Awarded by the European Commission every year, the European Green Capital Award honours a city demonstrating exemplary commitment to urban development that respects the environment.
In 2010, Stockholm was the European Union’s first green capital. It will be followed by Hamburg in 2011, Vitoria-Gasteiz in 2012 and Nantes in 2013. All European cities with more than 200,000 inhabitants can apply for the award. The jury examines twelve environmental criteria (waste production and management, green urban areas, water consumption, wastewater treatment, nature and biodiversity, local transport, etc.). It is comprised of representatives from the European Commission, the European Environment Agency, ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, the European Federation for Transport and Environment, the Union of European Capitals and the Union of Capitals of the European Union and the Committee of the Regions. The assessment is based on candidate cities’ ability to implement innovative and effective measures to improve the quality of urban life while systematically taking the environment into account in urban development. Applicants must also stand out as a model and source of inspiration through their ability to share good practices and to provide educational insights about their projects and results. Receiving the European Green Capital Award would be a tremendous recognition for the Nantes urban area. It would confirm that all of its sustainable development efforts are recognized at the highest level. This award also opens, for the winning cities, a one-year showcase to highlight their actions with other cities in Europe and around the world.
Nantes, candidate: jury’s assessment 17 European cities submitted their candidacy: Nantes, France’s only representative, was among the 6 finalists. Each project was assessed through 12 environmental criteria. Here is how the jury perceives the Nantes urban area.
1. Local contribution to global climate change
LThe jury paid tribute to the long-term commitment carried out over more than 20 years with actions planned and monitored on behalf of energy and the climate: tramway renewal, bicycle rentals, car pooling, carbon measurements, etc. Today several measures are included in a 2nd Territorial Climate Plan with quantified reduction objectives.
Nantes Métropole's action: aware of the role that cities must play to combat climate change, Nantes Métropole adopted a Climate Plan in 2007 whose objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in 2020 and by 50% in 2025. Launched in June 2010, the Climate Workshop mobilises the urban area’s inhabitants to meet this challenge.
2. Local transport
Nantes Métropole conducts an active transport policy with major efforts to develop public transport, invest in two-wheel policy and car-pooling and to organise the urban centre in favour of pedestrians and public transport while discouraging the use of cars. Nantes Métropole won the 2009 edition of Civitas among 58 other cities. In the coming years, the investment in facilities and quality of service will continue.
Nantes Métropole’s action: France’s first city to reintroduce the tramway on its streets in 1985, Nantes is a pioneer in public transport. Today, with 3 lines covering more than 42 km, Nantes Métropole has France’s longest tramway network. Two Navibus, 7 km of Busways and 59 bus lines complete this network that handles 477,000 daily trips.
3. Green urban areas
100% of Nantes residents live within 300 metres of a green area. The increase in green public areas, parks and family gardens was recognised along with their social and educational function. Nevertheless, the jury considers that the distribution of green areas in the city centre is not uniform enough.
Nantes Métropole’s action: Nantes Métropole’s inhabitants enjoy 3,366 ha of green areas, or 57 sq.m. per inhabitant. Since December 2006, Nantes Métropole doesn’t use any pesticides to maintain and clean the road network. Wild grasses have returned between the paving stones and the environment and the biodiversity are better protected.
4. Sustainable land use
Nantes Métropole is keenly aware of the problems related to urban sprawl. It is counting on increased urban density to save space while promoting peri-urban agriculture to protect arable land. It has implemented a coordinated policy with neighbouring cities as part of the land development plan (SCOT). Nevertheless, the measures put in place have to be amplified to fully cope with the stakes of the problem.
Nantes Métropole’s action: Nantes Métropole encourages maintaining local agriculture within its boundaries, comprised of 60% protected agricultural and natural areas. The Nantes Métropole urban area has 330 farms, including 130 who sell directly. Furthermore, in order to limit the consumption of space and slowdown the urban sprawl, Nantes Métropole has implemented an urban densification policy.
5. Nature and biodiversity
There are many green areas and water expanses in and around the city. Nantes Métropole is working on maintaining agriculture and restoring the natural environment. The jury would have liked a more precise status report on the evolution of biodiversity over the past few years. It expected to see the effective implementation of concrete measures concerning pedestrian and ecological continuities.
Nantes Métropole’s action: Since 2006, Nantes Métropole has planted 3 urban forests. The objective is to limit urban sprawl and make use of uncultivated agricultural land. Located in the northwest, southwest and southeast of the urban area, these three forests will eventually cover, by 2016, an area of nearly 800 hectares.
6. Quality of local ambient air
The Nantes urban area enjoys good air quality overall. All European indicators are below the upper limits. Nantes Métropole is continuing its programme of actions by integrating air quality improvement in its action plans: urban travel plan, urban area climate plan and future regional air, climate & energy plan.
Nantes Métropole’s action: Nantes Métropole adopted an air quality management plan as of 2002. Concerned about protecting ambient air quality, a guarantee of a good quality of life for all inhabitants, Nantes Métropole has inserted this issue in all of its public policies.
7. Noise pollution
The measures adopted by Nantes to reduce exposure to noise and increase citizens’ awareness constitute a very interesting case. Soon an action plan will tackle the issue of reducing the population’s exposure to noise. It will integrate citizens’ expectations and the objectives for a quality noise environment.
Nantes Métropole’s action: Nantes Métropole has prepared a noise map of its entire territory, which can be consulted online. It has also developed a plan to control noise in the environment for the 24 communities in the urban area. The objective of this plan is to provide a quality noise environment for all inhabitants in the urban area.
8. Waste production and management
The jury was delighted with the results of Nantes Métropole’s waste management policy. A few indicators give an idea of the progress in selective collection and the optimisation of recycling: 0% of biodegradable waste dumped since 1999; 22% recycling rate in 1999 increased to 38% in 2009; quantity of incinerated waste decreased (318 kg/inhabitant/year in 1999 and 270 kg/inhabitant/year in 1998).
Nantes Métropole’s action: 23 of 24 towns in the urban area have door-to-door collection of sorted household waste. Moreover, Nantes Métropole has a network of 12 waste collection centres and 4 eco-points. Once sorted, the waste is either incinerated to produce energy or recycled. In 2009, nearly 17,000 tonnes of glass were collected and recycled in the Nantes Métropole urban area.
9. Water consumption
Nantes Métropole is characterised by an abundance of water resources, with the Loire River as the main source of drinking water. If the population continued to grow, the average water consumption of households steadily declined (139 l / person / day in 2004 to 120 l in 2008). The jury would have liked to see information about other uses than domestic.
Nantes Métropole’s action: In 2005, Nantes Métropole adopted a single price for water, a guarantee of increased equality and strengthened solidarity between inhabitants. Moreover, in order to secure its water resource, Nantes Métropole has developed a safety water supply from the Erdre River. Finally, the urban area’s services regularly renew, repair and modernize the distribution network.
10. Wastewater treatment
The jury considered the description of the general wastewater treatment policy insufficient. Nevertheless, the presentation of future actions proved interesting.
Nantes Métropole’s action: The Nantes urban area’s wastewater is treated by 12 purification stations. Spread over the entire urban area, these stations have treatment capacities that range from 1,200 equivalent inhabitants to 600,000 equivalent inhabitants, for a total capacity of 780,000 equivalent inhabitants. Currently underway, the modernisation of the Petite Californie purification station will increase this capacity by 60,000 equivalent inhabitants. Nantes Métropole has also implemented a non-collective public wastewater treatment Service to bring the entire network up to standard.
11. Environmental management of the municipality
Nantes Métropole stands out vis-à-vis other competitors through its eco-responsible purchasing policy and its good measures to manage energy in public buildings. The municipality was penalised for the lack of an environmental management plan.
Nantes Métropole’s action: Since 2006, Nantes Métropole’s Agenda 21 has been the unifying theme for the municipality’s environmental management. The accent is placed on energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gases.
12. Programme for dissemination of experience and best practices
Nantes Métropole has shown that it can mobilise across a broad spectrum through a programme of communication actions and events that reach all publics. This is an excellent and exhaustive approach with original proposals: exposure for youth, study visits to eco-neighbourhoods, etc.
Nantes Métropole’s action: cities and States won’t achieve their environmental objectives without their citizens’ participation. Nantes Métropole has implemented regular awareness building actions: theme based events and weeks, Climate Workshop, community newspaper and website, etc.