Nantes: European Green Capital 2013

Nantes metropolis boasts of 250 km of rivers and streams.

 By Anders Lorenzen

EU Environment Commissioner, Janez Potočnik, has passed the European Green Capital title on from the Spanish city of Vitoria-Gasteiz to the French city of Nantes, which will hold the title for through 2013, before passing it on to it the Danish city of Copenhagen in 2014.

Amongst the many credentials that helped them win the 2013 title, Nantes can boast of:

  • Everyone in Nantes lives within 300 metres of a green area in the city
  • There is 57 m² of green space per person in the city
  • There are 100,000 trees in the city
  • 15 % of residents use public transport on a daily basis
  • Nantes has an ambitious Climate Action Plan to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 % per capita by 2020 (compared to 2003)
  • 60 % of the city’s land area is either agricultural or a green area
  • The city has four Natura 2000 sites and 33 natural zones of floral, faunal or ecological interest (Natura 2000 is a Europe wide network with the aim of preservation of natural heritage)

MR. Potočnik said: “I congratulate Nantes on receiving the title of European Green Capital 2013, a title that brings with it great responsibility. The Award recognizes environmental best practices, including in the areas of local contribution to sustainable transport and land use, green urban areas, water consumption, and the fight against global climate change.”

The European Green Capital (EGC) initiative was launched in 2008, with the intention of rewarding and recognise local efforts to improve the environment. The first Award was given to the Swedish city of Stockholm in 2010, followed by the German city of Hamburg in 2011 and the Spanish city of Vitoria-Gasteiz this year. All EU cities with more than 200,000 inhabitants can apply, and in countries with no cities of that scale, the largest city is able to apply.

President of Nantes Métropole (the county of Nantes) Gilles Retière, and Mayor of Nantes, Patrick Rimbert, said in a joint editorial that: ‘’For several years now Nantes has been strongly committed to the actions undertaken by the world’s major cities in favour of biodiversity and the combat against climate change. In 2013, Nantes will host major events such as ECOCITY 2013 and the 5th World Forum on Human Rights, crossroads of ideas and initiatives, in order to help towards progress in terms of the policies and practices implemented for the global preservation of our environment.’’

The EGC jury’s main reason for selecting Nantes in 2013, was it’s contribution to fighting climate change through the city’s initiatives mentioned above. But they also praised recent public transport innovations, in particular its new tramway network, quality bus network, bike hire system and the extensive use of carpooling.

Additionally, in 2007, the city set up its Territorial Climate Energy Plan confirming its commitment to CO2 reductions, extending the heat network with renewable technologies which should cover 79% of demand by 2020. Furthermore, a solar power plant covering 1 500 m2 has been installed on the roof of the central ‘Beaulieu’ shopping mall. It is hoped that renewable energy will account for 10% of the city’s energy demand by 2020 compared to 5% today.

Throughout 2013, Nantes will also play a host to a series of events focused on sustainability, including:

  • On the 11th and 12th March 2013, Nantes will host the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) Conference with the theme: Sustainable mobility and budgetary constraints: what are the growth opportunities for your city?
  • Between the 22nd and 25th May, the city will host the fifth edition of the World Forum on Human Rights, with the theme: Sustainable Development / Human Rights: a common struggle?
  • Between the 9th and 13th September, the city will host the 10th ECOCITY conference which brings motivated and experienced decision makers from across the world to discuss the topic of whether: to slow down, or even reverse climate change, the gradual disappearance of biodiversity, wild habitats, agricultural land and open spaces, as well as the development of social and environmental injustice.

Nantes is a rapidly growing city having grown by 100,000 inhabitants alone in the last 20 years, making it the sixth biggest city in France. This population growth is expected to continue which makes the challenge of future sustainability even bigger. In 2013, the city will be keen to show that they’re very much up to the task at hand.

Sub edited by Kirstie Wielandt

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