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Environment

Hamburg becomes the second ever European Green Capital

Hamburg beat 33 other cities to become Europe's newest Green Capital, taking the title over from Stockholm. Officials said the award is a mark of recognition, as well as a call to action.

Aerial view of Hamburg's waterfront

Hamburg is Europe's 2011 green role model

Hamburg, a major industrial center in Germany's north, and the third largest harbor in Europe, still has a lot of work to do when it comes to being green. The city is pushing ahead with the construction of a coal-fired power station. City administrators are also considering plans to deepen the Elbe River, in order to allow large containerships better access to the port. Environmentalists have expressed concern about the impact of both initiatives.

So just how did this buzzing metropolis win the title of European Green Capital 2011?

Officials explained that the title is a mark of recognition, but it also tasks the city with a mission: to address its own environmental shortcomings and become a consciously green role model for other European cities. Hamburg has already taken a first step toward that goal, spending as much as 25 million euros ($33 million) to slash the city's CO2 emissions.

The city has invested in energy-saving programs, including a project to replace lighting and boiler systems in public buildings with less wasteful models. Several times a year, the city holds car-free Sundays, during which everyone travels free of charge on public transit.

Outstanding public transportation

Compared to other major cities in Europe, Hamburg has surprisingly clean air. Officials said that is due in part to the city's commitment to green transport policies. For most people in Hamburg, the nearest bus or train stop isn't more than 300 meters (984 feet) away.

The city has also invested in new green technology. Hamburg has a fleet of buses that use fuel cell technology and leave nothing behind them but a cloud of water vapour as they drive by.

Hydrogen powered public transit buses

Many of Hamburg's buses produce less noise and air pollution

Water consumption is another area where Hamburg has taken the lead. On average, citizens use just under 110 liters (29 gallons) per day which is below the German average. It adds up, considering Hamburg has a population of 1.8 million.

Busy year ahead for Hamburg

Hamburg is preparing a wide range of eco-events as part of its year as the European Green Capital titleholder. Among them will be an Environmental Youth Summit as well as an International Environmental Law Conference, with participants travelling to northern Germany from all over the world.

In an effort to communicate lessons learned in Hamburg, the city will become a Green Capital on wheels. A mobile exhibition will travel throughout Europe over the course of the year, disseminating ideas and encouraging new innovation in green urban policy. The tour will travel to a total of 15 cities, including Vienna, Zurich and Antwerp.

Author: Barbara Renne, Sarah Steffen

Editor: Saroja Coelho

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