Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by M.Štojs

European Parliament delegation visits European Green Capital 2017, the City of Essen

European Parliament delegation visits Essen

Five Members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee visited Essen in Germany in September. The three-day visit hosted by City Mayor Thomas Kufen and Deputy Mayor Simone Raskob took place as the city was preparing its European Green Capital 2017 programme.

First on the agenda was the important topic of civic engagement and regional cooperation. “Today we have cleaner air and more green spaces. This was achieved with the full support of our citizens,” said Mayor Thomas Kufen.

“The title of European Green Capital 2017 is an award but also an incentive. We will set further milestones for a climate-friendly and environmentally conscious development of Essen. We have already taken important steps, in restoring the river area and creating new green neighborhoods with a better quality of life,” Mayor Kufen continued.

Simone Raskob, Deputy Mayor, responsible for environment and buildings added, "We will enhance waterfront living, create footpaths to lakes and floodplains and connect the city with new bike paths."

After visiting the cycleway Radschnellweg RS 1, built on the former railway line Rheinische Bahn, and the new energy efficient buildings, Member of the European Parliament Paul Brannen said, “The city of Essen has managed to approach the challenges of post-industrial urban decline and sustainable development from an innovative perspective. The solutions implemented in Essen not only make effective use of urban space but also stimulate its further development, most notably in the sphere of modern technologies and environmental protection”.

The Parliamentarians met with local business leaders working on a project that provides citizens with allotments to improve the City’s green infrastructure. They also visited the ‘KlimaExpo’ where they learned about resource efficiency. The second day of the visit ended with a first hand experience of the region’s sustainable transformation of the Ruhr’s former industrial route.

MEP Paul Brannen said, “In my opinion, the key factor for success of these policies is a growing consumer demand for clean, healthy and convenient urban space and services. These factors will inevitably incentivise development of sustainable urban policies and an associated growth and jobs”.

“It would make sense to forge closer links between former industrial cities in order to explore synergies and learn from respective successes and mistakes. Post-industrial regions have very much in common and we do not necessarily need to reinvent the wheel,” added Brannen.

The visit concluded with the European Parliament delegation learning about the Innovation City of Elting and the climate-friendly, energy-efficient renovation of its residential buildings. The final stop was to Lake Phoenix in Dortmund to learn about the regeneration project ‘Emscher remodeling’, green infrastructure and the long-term conversion of industrial areas.

MEP Brannen said, “One particular element I am keen on is stepping up of use of wood in urban construction: technological breakthroughs in cross-laminated timber allow for construction of multi-storey buildings made entirely of wood, with the same or higher levels of material strength and fire safety as steel or concrete can provide.”

“This development not only suits consumer needs – surveys show that people prefer living and working in wooden buildings – but can also incentivise jobs and know-how in R&D, manufacturing and construction industries,” added Brannen.

The Parliamentarians returned to Brussels inspired by the urban sustainability progress in evidence in Essen, European Green Capital 2017.