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European Green Capital Award - guide

22 May 2008
by eub2 -- last modified 22 May 2008

The European Green Capital Award aims to reward cities that have a consistent record of achieving high environmental standards.


Why is the European Commission launching this new annual award?

The European Green Capital Award is the result of an initiative taken by 15 European cities (Tallinn, Helsinki, Riga, Vilnius, Berlin, Warsaw, Madrid, Ljubljana, Prague, Vienna, Kiel, Kotka, Dartford, Tartu & Glasgow) and the Association of Estonian cities on 15 May 2006 in Tallinn, Estonia. Their green vision was translated into a joint Memorandum of Understanding establishing an award to reward cities that are leading the way with environmentally friendly urban living. Currently, more than 40 major European cities, including 21 EU capitals support the initiative.

At a meeting on 29 June 2006 with the father of the initiative, Mr. Jüri Ratas, a former mayor of Tallinn and current Vice-President of the Estonian Parliament, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas expressed his support and offered to contribute to the development and implementation of the award scheme. President Barroso also wrote to the Mayor of Tallinn supporting the Green Capital initiative.

The establishment of this new award is timely since Europe is now an essentially urban society, with four out of five Europeans living in towns and cities. Most of the environmental challenges facing our society originate from urban areas but it is also these urban areas that bring together the commitment and innovation needed to resolve them. The European Green Capital Award aims to promote and reward these efforts.

What are the award’s objectives?

The objectives of the European Green Capital Award are to:

  • a) Reward cities that have a consistent record of achieving high environmental standards;
  • b) Encourage cities to commit to ongoing and ambitious goals for further environmental improvement and sustainable development;
  • c) Provide a role model to inspire other cities and promote best practices and experiences in all other European cities.

What is the policy background of the award?

The Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment of 11 January 2006 outlines the European Commission’s commitment to support and encourage Europe’s towns and cities to adopt a more integrated approach to urban management. This will ensure that they become better places to live in and reduce their environmental impact on the wider environment. The strategy also invites local and regional authorities to exploit the opportunities offered at EU level.

As the Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment does not contain legislative measures, and because incentives are important, the European Green Capital Award will play a useful role here.

The renewed Sustainable Development Strategy for an enlarged European Union aims to identify and develop actions that will enable the EU to achieve continuous improvement of the quality of life of both current and future generations. This can be done through the creation of sustainable communities which is precisely what the European Green Capital Award is intended to create.

What is the award’s message?

The main message is that Europeans have a right to live in healthy urban areas, and towns and cities should therefore strive to improve the quality of life of their citizens and reduce their impact on the global environment. This message is brought together in the slogan “Green cities – fit for life”.

What do the branding and logo represent?

A graphic identity has been developed to promote the winning European Green Capital and the actual award itself. The graphic identity aims to give winning cities a dynamic and unique branding platform which, at one and the same time, benefits the cities and increases awareness of the award. A key element of the graphic identity is the logo showing a row of city buildings in greens and blues. The colours are intended to represent clean air, a green approach to the environment and a positive attitude to city living. The leaf embracing the city symbolises how candidate cities care for their citizens by improving the environment in which they live. The stars refer to the European Union. The logo is complemented by a frieze with different plants to be used in all promotional material to create a strong and coherent feel.

Will this award help cities improve the quality of their environment?

It is important to reward cities which are making efforts to improve the urban environment and move towards healthier and sustainable living areas. Progress is its own reward, but the satisfaction and pride involved in winning a prestigious European award will spur cities to invest in further efforts and will boost awareness in other cities. The award will enable cities to inspire each other and share best practices, in the context of a friendly competition.

Winning the title of the European Green Capital will also bring advantageous side effects such as increased tourism, more investment and an influx of young professionals. It is therefore in a city's interest to become a prosperous place to live and work.

What is the budget of the award, who is the Secretariat and how was the contractor chosen?

The award has a budget of €300.000. The Green Capital Secretariat is currently run by COWI, a Danish company, and the visual identity has been contracted to COWI with Rumfang as sub-contractor. This choice followed an open call for proposals published in the Official Journal in June 2007. Seven and nine tender proposals were received from different companies/consortia for the Secretariat and development of the visual identity respectively. The evaluation of the tenders was based on the criteria laid out in the technical annex, including the principle of ‘best value for money’.


The European Green Capital Award does not include any direct fund to support the participating cities since the underlying principle is that cities should be committed to resolving environmental problems for the benefit of their citizens and the wider environment.

Local authorities may however explore and exploit the numerous funding opportunities that already exist at EU level. They can apply for grants through the LIFE+ programme, DG Environment's main instrument for financing environmental projects, and they can also find financial support through the CIVITAS programme.

Cities can take advantage of the Structural Funds by forming a thematic urban network under URBACT II or by making use of the European Urban Knowledge Network for example.

Furthermore, one of the specific programmes under the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (2007-2013) is 'Cooperation' which includes a distinct theme on Environment.

The possibility of hosting pan-European annual events such as Green Week or Mobility Week in their town or city can also help European Green Capitals secure financial aid.

European Green Capital Award

Source: European Commission