Green Cities Fit for Life

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European Green Capital 2018 finalists

In May, the European Commission announced the three finalists of the 2018 European Green Capital Award. Here's what you need to know about each of the cities.

Nijmegen (The Netherlands)

Nijmegen

A key objective of Nijmegen’s European Green Capital Award campaign is to involve citizens and entrepreneurs as much as possible in order to become a healthy and prosperous city. Nijmegen aims to become energy neutral by 2045 and 'climate proof' by 2050, and wants to reach these objectives together with its local stakeholders; the city considers its inhabitants, entrepreneurs and knowledge institutions as integral to its environmental improvement.

A participation map of Nijmegen shows all projects undertaken in the public space by citizens. The city is also running a new campaign called ‘Green Connects’ to increase civil participation in the development of green and blue infrastructure and biodiversity projects. Other examples include the expansion of green space in the city centre, a badger habitat protection project, and ‘permablitzes’ where teams carry out very quick garden makeovers throughout the city.

Public participation is also important for the city’s energy projects. For its first windmill park, the municipality needed the support of nature and environmental NGOs to go forward. Private parties mobilised thousands of people, who bought shares in the windm turbines. This raised the trust of banks and enabled investments. The construction of four turbines―delivering energy for 7000 households, or 10% of the city―was started in the beginning of May.

s'Hertogenbosch (The Netherlands)

s'Hertogenbosch

One of ‘s-Hertogenbosch's main aims is to reduce the environmental impact of new building developments, restrict traffic in the inner city, and encourage the use of electric vehicles by developing charging infrastructure. The municipality also aims to make its own property carbon-neutral by 2020. Civil society is also involved in the city’s sustainable energy objectives, inlcuding volunteers and businesses.

‘s-Hertogenbosch has done much work to repurpose brownfield sites in an integrated way, including the the former factories of De Gruyter and Verkade.

‘s-Hertogenbosch has a high-quality network of bicycle paths and lanes. This is reflected in the impressive amount of bicycle lanes in the city: 2.17 meters per capita. In 2011 the city was declared the Cycling City of the Netherlands.

‘s-Hertogenbosch has abundant green spaces which it strives to protect through conservation programmes in the city. Conservation is prioritised for an array of species, including butterflies.

To improve air quality, the city has shifted transport routes, established a low emission zone for freight vehicles, and created green buffers by planting trees.

Umeå (Sweden)

Umeå

One of Umeå’s flagship projects is its bus system that currently operates nine electric buses. Together they replace 600,000 kilometres of diesel-run transport. The municipality aims to replace all diesel vehicles on the major city bus lines by 2019, which involves the purchase of an additional 24 full-electric buses.

The buses need little time for charging. Thanks to ultra-fast chargers, three minutes of charging suffices for up to an hour of driving. Charging can be done at the end of the line, allowing for 24/7 traffic. The buses were tested in a cold climate.

Umeå’s electric bus project, a venture with a local development company and a European business partnership, began with the conversion of two diesel buses and the construction of Europe’s most powerful vehicle charger at Umeå Airport. The pilot project was so successful that it was decided to make an additional investment with the purchase of nine new electric buses and two stations for ultra-fast charging.

In October 2015, Umeå received the Award of Technical innovation from Civitas, a network of over 200 European cities that pursue greener transport.

The bus project is one example of how Umea aims to improve noise levels, energy performance air quality, mobility and eco-innovation. ‘The technology fits well into Umeå’s vision of 200,000 inhabitants in 2050 and our ambition to densify the city’, says Hans Lindberg, Mayor of Umeå.

Besides technical innovation, Umeå also attempts to bring about social innovation. As a follow up to this project, Umeå intends to promote public transport among groups that are currently under-represented.