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European cities must implement more renewable energy

Cities in Europe are leaders in environmental performance, but they have a long way to go in the adoption of renewable energy, according to the ‘European Green City Index.’

The Index measures and rates the environmental performance of 30 cities from 30 European countries, as well as their commitment to reducing their environmental impact. The study was conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Siemens, and presented at the Copenhagen climate change summit, COP15.

Copenhagen ranked as the greenest major city overall, followed by Stockholm, Oslo, Vienna and Amsterdam. The study evaluates the 30 cities in 8 categories: energy; CO2 emissions; buildings; transportation; water; air quality; waste and land use; and environmental governance.

The 8 categories are based on 30 individual indicators, 16 of which are quantitative (including the consumption of renewable energy) while 14 are qualitative (efficiency standards for buildings). The research is based on data from official municipal sources.

Almost all of the 30 cities (home to 75 million inhabitants) have lower per capita CO2 emissions than the EU average, with the best city in this category (Oslo) emitting only 2.5 tonnes of CO2 per capita per year, far less than the EU average of 8.5 tonnes. Almost all of the cities have also developed and partially implemented an environmental strategy.

“All of the cities face formidable challenges,” explains James Watson of the Economist Intelligence Unit and editor of the study. “Renewable sources of energy currently account for only 7.3% of these cities’ energy supply, which is significantly under the target of 20% set by the EU for 2020.”

In the energy category, Oslo scored top with a rating of 8.71; Copenhagen 8.69; Vienna 7.76; Stockholm 7.61; Amsterdam 7.08; Zurich 6.92; Rome 6.40; Brussels 6.19; Lisbon 5.77 and London 5.64. While the percentage of renewable energy consumed by Oslo in first place was 64.8% and 18.76% in second-spot Copenhagen; it was 1.2% in 10th-rated London.

The next 10 rankings were Istanbul 5.55; Madrid 5.52; Berlin 5.48; Warsaw 5.29; Athens 4.94; Paris 4.66; Belgrade 4.65; Dublin 4.55; Helsinki 4.49 and Zagreb 4.34. The lowest 10 in energy were Bratislava 4.19; Riga 3.53; Bucharest 3.42; Prague 3.26; Budapest 2.43; Vilnius 2.39; Ljubljana 2.23; Sofia 2.16; Tallinn 1.70 and Kiev 1.50.

Renewable energy consumption was weighted to 25% of the energy score. Oslo ranked 24th for the amount of energy used per capita, but the majority of its power, including all electricity and most of its district heating, comes from renewable sources of hydroelectricity and waste. “The question does arise of just how important it is to cut consumption of entirely green energy rather than focussing on other areas.”

Berlin’s renewable energy focus is on solar power, including the city’s initiative of installing Europe’s largest solar PV system on a residential building to generate 25 MWh a year. Helsinki has the world’s largest heat pump that uses heat from wastewater and seawater to provide district heating and cooling.

Last year, Madrid approved a €14m project to revitalise several neighbourhoods that will include a thermoelectric plant using biogas from urban waste treatment and buildings that capture solar power. Copenhagen has set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025, building on its existing climate plan which targets 50 specific initiatives in energy production, transport, buildings and consumption.

“We support the cities’ efforts to achieve efficient climate protection by providing them with comprehensive standardised data,” explains Reinhold Achatz of Siemens AG. “Cities can use this study to prioritise their actions in reducing their carbon footprint.”

Scandinavian cities generally achieve high scores because awareness of environmental protection has been strong for years and is reflected in their climate targets. Cities in eastern Europe generally rank lower, largely due to a comparatively low gross domestic product and lack of attention paid to environmental protection in previous decades.

The European Green City Index is the third Siemens study to date in the Sustainable Urban Infrastructures series. Cities are responsible for 80% of all GHG emissions and more than half of the world’s population lives in cities today, and Achatz says Siemens sold €23 billion of products from its environmental portfolio last year, 30% of the company’s total annual revenue.

On the overall ranking, the Copenhagen leads with a 87,31; Stockholm 86.65; Oslo 83.98; Vienna 83.34; Amsterdam 83.03; Zurich 82.31; Helsinki 79.29; Berlin 79.01; Brussels 78.01; Paris 73.21; London 71.56; Madrid 67.08; Vilnius 62.77; Rome 62.58; Riga 59.57; Warsaw 59.04; Budapest 57.55; Lisbon 57.25; Ljubljana 56.39; Bratislava 56.09; Dublin 53.08; Athens 53.09; Tallinn 52.98; Prague 49.78; Istanbul 45.20; Zagreb 42.36; Belgrade 40.03; Bucharest 39.14; Sofia 36.85 and Kiev 32.33.

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