Dunkirk is an industrial port city whose influence extends across Europe. Of Dunkirk you could say it is the third largest port in France, the largest European energy platform, one of France’s largest industrial zones (with its metal, steel and chemical industries), and the region with the highest CO2
emissions in France, where inhabitants are exposed to some thirty pollution peaks every year.
But Dunkirk is also a region that is keen to undergo transformation by innovating to reconcile economy and ecology, employment and health, and by 2027, bring their pollution peaks down from 17 a year to zero. In its “Dunkerque, l’énergie créative”
(Dunkirk: creative energy) project, which came third in the French government’s Territoires d’innovation
(Innovative regions) request for proposal, the urban community set itself four drivers for transformation, including air quality and the energy transition with, as its watchword, better quality of life for its inhabitants.
Air quality is at the crossroads of a number of key, interacting issues: urban mobility, freight transport via sea or road, land planning (for example, deciding where to locate new industries to avoid resulting pollution being driven towards residential areas by the wind), industrial and agricultural production methods, the energy transition, and development of the circular economy, which can help reduce air pollution by creating virtuous production loops.
The innovation behind the “Dunkirk: creative energy” project lies in its method
: bringing together, in a collaborative manner and with collective governance, all stakeholders, from local ities to manufacturers – including SUEZ – via associations, health organisations, universities and citizens.
: the Hauts-de-Flandre federation of municipalities has joined the project and a total of 253,000 inhabitants are set to benefit from the improvements it will bring. Back in 2018, the Dunkirk urban community became the largest European urban area to introduce free public transport for its 17 towns and villages.
Recording air quality in a precise and neutral way, and providing better information for the general public
. This will be the role of the local health observatory, which will use scientific studies to assess the impact of air quality on the health of inhabitants and local fauna and flora by correlating, for example, the type of pollutants present in the air with certain pathologies. The aim is to assess the harm that pollutants cause to public health and then improve treatment measures. The observatory will also work on developing new indicators, such as “bioindicators” like bees or lichens, as explained by Sandrine Babonneau, urban planning and health specialist at AGUR and coordinator at the local health observatory