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Essen, Germany wins greenest city honors

City aims to cut car travel by 29 percent and create 20,000 green-sector jobs.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Essen, Germany wins greenest city honors
Essen, Germany, grabs top honors for its efforts to move from an industrial to a green European city. Photo courtesy of the European Green Capital project team.

The city of Essen in German was honored with a green-city award by a European body for transforming itself from a steel to an environmental leader.

"This award is recognition of Essen's great efforts to establish itself as a city in transformation; overcoming a challenging industrial history to reinvent itself as a green city," Essen Mayor Thomas Kufen said in a statement. "We strive to be a leading example for other European cities in finding sustainable solutions to urban challenges."

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Essen received the 2017 Green Capital Award from European government bodies for transforming itself from a coal and steel industrial leader to one of the greenest cities in the region.

According to European data, Essen has not had any landfill or domestic waste in decades and nearly all of the city's population lives at most three city blocks away from a green urban space. For future goals, the city aims to reduce car travel, a main contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, by 29 percent by 2035 and create 20,000 jobs in the environmental sector by 2025.

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The European government said Essen is a model for sustainable urban development for the rest of the region.

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"I congratulate Essen on becoming European Green Capital 2017 and making the city a healthier place to live in," European Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella said. "The impressive transformation from coal and steel industry to the greenest city in North Rhine-Westphalia is proof of Essen's successful structural change."

Germany as a whole has one of the greener economies in Europe. Last year, Austrian energy company OMV announced an initiative in Germany, which envisions 400 hydrogen filling stations for alternative vehicles by 2023. The country is already one of the European leaders in wind energy development. German utility group RWE, meanwhile, said it would work with port officials to create infrastructure to fuel vessels with cleaner-burning liquefied natural gas.

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In the wake of Japan's nuclear disaster in 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered eight of the country's 17 nuclear reactors closed by the end of that year and a total shutdown by 2022.

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