The German city of Essen has won the European Green Capital Award for 2017 (EGCA). The award was presented by Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, at a ceremony in Bristol, which currently holds the title. European Committee of the Regions' (CoR) member Ilmar Reepalu (Sweden/PES) was also present as he was part of the jury.
Twelve cities had applied to the award and only four were shortlisted: Essen, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Nijmegen and Umeå. But it was Essen which was singled out for its exemplary practices in protecting and enhancing nature and biodiversity and efforts to reduce water consumption. Essen participates in a variety of networks and initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to improve the city’s resilience in the face of climate change.
Mr Reepalu assured that "the European Committee of the Regions in the past has given strong political support to the EGCA. It has recognised the role the EGCA plays in awarding front running cities and encouraging others to apply. This is why I am proud of the award, which aims to disseminate good practice among a whole range of environment areas, such as waste, water, noise, air and biodiversity".
Commissioner Vella said: “It gives me great pleasure to present Essen with the European Green Capital Award for 2017. Essen has used the lessons from its industrial past to build an environmentally sound future. They have applied the principle of working with nature and reaped spectacular results. We have a great deal to learn from Essen’s green infrastructure and indeed from its ambitious plans for the future. I look forward to the events that will mark its year as the 2017 European Green Capital”.
The city of Essen, together with all the previous European Green Capital winners, will act as a role model for other cities aspiring to improve their environmental performance, encouraging them to develop and apply innovative solutions as they progress towards sustainability targets.
Areas that particularly caught the attention of Mr Reepalu and his colleagues in the jury included Essen's impressive water management system, based on a sound knowledge of water-related problems and an open-minded approach to innovative solutions. Among these were multifunctional green areas which are used for rainwater management, flood prevention and groundwater recharge. Its plans for the future are ambitious, reflecting the most advanced approaches. Essen’s objective to prevent rainwater entering the combined sewer network in at least 15% of the area served by those sewers especially impressed the jury.
The event also announced the winners of the inaugural European Green Leaf 2015 competition. Mollet del Vallès (Spain) and Torres Vedras (Portugal) became the first cities to receive the accolade in recognition of their commitment to better environmental practices and green growth. The European Green Leaf (EGL) 2015 targets cities with a population between 50 000 and 100 000 inhabitants.