Under the motto “Choose to Evolve”, Lisbon has begun its commitment as the European Green Capital for 2020, an award that was already attributed back in 2018.
It was the EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, who awarded the Portuguese capital. Lisbon received the title on June 2018 at a ceremony in the Netherlands. Karmenu Vella said of Lisbon and other European Green Capital winners that, “With best practice environmental management, good urban planning, and citizens at the heart of their green transformation, they showed how to turn environmental challenges into opportunities, and make their cities healthy and enjoyable places to stay, live and work in.”
“Globally we are faced with enormous environmental challenges. Climate change, overconsumption, plastic waste and biodiversity loss are major threats to our cities and our future. It is heartening and inspiring to see such strong leadership from Lisbon, and other European Green Capital winners”, Vella stated.
In the past year of 2019, the title was granted to Oslo, that handed over the ‘green baton’ and title of European Green Capital to Lisbon in the opening ceremony in the Portuguese capital at the beginning of this current year.
At the first initiative as the European Green Capital for 2020, 4500 people planted around 20000 trees in Lisbon, with Mayor Fernando Medina enhancing the quality of life of its citizens, since it’s the first time that a capital of a southern European country conquers this distinction.
At the ceremony, it was recognized that Lisbon started its journey towards sustainability during a period of economic crisis, “demonstrating clearly that sustainability and economic growth go hand in hand”.
Fernando Medina also told reporters that planting trees “helps to counteract one of the most negative effects of climate change, the heatwaves”, being this the first of many initiatives planned for the year.
António Guterres, the Secretary-General for the United Nations, who was also attending the event, said it was time to get serious about the planet. That’s why several initiatives are planned, with thematic expositions about climate change, recycling, nature and biodiversity, water, energy and electricity throughout 2020 in the Portuguese capital.
This way, Lisbon assumes a range of commitments for the next years, with some that were already achieved:
- Lisbon was the first capital in Europe to sign the New Covenant of Mayors for Climate Change and Energy in 2016, after achieving a 50% reduction in C02 emissions (2002-14); reducing energy consumption by 23% and water consumption by 17% from 2007 to 2013.
- It has a clear vision for sustainable urban mobility, with measures to restrict car use and prioritize cycling, public transport, and walking. In 2017 Lisbon launched a bike-sharing scheme, with electric bikes comprising two-thirds of the fleet to encourage cycling in the hillier parts of the city.
- It has one of the world’s largest networks of electric vehicle charging points, while 39% of the municipal car fleet is electric.
- 93.3% of people in Lisbon live within 300 m of a frequent public transport service.
- 76% of people in Lisbon live within 300 m of green urban areas, and
- It has a strong commitment to sustainable land use with particular focus on establishing green infrastructure, or connected networks of green space, to counteract the effects of climate change, such as drought, extreme heat, and storm flooding.
With all these efforts being made in a path towards a greener city and, thus, a greener country, the judges found Lisbon a “leader in urban sustainability”, awarding the city with this title and 350000€ to “kick-start its green capital year”.
If this wasn’t enough, the city also aims to be 100% carbon-neutral by 2050, as its Mayor stated that this recognition as European Green Capital for 2020 will be used to “do more”, to improve the quality of life in the cities and to win this battle of climate change together.