Bristol named European Green Capital 2015

Bristol Green city

The UK city of Bristol – home of Resource – has been awarded the title of European Green Capital for 2015, staving off competition from three other shortlisted cities: Brussels, Glasgow and Ljubljana.

The annual event showcases European cities that are working to ‘improve the quality of life by systematically taking the environment into account in urban planning and management’. The award is given to a European city that has ‘a record of achieving high environmental standards, is committed to ambitious goals for future environmental improvement and sustainable development and can act as a model to inspire other cities’. 

Cities entering the European Green Capital Award are assessed in 12 areas, including waste, water consumption, waste-water treatment, environmental management, energy and ambient air quality. 

Announcing the winner at a ceremony in the current European Green Capital, Nantes, France on Friday (14 June), EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said: "Congratulations to Bristol for the example they are setting. We have much to learn from these efforts to improve the environment and quality of life for citizens, whilst creating new business opportunities, and I look forward to their year as European Green Capital. They will have numerous occasions to showcase their expertise and their creative approach to engaging with citizens and to developing a green economy." 

Winning bid 

Bristol received recognition for its investment plans in the areas of transport and energy, and ‘especially for its commitment to act as a true role model for the green economy in Europe and beyond’. Its communication and social media strategy were also highlighted as a ‘call to action’ for its inhabitants. 

The jury – which comprised members from the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions, the European Environment Agency, and the European Environmental Bureau, amongst others ­– also cited Bristol’s sustainable community projects to be good examples of citizen engagement to tackle environmental, economic and social issues. 

Bristol has reportedly committed a budget of €500 million (£427 million) for transport improvements by 2015 and up to €300 million (£256 million) for energy efficiency and renewable energy by 2020, including the confirmed €100 million the city received from the European Investment Bank’s European Local Energy Assistance (ELENA) investment. Further details of this finance have not yet been disclosed. 

The ELENA investment programme will initially be focused on:

  • improving the energy efficiency of over 6,000 homes and public buildings through wall insulation and other measures in the hopes of reducing carbon emissions from homes by ‘up to three per cent’;
  • installing over 7,000 renewable energy generating systems such as solar panels and wood fuelled heating on homes and public buildings; and
  • developing small district heating networks where several buildings are heated from a single, efficient boiler. These will be located in areas where there are several high-energy users close together such as in the city centre. 

Turning Bristol into a ‘low-carbon city’ 

On receiving the award in Nantes, Martin Bigg, Chair of the Bristol Green Capital Partnership, said: "Winning this prestigious prize is a reflection of our commitment to the environment and is a fantastic opportunity to generate jobs and promote inward investment. The award demonstrates that turning Bristol into a low-carbon city is central to our vision and by greening the city we are helping to make Bristol an even more attractive place to live, work, visit and study.”

Bristol Mayor George Ferguson added: “This demonstrates Bristol’s ambition to be a pioneering green city and is recognition for the many years of hard work and dedication by the city council, businesses and the people of Bristol to make our city more environmentally friendly.

"We will now be turning our attention to staging an inspiring programme of events in 2015 [that] will be centred around the idea of Bristol as a ‘Laboratory for Change’. I have offered Bristol as a test-bed for environmental ideas in 2015, where we will develop pioneering practices which will not only benefit Bristol, but will hopefully become a model for cities around the world.

“We are very aware that we have much more work to do to become a truly sustainable city but we look forward to sharing that journey with people from across Bristol and Europe.”

As part of its efforts to reduce pollution and improve air quality, Bristol will be banning car traffic from several streets in the city centre on one Sunday each month, starting from the 23 June, as part of its ‘Make Sundays Special’ initiative.

Mayor Ferguson has also recently announced intentions to develop a low-emission zone in Bristol’s city centre to improve Bristol's air quality, which currently exceeds EU pollution levels. 

If approved by counclllors, diesel-powered lorries and buses would be banned from driving into the city, with public transport switching to less polluting power sources. Those flouting the rules would be subject to penalties. 

Ferguson said: "Bristol should be considering bringing in the zones if we're going to meet the air quality requirements of the EU, which are not unreasonable and that we're not currently meeting. 

"It would mean converting a lot of our taxis into cleaner fuel. There are lots of possible ways we could massively reduce the emissions we have on the vehicles that are essential to this city." 

Copenhagen is the next city to be showcased for its environmental credentials, after having won the 2014 title. 

Read more about the European Green Capital Award and Bristol’s winning bid.