A Path to Sustainable Urban Development | Best of GMF 2014 | DW | 14.06.2013
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Best of GMF 2014

A Path to Sustainable Urban Development

Boris Palmer, mayor of Tübingen, a town of 89,000 people in southern Germany, to address the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum

Boris Palmer was elected mayor of Tübingen in2006,the third Greens Party politician to hold that office in Germany. The 41-year-old will explain his city's award-winning climate protection campaign to a workshop "Towards Sustainable Cities: Urban Governance and City Leadership".

DW: The clever slogan for your green city campaign involves the word for blue, "Tübingen macht blau", which is a play on words in German but literally translates to "Tübingen is going blue". You’ll explain your urban climate protection program at the Global Media Forum in Bonn - what are some of the main points?

BP: There are two. On the one hand this is about the key elements of sustainability - energy efficiency, reducing carbon emissions, minimizing land use, preserving recreational areas and of course also economic, financial and social aspects. On the other hand it's also important for cities to show that this isn't about going without, but it can even raise the quality of life and that everyone benefits by going on that journey together.

DW: Can such concepts keep a place appealing to corporate investors and increase its commercial strength?

BP: I’m seeing huge support across all parts of society.For example if you renovate a school building or a town hall to halve CO2 emissions, you increase the value of those buildings for the visitors, parents and students who use them. That enables you to forge alliances. By developing inner city wasteland areas you're not only doing something environmentally important but also preserving green areas outside the city. It also creates more housing space and if it’s the city doing it, it candesign it for urban qualities.

DW: In the global context, if somecitieskeep growing like they are, what’s your prediction, especially in regard to traffic and transport?

BP: I think the only option for major cities to cope with the problem is through a congestion charge. Keeping traffic down to what's absolutely necessary through pricing is the only way to preserve a smooth flow of urban traffic and to preserve the quality of life of the people who live there.

DW: What does the term growth mean to you?

BP: For me, growth is a broken concept. Of course I see the negative effects of resource consumption. But in my small town there are also very positive sides. Jobs, companies, economic strength, tax income and population have grown greatly. I can only see that as positive because it was possible without using up land and without increasing carbon emissions. I think that's the kind of growth to strive for.