European Green Capitals call for global action


The European Green Capital Award scheme will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2020. In December 2018, at the United Nations climate change conference (COP 24) in Katowice, Poland, all 11 past and future Green Capitals were among 22 cities that presented a pioneering Call for Action to underline the power of cities in combatting climate change and other environmental challenges and to spur a green urban movement.

Since 2010, expert judges have selected one city each year for the European Green Capital Award (EGCA). Winners must demonstrate high environmental standards and a commitment to achieve further ambitious goals for sustainable development. The Award’s slogan is ‘Green cities – fit for life’. Sustainable urban environments offer their inhabitants happier and healthier lives – but to make them happen, citizens must be closely involved.

Green cities do better – they offer better quality of life to their citizens and new opportunities to business.

Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella

The European Commission is committed to supporting greener cities through both the EGCA and the Green Leaf Award (EGLA), for smaller towns and cities with less than 100 000 inhabitants. To celebrate a decade of sustainable progress, and to help winning cities kick-start their laureate year, the Commission awarded a special financial incentive of EUR 350 000 to Lisbon, the 2020 EGCA title winner, and EUR 75 000 to the joint Green Leaf winners 2019, Cornellà de Llobregat in Spain and Horst aan de Maas in the Netherlands.

All cities that enter the competition benefit from a free environmental assessment by experts, as well as promotion by the Commission. Winners and short-listed cities also become part of the European Green Capital Network, set up in 2014. Its 26 members share and promote knowledge and best practice and help to inspire other cities around the globe to spur the urban sustainability transition.

Combined action is needed to tackle today’s global environmental challenges. By offering leadership and working together, cities can help one another to become greener, more sustainable and more pleasant places to work, live and grow old.

Growing urban populations

Urban environments are becoming increasingly important. More than two thirds of Europeans live in towns and cities, and cities play a pivotal role in tackling global environmental challenges such as climate change, resource efficiency, air pollution, urban mobility, water consumption and waste management.

“We need to ensure that European cities are great places to live and work, that they are planned sustainably, and that they are resilient to the global challenges that lie ahead,” said EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella. “Green cities do better – they offer better quality of life to their citizens and new opportunities to business.”

Winning the Green Capital title is a major boost for cities, which act as high-profile European ambassadors throughout the year. But local people also benefit, through hundreds of citizens’ projects ranging from activities for children and schools to gardening and allotment schemes for the whole community. Particularly in deprived areas, these initiatives help to bring communities together and improve the quality of lives.

Greening cities requires both good governance and the active participation of residents and businesses. This bottom-up approach creates new solutions and fosters understanding of policy decisions. 

On 4 January 2019, 2018 Green Capital Nijmegen, in the Netherlands, handed the EGCA baton to Oslo in Norway. Twenty-one cities from 14 European countries are already competing to win the EGCA 2021 and EGLA 2020 – and nearly two thirds of them are firsts-time applicants. The family of Green Capitals is growing!

Urban, noise and health