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Can cities like Lisbon bring about the climate action we so desperately need?


Lisbon, one of the signees of the Global New Green Deal, was awarded the title of the European 2020 Green Capital.


They won it for the sustainability work they have already achieved, particularly during a period of economic crisis, but they want to use the title as a catalyst to redefine what the city can be in the future.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, so perhaps it will take a city to become the benchmark of what kind of future that child will live in. We stand at the precipice of civilizations greatest test of fortitude; last year the UN gave us a timeline that if greenhouse-gas emissions continue at their current rate, the atmosphere will warm as much as 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2030.

And yet, according to the Guardian, if we do manage to make it to 2050, it is projected that between 65% and 75% of the world population will be living in cities, with more than 40 million people moving to cities each year. As it stands cities are home only to half the world’s population and yet they produce around 75% of the world’s GDP and greenhouse gas emissions. It seems the concrete jungle will be our final battleground or singular salvation.

“It will soon be four years since the Paris Agreement was signed in our city,” said Mayor of Paris and C40 Chair, Anne Hidalgo at C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen. “World leaders met in New York [at the 2019 Climate Action Summit] just last month and once again failed to agree on anything close to the level of action necessary to stop the climate crisis. Their ineptitude directly threatens all people around the globe as time keeps running against us.”

The C40 Summit signalled the coming together of 94 mayors from some of the most influential cities of the world in a hope to battle climate change for the sake of the world and the cities they govern. In a joint declaration called the Global Green New Deal, the name of which was inspired by the efforts and initiative by New York congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was signed at the summit in October 2019. In it, they declare they will commit to protecting our environment, strengthening their cities economy, and “building a more equitable future by cutting emissions from the sectors most responsible for the climate crisis — transportation, buildings, industry, and waste,” all in accordance of the Paris Agreement.


The current global climate emergency requires faster and bolder action.

“We are the last generation that can still make the necessary change,” says Fernando Medina, Mayor of Lisbon and one of the deals signees. “We all need to commit to a low-carbon lifestyle. We need to commit ourselves to the planet.”
And that is precisely what Lisbon is planning to do.


What does it mean to be the 2020 European Green Capital?

Although most would see winning a prize and title for its efforts against climate change as achievement enough, Lisbon instead intends to use it to spark real change and debate throughout the year of its reign and beyond. Not happy to sit on their laurels, the city is mobilizing its citizens and calling on them to vote on green project programs in the city to the cost of 5 million euros. This does not include other long-term projects that will be completed next year, like the green corridors of various Vale in the city, 3 pedestrian and cycling bridges – in efforts to expand the cities 90km of cycling lanes to the proposed 200km – and the completion of the Praça de Espanha renovations.

Other new initiatives set to start next year include the cities intention to ban all single-use/disposable plastic in public spaces, setting up additional drinking fountains, and a plan to host 6 major exhibitions themed around key environmental issues: climate change, energy, water, nature and biodiversity, garbage, and the oceans.

And, of course, daily tree planting.

“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,” stated EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, at the European Green Capital Award ceremony in the Netherlands.

“With best practice environmental management, good urban planning, and citizens at the heart of their green transformation, Lisbon, as well as green leaf 2019 winners Cornellà de Llobregat, and Horst aan de Maas] showed how to turn environmental challenges into opportunities, and make their cities healthy and enjoyable places to stay, live and work in,” said Commissioner Vella.


The Expert Panel, which awarded Lisbon the title of 2020 European Green Capital, highlighted 6 ways that Lisbon is committed to a greener city: 

  • 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 prioritise 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.
Source: EU commission

Lisbon’s Mayor Medina told Time Out Magazine that he and his office aim to make the city one for best to work and live in, by international standards. By investing in projects to improve public space, they hope to increase the number of green areas and modernise public transport. By all accounts, it’s going to be a big year for the city, and yet, Lisbon’s City Hall statement goes one step further still: “2020 European Green Capital starts now and will never end.”

BY SYLVIA MCKEOWN

Sylvia is a Johannesburg-based futurist interested in the intersection of humanity and technology… and sandwiches. She is a champion of ethical AI, robot rights, and sourdough rye.

@slymck

TOPICS

bike sharing / biodiversity / energy / european green capital / garbage

We’d love to hear from you

Siemens are at the forefront of everything Smart Cities. To learn more or make a suggestion please get in touch.

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Explore the cities

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