GIG: Tell us a bit about Athens’ participation in the Global Covenant of Mayors.
Bakoyannis: Athens is participating actively in this alliance to fortify cities against climate change. Our priority is to make all the changes needed in order to pass on a city that is friendlier to the environment, based on sustainable and balanced development.
GIG: What is the philosophy behind Green Recovery?
Bakoyannis: It is a continuous effort to create conditions for protecting the environment and upgrading the quality of the daily life of citizens. A philosophy that is turned into practice with targeted interventions throughout the city.
GIG: In regards to reducing costs and pollution, what are the goals or measures?
Bakoyannis: Athens has already taken its first steps in creating the infrastructure to strengthen electricity-powered transportation. It is a sector to which we give particular weight.
Parallel to the implementation of our plan for creating open space, we are providing significant incentives to boost mobility via bicycle, on foot, and by use of speedier mass transportation.
Aside from mobility, we are also on course for energy upgrades of buildings, beginning with our schools, followed by all public buildings. A programme is already underway for the energy upgrading of the city’s school complexes. Soon, a programme for the full upgrading of three schools will be completed and we will use European resources to the fullest to extend this to more buildings.
GIG: What is being planned for the planting of trees? What other measures are there for forestation and water absorption?
Bakoyannis: We have made a strategic decision to boost the greening of the city, which is the starting point for every intervention. In spaces where we already have greenery, we are adding more trees, but at the same time we are creating conditions for greenery and cooling of densely populated areas with Pocket Parks, consisting of trees, plants, flowers and equipment made of materials that are environmentally friendly.
Recently, we completed a model park in the Pangrati neighbourhood of Athens, which is the fourth in a row, and 750 square metres in size. Soon we will complete the “Fix” park which, in essence, will become a huge garden with hundreds of trees and plants. In addition, we have also upgraded the historic Botanical Gardens in collaboration with the University of Athens, as well as rebuilt 34 fountains, with the one at Omonia Square being the largest.
To date, the budget for greening Athens has reached €2.5 million. Now we are talking about a budget of €10 million annually, addressing the axes I have already mentioned: that is a bolstering of green areas and improving their care in spaces where they already exist, as well as creating new ones.
GIG: Are there funding sources for these plans outside of the regular municipal budget?
Bakoyannis: There are sources like the EU’s Structural Funds and Cohesion Funds, the European Investment Bank, and the state’s Public Investment Programme, but Athens has also contributed importantly with its programme “Adopt your City” which gives institutions, foundations, companies and organisations the ability to participate in the creation of green spaces and their care.