Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by M Hjälm

European Commission Hands over Title to Vitoria-Gasteiz, 2012 European Green Capital

On 15 December, 2011, the European Commission will officially hand over the “European Green Capital” title from Hamburg, Germany to Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, further promoting sustainable transport initiatives throughout Europe.

This exciting event marks the third year of the European Green Capital initiative, which recognises the important position local authorities play in improving the environment. With three out of five people living in urban areas throughout Europe today, promoting and showcasing best practice in cities is an excellent way to exchange ideas, strike up “friendly competition” and provide inspiration for green growth.

Beginning in 2010, Stockholm, Sweden, became the first European Green Capital with its high standards of sustainable transport and ambitious targets for greenhouse gas reduction. The city has seen a 75% increase in cycling over the past ten years and a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels. Its fleet of renewably-fuelled trains and inter-city buses, along with the “Clean Vehicles in Stockholm” initiative – where one in three cars sold in the city are clean – makes such goals possible. Further, through development of a “Professional Study Tour” programme in 2010, Stockholm has shown leadership in exchanging ideas and inspiration for sustainable urban growth.

This year, Hamburg, has internationally showcased sustainable urban mobility through its travelling “Train of Ideas” campaign. Locally, it hosts a strong cycling and public transport network, providing residents with optimal transport options within 300 meters of any urban location. The port-city has also avoided urban-sprawl in land-use policy through the promotion of growth in unused harbour areas and other urban neighbourhoods. These strategies have helped to further promote CO2 emission reduction, which Hamburg aims to double (40% of 1990 levels) by 2020 and further reduce to 80% by 2050.

Next year, in line with the targets and goals of the Green Capital award, Vitoria-Gasteiz, located in the Basque region of Spain, follows Stockholm and Hamburg with inspiring examples of sustainable mobility in practice. As a pedestrian-scale compact city, Vitoria-Gasteiz’s urban mobility policy is founded on the development of cycle lanes, pedestrian areas and green public spaces throughout the city centre. Such initiatives, which “pull” residents towards the use of non-motorised transport, have shown impressive results. Almost half (49%) of all journeys within the city are now made by foot!

In 2012, Nantes, France will receive the title of European Green Capital. Its take on urban mobility is entirely different from that of Vitoria-Gasteiz. It has seen success through the introduction of electric tramways, a high quality bus service (with 80% of the fleet running on natural gas) and a growing bicycle infrastructure. Similar to Vitoria-Gasteiz, such initiatives have resulted in an impressive modal switch. In only 8 years (2000 to 2008), Nantes saw a 36% increase in urban transport use, making public transport the local choice for over 50% of journeys today.

For more information or to register for this event click here

For more information on Vitoria-Gasteiz, the European Green Capital 2012 click here