The European Green Capital Award is the result of an initiative taken by 15 European cities (Tallinn, Helsinki, Riga, Vilnius, Berlin, Warsaw, Madrid, Ljubljana, Prague, Vienna, Kiel, Kotka, Dartford, Tartu & Glasgow) and the Association of Estonian cities on 15 May 2006 in Tallinn, Estonia. Their green vision was translated into a joint Memorandum of Understanding establishing an award to reward cities that are leading the way with environmentally friendly urban living.
At a meeting on 29 June 2006 with the father of the initiative, Mr. Jüri Ratas, a former mayor of Tallinn and current Vice-President of the Estonian Parliament, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas expressed his support and offered to contribute to the development and implementation of the award scheme. President Barroso also wrote to the Mayor of Tallinn supporting the Green Capital initiative.
The establishment of this award is becoming increasingly relevant since Europe is now an essentially urban society, with three out of four Europeans living in towns and cities and recent developments in European Policy, such as the 7th Environmental Action Programme (EAP). Most of the environmental challenges facing our society originate from urban areas but it is also these urban areas that bring together the commitment and innovation needed to resolve them. The European Green Capital Award aims to promote and reward these efforts.
The objectives of the European Green Capital Award are to:
a) Reward cities that have a consistent record of achieving high environmental standards;
b) Encourage cities to commit to ongoing and ambitious goals for further environmental improvement and sustainable development;
c) Provide a role model to inspire other cities and promote best practices and experience in all other European cities.
The Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment of 11 January 2006 outlines the European Commission’s commitment to support and encourage Europe’s towns and cities to adopt a more integrated approach to urban management. This will ensure that they become better places to live in and reduce their environmental impact on the wider environment. The strategy also invites local and regional authorities to exploit the opportunities offered at EU level.
As the Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment does not contain legislative measures, and because incentives are important, the European Green Capital Award plays a useful role here.
The renewed Sustainable Development Strategy for an enlarged European Union aims to identify and develop actions that will enable the EU to achieve continuous improvement of the quality of life of both current and future generations. This can be done through the creation of sustainable communities which is precisely what the European Green Capital Award is intended to create.
The 7th Environmental Action Programme (EAP) will strengthen the policy background of the European Green Capital even further with a significant focus on policies for sustainable urban planning and design.
The main message is that Europeans have a right to live in healthy urban areas, and towns and cities should therefore strive to improve the quality of life of their citizens and reduce their impact on the global environment. This message is brought together in the slogan “Green cities – fit for life”.
A graphic identity has been developed to promote the winning European Green Capital and the actual award itself. The graphic identity aims to give winning cities a dynamic and unique branding platform which, at one and the same time, benefits the cities and increases awareness of the award.
A key element of the graphic identity is the logo showing a row of city buildings in greens and blues. The colours are intended to represent clean air, a green approach to the environment and a positive attitude to city living. The leaf embracing the city symbolises how candidate cities care for their citizens by improving the environment in which they live. The stars refer to the European Union. The logo is complemented by a frieze with different plants to be used in all promotional material to create a strong and coherent feel.
It is important to reward cities which are making efforts to improve the urban environment and move towards healthier and sustainable living areas. Progress is its own reward, but the satisfaction and pride involved in winning a prestigious European award will spur cities to invest in further efforts and will boost awareness in other cities. The award will enable cities to inspire each other and share best practices, in the context of a friendly competition.
Winning the title of the European Green Capital will also bring advantageous side effects such as increased tourism, more investment and an influx of young professionals. It is therefore in a city’s interest to become a prosperous place to live and work. Please see the next question for details on the benefits of winning the Award.
Being a European Green Capital brings many benefits long after the designated year ends. Some of the city specific benefits of our previous winners are detailed below. A summary of these includes:-
The city has been able to reach agreements with other institutions and external funding including millions of euro of sponsorship for new environmental projects such as 250,000 more trees in the Green Belt, and flood prevention works from now until 2020.
International alliances provided new business development opportunities with China, Denmark, Brazil, the USA and Latin America. The enhanced profile of the city resulted in 12% international tourists visiting the city. All citizens developed an acute sense of belonging and pride.
Hamburg generated phenomenal national and international media coverage, mostly linked to the Train of Ideas – 800 media reports reached over 270 million people in six months including potential tourists and investors. The city has been internationally recognized as a green metropolis with innovative technologies, which will have a great impact in the long term.
Already there has been a 57% increase in the number of Renewable Energy sector jobs from 2008 to 2012. Hamburg could set the course for further environmental protection development with landmark decisions taken on energy, climate protection and transport policy.
Stockholm welcomed media from all over the world as well as 120 delegations on professional study tours and close to 360 delegates to its European Green Capital Conference. It participated in 80 other international events related to the award. It continues to open its doors to everyone that wants to learn from its achievements.
The award gave the city strong recognition for its green achievements and Stockholm is now more determined than ever to keep up the pace for a sustainable urban development to become a green capital forever.
The Green Capital Secretariat is currently run by RPS Group Plc, Ireland. RPS is Ireland’s leading multi-disciplinary, all island consultancy providing Planning, Engineering, Environmental and Communications services. This appointment was made following an open call for tender published in the Official Journal in April 2010. The evaluation of the tenders was based on the criteria laid out in the technical annex, including the principle of ‘best value for money’.
The European Green Capital Award does not include any pool of funds to support initiatives of participating cities, but it may be relevant for local authorities to explore other funding opportunities at the EU level. In the new EU budget 2014-2020, at least 5% of the European Regional Development Fund will have to be used for sustainable urban development. For details see the overview of funding opportunities on the Commission’s website
Cities can take advantage of the Structural Funds, for example, by forming a thematic urban network under URBACT II or by making use of the European Urban Knowledge Network. Some noteworthy funding programmes are as follows; please check the Commission website to ensure the most up to date information is used.
LIFE+ - Funding for sustainable cities in the next phase of LIFE+ - DG ENV – LIFE is the European Union’s financial instrument supporting environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the Union and in some candidate and neighbouring countries. Since 1992 LIFE has co-financed some 2,750 projects for a total of €1.35 billion. DG Environment proposes to fund up to 15 large-scale projects (€10 million) each involving two or more cities in the next phase (2014 to 2020) of the environmental financing programme, LIFE+. The proposal under negotiation should be finalised in 2013 and more information can be found here.
URBACT – is a European exchange and learning programme promoting sustainable urban development. URBACT aims to enable cities to work together to develop solutions to major urban challenges, reaffirming the key role they play in facing increasingly complex societal changes. The programme helps cites to develop pragmatic solutions that are new and sustainable, and that integrate economic, social and environmental dimensions. URBACT was initially established in 2002 and is currently in its second stage (URBACT II) which will end in 2013. The URBACT III 2014-2020 Programme is expected to follow. For more information please visit the website here.
INTERREG IVC – provides funding for interregional cooperation across Europe. It is implemented under the European Community’s territorial co-operation objective and financed through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The Operational Programme was approved in September 2007 and the period for INTERREG IVC will last from 2007-2013. This programme follows on from the INTERREG IIIC programme which ran from 2002-2006 and will be succeeded by INTERREG V for the period 2014 to 2020. More information can be found here.
Horizon 2020 - Commission proposal for an 80 billion euro research and innovation funding programme (2014 – 2020). Horizon 2020 is part of proposals for next EU budget, complementing Structural Funds, education, etc. It will be a core part of Europe 2020, Innovation Union & European Research Area:
Please check the Horizon 2020 website for up to date information on the programme here.
The Smart Cities and Communities European Innovation Partnership was launched by the Commission in July 2012 (DG ENER, CONNECT & MOVE). The partnership proposes to pool resources to support the demonstration of energy, transport and information and communication technologies (ICT) in urban areas. This will enable innovative, integrated and efficient technologies to roll out and enter the market more easily, while placing cities at the centre of innovation. The funding will be awarded through yearly calls for proposals: €365 million for 2013. Funding is foreseen mainly from FP7 and the future Horizon 2020, please check the website here for up to date information.
EU Cities Adapt is an initiative of DG CLIMA for the development of adaptation strategies for European Cities for dealing effectively and efficiently with the future impacts of climate change. While no specific funding is available, cities can benefit from a comprehensive capacity development package free of charge, incorporating a training programme. It provides capacity building and assistance for cities in developing and implementing adaptation strategies by raising awareness, exchanging knowledge and good practices as well as developing tools and guidance for cities on adaptation.To the top