As the first winners of a new EU environmental initiative, Stockholm and Hamburg were named European Green Capitals. The cities were praised for their ambitious greenhouse-gas reduction goals.
Hamburg is a major transportation hub, but it has very good air quality
The EU Commission awarded the Swedish capital the new environmental prize for 2010. Germany's premier port city will carry the green designation in 2011.
"I congratulate Stockholm and Hamburg for their efforts to give priority to the environment and quality of life," said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas in a statement.
"Four-fifths of all Europeans live in cities now and that is where the environmental challenges facing our society are most apparent," he said. "With their measures to tackle air pollution, traffic and congestion levels, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste and waste-water management, Stockholm and Hamburg can act as role models for the rest of Europe."
Dimas praised Hamburg for its target of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. Compared to 1990, the city has already reduced its emissions levels by 15 percent.
Hamburg also received praise for its public transportation system. The commission said that Hamburg residents hardly ever have to walk more than 300 meters to access some form of public transport. The city's air quality was also singled out.
"This is a great honor for Hamburg," said Anja Hajduk, the senator for urban development and the environment. "We made it very clear in our application that economic development and environmental protection go hand in hand."
The Swedish capital has invested a lot into environmental projects
Regarding Stockholm, the commission praised the fact that 95 percent of the city's inhabitants live within 300 meters of green areas "that improve the local quality of life, bringing recreation, water purification, noise reduction, and an enhancement of biodiversity and ecology."
Stockholm was also commended for the improvements to its beaches, high recycling rates, congestion charging system, public transport system and carbon emissions that were half the national average.
In all, 35 cities across the European Union applied for the environmental award. Stockholm and Hamburg beat off the challenge of six other shortlisted cities: Amsterdam, Bristol, Copenhagen, Oslo, and two in Germany, Freiburg and Münster.
Author: Kyle James
Editor: Toma Tasovac