Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by Ursula Bach

4 out of 5 European Green Capitals are also CIVITAS Cities

25th July 2012

The CIVITAS Initiative (“City-Vitality-Sustainability”, or “Cleaner and Better Transport in Cities”) was launched in 2002 to introduce ambitious transport measures and policies towards sustainable urban mobility. Through a community of cities, CIVITAS aims to establish sustainable transport through advancements in innovative technology and policy-based strategies. The CIVITAS Forum network comprises of 200 cities which in turn represent 68 million citizens in 31 countries.

The fundamental aim of CIVITAS is to create green cities through focusing on the transport sector. The European Green Capital Award sets out to acknowledge cities’ efforts in becoming sustainable and lists transport as one of its 12 criteria for the award. It is no surprise then that 4 out 5 European Green Capital title holders are CIVITAS cities. Their commitment to sustainable urban transport is one of the reasons why the Jury selected them to represent the award.

Stockholm held the European Green Capital title in 2010. Stockholm has made progress in sustainable transport through policies, education and technology. Through the Traffic Management Centre for traffic control, the city collects and processes traffic information. This information is distributed via radio, internet and through mobile services. In 2006 the city introduced a congestion tax for cars travelling in and out of the inner city during the daytime. As a result greenhouse gas emissions have reduced by up to14% in taxed area and air quality has improved by 2-10%. Traffic in the area has declined by an average of approximately 20% and congestion around the city centre has decreased by 30-50%.

The Bicycle programme has resulted in an increase in the number of cyclists by 75% in the last decade. This programme involves investments in new bike connections, further improvements of the existing bicycle network and other measures such as more traffic lights, bike parking etc. Approximately 700,000 citizens use public transport everyday to get to work, school etc.

Stockholm launched a project titled ‘Clean Vehicles in Stockholm’ with the objective of achieving a market breakthrough for clean vehicles. Currently, one third of all new cars sold in Stockholm are clean vehicles. This market penetration can be attributed to the city’s commitment to providing alternative fuels at stations, valuable incentives and through common procurement agreements.

This year’s European Green Capital Vitoria-Gasteiz is a CIVITAS demonstration city and will host the CIVITAS Forum conference. The city aims to ensure that public spaces are clean and pleasant for its citizens. Through its participation with CIVITAS it has reduced the environmental impact and noise from traffic and doubled the amount of people-centred areas.

Cyclist in Copenhagen: Courtesy of Ursala Bach

Nantes will hold the European Green Capital title in 2013. The city impressed the European Green Capital Jury through an effective sustainable transport policy with a focus on public transport and bicycles. The city centre has been developed to minimise car transport and to provide pedestrians with optimal conditions. In 2009, the percentage of the population living within 300 metres of urban public transport passing at least once an hour increased to 95%. Alongside public transport, Nantes Métropole is continuing its search for credible and competitive alternatives to cars, by championing ‘green’ transport choices.

Nantes was the first city in France to successfully re-introduce electric tramways. This effort will continue in the coming years and investments in new tramways, high quality buses service and bicycle infrastructure are foreseen.

This year, Copenhagen was selected as the European Green Capital for 2014. The Jury singled out Copenhagen as a good model in terms of urban planning and design. It is also something of a transport pioneer, aiming to become the world’s most practicable city for cyclists. Its goal is to have 50 % of people cycling to their place of work or education by 2015 (35 % cycled to their workplace or school in 2010), helping the city reach an ambitious goal of being CO2 neutral by 2025. Interestingly “Copenhagenization” is a term that has commonly come to refer to a design strategy that makes a city more accessible to cyclists and pedestrians and less car dependent – it is how to improve the quality of sustainable urban life.

The dedication that these European Green Capitals have shown to greening transport is worthy of the recognition they have received. Implementing sustainable transportation improves the air quality of the city, health of its citizens and contributes to climate change mitigation.

For more information on CIVITAS click here
For more information about the European Green Capital Award click here