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Brussels, 22 October 2010

Environment: Vitoria-Gasteiz and Nantes to be next European Green Capitals

Spanish regional capital Vitoria-Gasteiz and the French city of Nantes have been named as winners of the European Green Capital award for 2012 and 2013. The European Commission's award scheme encourages cities to improve the quality of urban life by systematically taking the environment into account in urban planning. The awards were presented by EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik at a ceremony last night in Stockholm, European Green Capital for 2010.

Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "I congratulate Vitoria-Gasteiz and Nantes – as well as all the other cities - on the work they have put in to improve the environment and quality of life for their citizens. Cities are the places where most Europeans see environment policy in action; and where environmental decisions matter. Many have big ecological footprints. The Green Capital Award is a showcase for the kind of urban commitment and innovation which will help them, and others, prosper well into the future."

Mercedes Bresso, President of the Committee of the Regions said: "European Green Capitals are the flagships of a wider fleet of local community leaders and citizens committed to improving the quality of urban life. The "green" redesign of our cities is triggering sustainable development at the global level, so mobilising citizens and twinning Green Capitals across continents should therefore be our priorities. Following the recent cooperation agreement signed by the CoR and the US Conference of Mayors, I am delighted that US mayors are sharing their green success stories with their European counterparts and taking the first steps towards developing joint projects."  

Vitoria-Gasteiz – winner 2012

Vitoria-Gasteiz, a regional capital of northern Spain, has made great progress in greening a traditional urban environment. 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.

Nantes – winner 2013

Nantes, France's sixth largest city with a population of 285 000, 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”.

The European Green Capital Award

The annual award is a new initiative presented to a city in the vanguard of environmentally friendly urban living. The award panel evaluate the cities on the basis of 11 environmental indicators. Cities are judged on their record in achieving high environmental standards, their commitment to ongoing and ambitious goals for further environmental improvement and sustainable development, and the extent to which they can act as a role model and promote best practice in other European cities.

Stockholm and Hamburg were the first cities to win the title; Stockholm for 2010 and Hamburg for 2011. Some 17 cities applied for the 2012 and 2013 awards. Six finalists were shortlisted: Barcelona, Malmö, Nantes, Nuremberg, Reykjavík and Vitoria-Gasteiz.

The jury is made up of representatives from the European Commission, the European Environment Agency, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the Covenant of Mayors Office, the European Environmental Bureau and the Committee of the Regions.

Further details on the European Green Capital Award:

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