It does not benefit from a green belt. Mobility is car-based, public transport is under-utilized, the adjacent infrastructure is poor (no single lanes, outdated tram lines, and transport fleet), and the use of bicycles or the expansion of the pedestrian areas are rarely on the public agenda. Bucharest is the third most congested EU city (TomTom Traffic Index, 2022). Air quality sensors often go red, and the city still does not have an integrated air quality plan, which is why Bucharest is under the European Commission’s air pollution infringement procedure.

Public pressure to make Bucharest more sustainable

Lately, the quality of life in Bucharest is being brought up to discussion more and more intensively, with a significant accent on the state of the environment. Even though Bucharest has a GDP per capita of over 160% of the EU average, the city continues to have major deficiencies in terms of a “green” policy. The source of this issue is, on the one hand, the lack of a unified approach between the General City Hall and the 6 District City Halls and, on the other, there is not an assumed strategic direction that emphasizes green investments or measures to increase the quality of the environment. This happens despite the fact that the budgets of the seven city-halls are significant, exceeding 3 billion EURO in 2022. The numerous environmental problems the city faces are only partially addressed or even ignored.

Citizens, NGOs, and civic groups are demanding an accelerated, transparent (and unified) approach to address the multiple environmental problems of the city. Health problems associated with pollution lead to a decrease in life expectancy by at least four years. The economic development of the city is affected, and the quality of housing is decreasing. Solving environmental problems requires the local elected officials to take responsibility and to come up with a common approach at the level of all relevant actors, not just the Bucharest administration, one that is also affected by poor coordination. We are of course referring to the level of the Ilfov county and the central authorities – especially the Environmental Guard and the Ministry of the Environment.

About our event. How far is Bucharest from becoming a green city?

Far away. Bucharest is at odds with European trends and examples of good practice at the European level. We put together an open discussion about the quality of the environment in Bucharest. Citizens and civic groups debated the gap between their expectations and the realities after two years of a new administration in Bucharest, while the administration provided an insight on how to better address current challenges and what is their vision on the medium to longer term. Bucharest needs to follow on the footsteps of other relevant EU administrations that put green policies at the forefront of their vision and quickly adapt new green practices.

We express our gratitude to the 12 speakers (representatives of the Bucharest administration, representatives of EU public administrations and initiatives, civic activists, NGOs and journalists) and to more than 140 participants. We aimed to jointly debate ways to improve the quality of the environment in Bucharest and we hope we managed to do so. 

The new European funding programs provide the financial framework for Romanian administrations to access green projects, whether we’re talking about non-polluting public transport, a modern recycling and sorting system, energy efficiency, or investments in air and water quality. However, beyond obtaining European funding and single investment projects, a coordinated and assumed approach is needed at the level of Bucharest to improve the indicators regarding the quality of the environment.

For the time being, we are far away from a green Bucharest and, unfortunately, this takes a heavy toll. In a greener and more sustainable Bucharest we trust.

The event is co-financed by the European Union. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the European Union or the Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). The European Union or the coordinating institution cannot be held responsible for them.