The Danish city of Copenhagen has won the European Green Capital Award for 2014. The award was presented by EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik at a ceremony in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, the current holder of the title, on Friday evening. Copenhagen received special praise for its achievements, notably in terms of eco-innovation and sustainable mobility, its commitment to act as a role model for the green economy, in Europe and beyond, and for an exceptionally promising communication strategy.
Commissioner Potočnik said: “I congratulate Copenhagen on the example they are setting. We have much to learn from the city’s efforts to improve the environment and quality of life for citizens, whilst creating new business opportunities, and I look forward to their year as European Green Capital. They will have numerous occasions to showcase their expertise and their creative approach to urban planning and to developing a green economy.”
The European Green Capital award is an annual prize that encourages cities to improve the quality of urban life by systematically taking the environment into account in urban planning and management. One city is chosen from a large field of applicants every year. The Award jury considered Copenhagen’s Green Business Model to be an example of sustainable economic development, tackling environmental, economic and social concerns, with good potential for replication in other cities of the world.
Copenhagen has placed public-private partnerships at the core of its approach to eco-innovation and sustainable employment. The city works with companies, universities and organisations in dedicated forums to develop and implement green growth. Its North Harbour project, for example, will include a “Green laboratory” that will focus on eco-technologies, a model that can be transferred to other towns and cities.
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.
Communication actions to engage citizens are very effective, as Copenhageners feel they are part of the solution.
The other finalists were Bristol and Frankfurt. Bristol impressed the jury with an ambitious vision of sustainability involving a variety of urban networks including NGOs, local business, academia and volunteers. Its commitment to reduce climate change and its policy on clean air and noise were commended.
Frankfurt’s plans to improve the energy performance of new buildings, its excellent waste management and its numerous green open areas were highly rated, although concerns were raised about the potential impact of a recent airport extension on quality of life for citizens in the southern green belt area of the city.
18 cities applied for the competition to become European Green Capital 2014. Each entry was assessed by an international panel of 12 experts and three cities were shortlisted –Bristol, Copenhagen and Frankfurt. The shortlisted cities were interviewed by a Jury which comprises representatives from the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions, the European Environment Agency, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the Covenant of Mayors Office and the European Environmental Bureau.
The European Green Capital Award is ultimately about making cities more pleasant places to live and work in. The award is given to a European city that has demonstrated a well-established record of achieving high environmental standards, is committed to on-going and ambitious goals for future environmental improvement and sustainable development and is leading the way in environmentally friendly urban living and can thus act as a model to inspire other cities.
Cities entering the European Green Capital Award are assessed on 12 indicators – climate change, transport, green urban areas incorporating sustainable land use, nature and biodiversity, air, noise, waste, water consumption, waste water treatment, eco innovation & sustainable employment, environmental management and energy.
The European Green Capital Award was conceived by Mr Jüri Ratas, former Mayor of Tallinn, Estonia in 2006, as an initiative to promote and reward efforts, to spur cities to commit to further action, and to showcase and encourage exchange of best practice among European cities. Four cities – Stockholm, Hamburg, Vitoria-Gasteiz and Nantes – have been awarded the prestigious title so far, from 2010 to 2013 respectively.
In addition to inspiring other cities, the increased profile that results in being a European Green Capital serves to enhance the winning city’s reputation and attractiveness as a destination for people to visit, work and live in.