The city of Copenhagen in Denmark has won the European Green Capital Award for 2014, fending off strong competition from two other finalists, Bristol in England and Frankfurt in Germany. Fourteen cities entered the competition, of which three finalist cities presented their vision, action plans and communication strategies to the jury earlier this month.
The jury assessed three different areas. They
considered cities’ overall environmental commitment, vision and enthusiasm.
Cities also had to demonstrate that they had communicated these issues to their
citizens and with other local groups. Lastly, the jury also considered how each
city could act as a role model for other cities with similar conditions.
The jury noted that Copenhagen is
an excellent role model for its approach to urban planning. In 2010, 35 % of
citizens were already cycling to their place of work or education, which the
municipality hopes to increase to 50% in 2015, contributing towards the
ambitious goal of becoming CO2 neutral by 2025. Other plans to
reduce emissions include using more sources of renewable energy for the city’s
existing district heating system.
Environmentally-conscious planning has been
demonstrated to have many health benefits. Copenhagen now has an official
municipal policy stipulating that by 2015 all citizens should be able to reach
a park or beach on foot in less than 15 minutes. In line with this policy,
several new parks are under development in areas lacking green spaces.
The Danish capital has worked with green companies,
universities and organisations in order to boost eco-innovation and sustainable
employment. Successful communication efforts mean the environment is not just
seen as a municipal concern, according to the jury, Copenhageners feel they are
part of the solution.
Frankfurt, as one of
the runners-up, has also achieved a great deal, according to the jury. Total
volumes of waste have been decreasing for years. Environmental campaigns in
areas like water and electricity have also led to reductions in water and
electricity consumption beyond the national average.
The Jury was impressed by Frankfurt's commitment to
improve energy efficiency with a range of policies. All new buildings in
Frankfurt must be ‘passive’, i.e. meet strict standards for energy use. The
city is bringing in an ambitious Green Public Procurement policy, especially in
the building sector. Frankfurt banned the use of tropical timber in 1999 and
the use of PVC is also forbidden.
ambitious targets to cut CO2, which go further than those of the EU
and UK. The city aims to reduce emissions by 40% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050
from a 2005 baseline. Another commendable example was Bristol's policy on clean
air and noise: the city has one of the most comprehensive air quality
monitoring networks in the UK and has plans to manage transport to further
improve the situation.
The jury noted that the city has mobilised many
thousands of people through volunteering schemes, e-petitions, online
discussions and collaborations with many different community organisations.
and the environment
Approximately three quarters of Europeans live in
cities. The high concentration of people in urban
areas can put intense pressures on the local environment. Cities also
affect the environment much further afield – the average urban lifestyle in
Europe directly and indirectly uses water, energy, resources and land. One
study of Greater London estimated London’s environmental footprint to be 300
times its geographical area — corresponding to nearly twice the size of the
However, the three Green Capital Award finalists all
demonstrate that cities are
also places where it is possible to make big environmental gains. For example,
the high concentration of people and services means that public transport often
works very efficiently, while people are more likely to cycle or walk to their local
shops instead of driving. Per capita energy use is usually lower in city
apartment blocks compared to dispersed rural dwellings.
Cities are also engines of cultural, financial and
intellectual activity, driving new innovations which are essential for
responding to Europe’s environmental challenges.
But Europe’s cities are also vulnerable to
environmental shocks. A recent
European Environment Agency report explored the risks from climate
change, finding city dwellers were particularly vulnerable to some risks such
as heatwaves and urban flooding.
03 July, 2012.