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European Commission - Press release

Essen becomes the European Green Capital for 2017

Brussels, 20 January 2017

The impressive transformation from coal and steel industry to the greenest city in North Rhine-Westphalia is proof of Essen's successful structural change.

On 21 January, the town of Essen in Germany will officially become the European Green Capital for 2017. In a ceremony, Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, will hand over the title for 2017 from Ljubljana to Essen.

With more than two thirds of Europeans living in towns or cities, addressing environmental challenges is of outmost importance for the health and wellbeing of citizens. The European Green Capital Award rewards efforts and commitment to improving the urban environment, boosting awareness of the need for environmental change at the city level. Essen will act as role model for sustainable urban development, sharing and promoting best practices that have been tried and tested in this German city.

Commissioner Vella said: “I congratulate Essen on becoming European Green Capital 2017 and making the city a healthier place to live in. The impressive transformation from coal and steel industry to the greenest city in North Rhine-Westphalia is proof of Essen's successful structural change. Great progress in environmental sustainability required vision, good governance, strong leadership and citizens' involvement. I look forward to Essen's programme of activities, and I wish Mayor Kufen, his team, the people of Essen the very best.

Thomas Kufen, Mayor of Essen, said: "This award is recognition of Essen's great efforts to establish itself as a city in transformation; overcoming a challenging industrial history to reinvent itself as a Green City. We strive to be a leading example for other European cities in finding sustainable solutions to urban challenges. We also wish to thank our citizens, as it is their ability to change and their engagement that has been key to our success. We are very excited to show the rest of Europe what Essen has to offer in its year as European Green Capital 2017."

The Commission is also developing the "Green City Tool" – a new voluntary tool which any city can use to benchmark and monitor its environmental performance. It is based on 12 criteria, used to select Green Capitals, and will help European cities to improve their urban environment and quality of life. The tool is expected to be launched in June.

What impressed the jury?

  • An ambitious target of reducing CO2 emissions by 40% by 2020;
  • 128,000m2 of road resurfaced with noise-optimised asphalt;
  • A water management system with multifunctional green areas used for rainwater management, flood prevention and groundwater recharge to prevent rainwater from entering the combined sewer network in at least 15% of the area served by those sewers;
  • 376 km of bicycle lanes: increase cycling by 25% until 2035;
  • Creation of 20 000 jobs in the environmental sector by 2025;
  • 95% of the population now living within 300m of green urban areas;
  • Car travel to be reduced by 29% by 2035;
  • No landfill of domestic waste since the 1960s;
  • Recycling target of 65% by 2020.

During its year as European Green Capital 2017, Essen plans to initiate over 300 citizens' projects and events that will further improve the quality of life of the city and put sustainability at the heart of the city's development programmes.


The European Green Capital Award is presented to a city that is at the forefront of environmentally friendly urban living. A panel of independent experts assesses the performance of the competing cities against 12 environmental criteria. A jury then evaluates their commitment to ongoing environmental improvement and sustainable development, as well as their skills in communication, and the extent to which they could act as a role model by showcasing best practices for use elsewhere. In addition to providing inspiration to other cities, the winner benefits from an increased profile, which serves to enhance the city's reputation and makes it attractive as a destination for people to visit, work and live in.

To date, nine cities have been awarded the title of European Green Capital since its inception in 2010. Stockholm, Sweden won the inaugural title, followed by Hamburg, Germany in 2011, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain in 2012, Nantes, France in 2013 and Copenhagen, Denmark in 2014 and Bristol, UK in 2015. The 2016 European Green Capital, Ljubljana, Slovenia will now pass the title to Essen, Germany for 2017, followed by Nijmegen in the Netherlands in 2018.

For more information



Twitter: @EU_GreenCapital

LinkedIn: European Green Capital Award

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