European Green Capital: Cities Fit For Life
June 6, 2012
The Fresh Outlook
Three cities are bidding to be European Green Capital 2014, an award celebrating success in creating a greener urban environment.
Bristol,Copenhagen and Frankfurt have been shortlisted for the award which is a European Commission initiative. Stockholm was the inaugural winner of the award in 2010, followed by Hamburg in 2011. Vitoria-Gasteiz is this year’s European Green Capital and Nantes will hold the title in 2013.
The Commission launched the European Green Capital award to recognise the efforts of local governments to improve the environment and quality of life for urban populations. Three out of four EU citizens live in urban areas. The Commission says most environmental challenges originate from urban areas but cities can also initiate solutions to these challenges. The Green Capital Award also aims to provide an incentive for cities to inspire other urban areas and share best practices.
Any urban area of over 200,000 people can apply for the award and the competition is open to all EU member states, candidate states and countries from the European Economic Area.
Entries for the award are assessed on 12 environmental indicators including the local contribution to global climate change, quality of local ambient air and eco-innovation and sustainable employment. The three finalists for 2014 were shortlisted from 18 applicant cities.
The title of European Green Capital does not come with any dedicated funding but being named European Green Capital has had a significant impact on the winning cities in terms of investment, new green jobs and increasing the number of professional and business visitors and conferences.
Bristol City Council’s Sustainable City manager, Alex Minshull, who is leading the city’s bid for the award, spoke to The Fresh Outlook about how winning the title of European Green City would benefit Bristol:
“There are three benefits we see for Bristol. One is about consolidating and strengthening the environmental agenda in the city and recognising the fantastic work that many people, businesses and organisations do to improve quality of life and the environmental footprint of the city.
“Secondly, we think it will help attract green-minded businesses who want to come to Bristol or businesses that are looking for high quality of life and high quality of environment for their workforce and wanting to relocate to Bristol or invest in Bristol in our new enterprise zone. And thirdly, we think it will give Bristol businesses the opportunity to promote their goods and services more effectively on a European and global market, particularly those who are working in the environmental, technology and services sector.”
Klaus Wichert, head of the city of Frankfurt’s Environment Department, told The Fresh Outlook that the process of entering the competition and being named as a finalist has given a boost to environmental sustainability efforts in the city.
“It has reinforced the measures that we’re already undertaking,” he said. “We’ve also noticed that being shortlisted has motivated quite different groups in the city to get involved. The European Green Capital is like a trademark and community groups are using it to promote their activities and to strengthen their initiatives.”
“The European Green Capital award would be a very big recognition from the EU to Copenhagen for its many years of efforts in environmental issues,” Hans Christian Karstens, head of the Urban Environment Division in the city of Copenhagen, told The Fresh Outlook. “The other important thing is that this prize is all about the initiatives and activities which have to happen in these European cities if you want to implement the goals on green growth and liveable cities and sustainable development.
“It’s an opportunity to make a presentation of what did we do on environment issues and what kind of solutions we have in Copenhagen, and what we would like to do is to share all these experiences and solutions with other cities in Europe. That’s what we can do for Europe but the prize is important in Copenhagen as a city itself because I think if we win the award it will strengthen our opportunities to carry on working with the green agenda,” Mr Karstens said.
Bristol can also be a role model to other cities, Mr Minshull believes.
“We think that we’ve got experience that is translatable to many cities about how they can work in partnership with others to achieve improvements in the city,” he said. “We’ve worked with over 100 European cities in recent years on joint projects in some way or other.”
If Bristol wins the title of European Green Capital, “It proves that that what we’re doing is good and that success encourages people to do more,” said Mr Minshull.
Klaus Wichert wants to use the competition process as a way of developing and sharing solutions to the challenges that European cities face.
“Frankfurt has all the problems that one has in European cities in general: the challenge of climate change, an ageing society, a growing city, energy and resource problems,” he said. “We are a city that’s particularly open to discussion and developing visions. We’re in the centre of Europe, we’re easily accessible. We’re confident we can develop solutions to these problems and that’s what we want to do in taking part in the competition. We want to share this with others in Europe,” he said.
Mr Wichert said being named as a finalist for the title of European Green Capital was a mark of recognition that Frankfurt is making good progress in improving its urban environment.
“We feel honoured that we’ve been named as a finalist,” he said. “We see this as a productive competition. The point isn’t really whether one gets the gold star or not. We see it as a process and we’ll continue on this path and if the others have better solutions that we can profit from, that’s wonderful.”
Mr Karstens also believes that the opportunities which the competition gives are more important than the actual contest.
“We would like to win the prize of course, that’s why we’re here,” he said. “We are in the competition because we want to be the Green Capital but I think we can use all the cities in the contest to create a network about how we meet all the challenges we face with environmental issues at the moment.
“What I think is very important is you now have four cities working in a kind of network because they have been appointed Green Capitals and what is necessary in the future is to create this kind of network because a lot of the work that is done on environmental issues is done by the cities of Europe. So we have to strengthen networking with other cities all over Europe and the European Green Capital award is a very important way to develop these kinds of networks. You have, of course, the winner for the year, but you have a lot of finalists and a lot of candidates who are interested in green issues and therefore we have a very good opportunity to create a network and share experiences on how to deal with all the challenges.”
The three shortlisted cities will make their presentations to a jury of experts in Brussels on June 8. The winner will be announced at the end of June.
By Anna Foden
[Image courtesy of Katja Fisch]