Our members ...
a transformed Hamburg was European Green Capital in 2011
by Stuart Forster
· personal page ·
That Hamburg could be named Europe’s Green Capital in 2011 came as a surprise to most. After all, the city and its hinterland have an overwhelmingly industrial image: Europe’s third largest port, home to 1.8m people, is the continent’s biggest copper smelter. Nonetheless, it scored well in the categories of ‘climate protection’, ‘mobility and environmental administration’ and ‘waste water management’ earning the city its green title.
Eighty per cent of Europeans live in urban areas, accounting for 75 per cent of the continent’s greenhouse gas emissions, so environmental improvements in cities can have a significant impact. In 2011, 35 cities applied for the European Green Capital title, which is awarded by the European Commission and was created to encourage municipalities to adopt environmental practices and to improve ecological standards.
. . . . .
Since 1990 significant improvements have been made in the city’s carbon dioxide emissions and the region is the home to many businesses specialising in renewable energies and environmental technologies. The ongoing HafenCity development is Europe’s largest inner city sustainable development project to date.
When complete, it will expand Hamburg’s area by 40 per cent (157 hectares), but by inward growth on largely disused dock land. Innovative building techniques and compliance with strict standards ensure that the HafenCity’s homes and offices are energy efficient and have low emission levels.
Herlind Gundelach, Hamburg’s Senator for Urban Development and Environment, recognises the need for measures adopted by the city to balance economic and ecological benefits. She views the award as recognition for achievements made so far and as a point of leverage for making further improvements. “We see ourselves as a learning city. And we want to use the title European Green Capital 2011 to inspire and to be inspired, and to learn from others,” she says.
. . . . .
In order to do that Hamburg hosted a series of environmentally themed congresses during 2011. Some, such as the Green Ports Congress and International Environmental Law Day brought together experts. Others events allowed citizens to voice their opinions on environmental issues. The Train of Ideas, for example, conceptualised as the European green capital on wheels, travelled to 17 European cities from 15 April to 23 November. The seven carriage train contained information about Hamburg’s green initiatives and hosted interactive exhibitions on environmental projects and best practices. The aim of the Train of Ideas wasto foster an exchange of ideas, both with industry experts and members of the public, while promoting the city. Its funding came from the €11m marketing budget for 2011. This also funded the Green Capital Infopavilion, at which visitors to Hamburg can learn more about the city’s environmental goals and planning.
Christoph Ahlhaus, the First Mayor of Hamburg, has acknowledged the significant role which local businesses played in Hamburg being chosen as the green capital. The Umweltpartner (Eco-Partnership) concept, an organisation by which the regional government and companies liaise to deal with climate and environmental protection issues, was established in 2003. An impressive 659 companies are currently involved and it is hoped that this figure will rise to 1000 by the end of 2013.
“The title gave Hamburg a huge chance to present itself as a city of the future within Germany and Europe,” says Micheal Westhagemann, the regional CEO of Siemens. Demographic projections suggest that Hamburg will grow over the coming decades despite an overall fall in Germany’s population. Within the city, there are hopes that new companies and creative people will be attracted to Hamburg due to increased awareness that the eco-orientated metropolis can offer a high standard of living.
Europe-wide, the implementation of new efficiency standards and emission laws, relating both to buildings and transport, plus an increasing awareness that investments in new technologies can bring savings, is likely to benefit Hamburg-based companies with expertise in related fields. Locally, a number of major infrastructural projects are planned. These include redevelopment of the island of Wilhelmsburg, in the River Elbe, for the International Building Exhibition of 2013, the introduction of a new city tram system plus the covering and subsequent greening over of a 3km urban stretch of the A7 motorway.
"The environment concerns all of us. Hamburg's designation as Green Capital gave us an ideal platform for talking about sustainability and drawing attention to this subject", said Harry Brouwer, the CEO of Unilever Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The company’s HafenCity headquarters is the first building to be lit only by LED lamps.
During 2011, guides led ‘green tours’, telling visitors about aspects of Hamburg’s environmental commitment and providing detailed insights regarding architecture. These tours included access to buildings not normally open to the public. Hamburg’s public transport authority and waste commission also opened some normally restricted facilities.
For an overview – literally – of the HafenCity development and the general greenery of Hamburg’s urban area, which includes parks such as Planten un Blomen, one of the best places to visit is the viewing platform on the city’s landmark St Michaelis Church, at 82m above the city.
. . . . .
On 31 December 2011 Hamburg passed the European Green Capital title to Vitoria-Gasteiz, in northern Spain, hopefully having set the green bar exceptionally high.
Whole site and all content
© Contributors and Travelwriters UK (since 2000)