Vitoria-Gasteiz and Nantes to be next European green capitals



The Spanish regional capital of Vitoria-Gasteiz and the French city of Nantes have been named as winners of the European Green Capital award for 2012 and 2013.

The awards were presented by EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik at the first European Green Capital Conference in Stockholm, winner of the European Green Capital for 2010.

The conference gathered city officials, politicians and officers from all over the world to discuss the demands of growing cities while maintaining sustainable economic development and decreasing the negative impact on the environment.

Stockholm was appointed as the first European Green Capital in 2010. Having a long track record of green urban development, the city has reduced CO2 emissions per capita by 25 percent since 1990, bringing the emissions to about half the national Swedish average. The target is set to become fossil free by 2050. Hamburg Germany was chosen last year as the  European Green Capital for 2011. (See Hamburg Green Capital Program here)

The European Green Capital award winner for 2012 - Vitoria-Gasteiz -  a regional capital of northern Spain, has made great progress in greening a traditional urban environment. (See the winning city's video here)

The 'Green Belt', a semi-natural green area partially reclaimed from degraded areas, surrounds the centre, ensuring its entire population of almost a quarter of a million people lives within 300 metres of an open green space. Numerous measures are in place to assist and increase biodiversity and ecosystem services. Flora and fauna are monitored and habitat fragmentation is reduced wherever possible.

The city is successfully coping with water scarcity and has steadily decreased its water consumption over the last decade. Many water related investments have been made to improve water supply and quality, reduce losses, and work towards sustainable consumption. Vitoria-Gasteiz has an ambitious objective of reducing domestic water consumption to below 100 litres per capita per day.

The European Green Capital award for 2013 - Nantes -  is France's sixth largest city with a population of 285 000. It has successfully linked its green and blue urban areas, integrating urban challenges with a location on two major rivers (the Loire and the Erdre), through a sustainable water management programme.

Several Natura 2000 and other nature conservation areas border the city, and conservation of the flora and fauna are a key concern for its population.

Nantes has a long established integrated and sustainable transport policy with a focus on public transport and cycling and was the first French city to successfully reintroduce electric trams. Its ambitious transport policy has reduced air pollution, and a new climate plan aims to cut CO2 emissions by a quarter by 2020. One novel initiative for citizens' health is an allergy risk evaluation system, in the form of an experimental 'pollen watch garden'.

When introducing the Green Capital Awards, European Environment Commissioner Potočnik noted that urban spread is the real problem facing European cities.

'citiesIt eats up agricultural land and open space and disrupts ecosystems. And with further to travel, public transport gets more expensive, pollutes more and uses more fuel,' he stated, 'and the social impact can be enormous, with large areas of cities effectively cut off from their neighbours.'

'The city of tomorrow will, then, need to look very different from the ones of today,' he noted. 'They will need to be compact and green. Several good examples already exist. I'm sure nobody will be surprised to hear that they are mainly based on Scandinavian planning and building traditions.'

A summary video of the 2010 European Green Capital Award finalists is available here.

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