The town of Essen in Germany has officially become the European Green Capital for 2017.
In a ceremony on Saturday, Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, handed over the title from Ljubljana.
The European Green Capital Award rewards efforts and commitment to improving the urban environment and boosting awareness of the need for environmental change at a city level.
Essen has set ambitious targets of cutting emissions by 40% and recycling 65% of waste by 2020, reducing car travel by 29% by 2035 and creating 20,000 jobs in the environmental sector by 2025.
The city also has 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.
During its year as European Green Capital 2017, Essen plans to initiate more than 300 citizens’ projects and events that are expected to further improve the quality of life of the city and put sustainability at the heart of its development programmes.
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.”
The European Commission is also developing the ‘Green City Tool’ – a new voluntary tool that any city can use to benchmark and monitor its environmental performance.
The city of Bristol in the UK was awarded the title in 2015.