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German Cities Greener Than Europe's Average

Frankfurt scores particularly well in terms of transport and renewable energy. Berlin is good in air quality, CO2 emissions and water use. Bremen ranks high in buildings and environmental management. These are some of the findings of the German Green City Index, commissioned by Siemens (which sponsors SustainableCitiesCollective) and created by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) of The Economist magazine. Twelve German cities were examined: Berlin, Bremen, Essen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hannover, Cologne, Leipzig, Mannheim, Munich, Nuremberg and Stuttgart.

Data from the years 2008 and 2009 have been collected from municipalities, statistical and environmental agencies and have been evaluated by the same guidelines as in the Green City Indices of Europe (published in 2009), Latin America (2010) and Asia (2011). According to the EIU, ten of twelve German cities reach an above-average overall score compared with the 29 European cities, due to their environmental strategies and measures. Major German cities achieve good results in the categories of buildings and water. In the field of CO2 and air quality, however, they score worse, falling short of Europe's "greenest" cities, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, Amsterdam, Zurich and Helsinki.

C02 Emissions: Due to the high use of coal-fired power plants for energy production, the CO2 emissions in Germany are almost twice as high as in other European cities (9.8 tons, compared to 5.2 tons). In all German cities, however, emissions are measured and all have ambitious reduction targets.

Energy: The energy consumption of German cities is above the average for European cities (95 GJ per inhabitant and year compared to 81 GJ) but at the same level with the consumption of the 14 cities with comparable high incomes (92 GJ per inhabitant and year). In terms of economic output, Germany is much more energy efficient than European cities (2.5 MJ / € GDP compared to 5.4 MJ / € GDP on average). According to the EIU, the promotion of alternative energy sources is not sufficiently followed. Renewable energies only cover about three percent of the total energy consumption. The average of the European cities is eight percent.

Buildings: In German cities energy efficiency standards exist for new buildings. Heating and air conditioning systems have to be maintained regularly and citizens can contact the city council to get information for better building performance. Many cities also provide financial support for the energy efficiency renovation of buildings. The average energy consumption in Germany is at 702 MJ / sqm compared to 921 MJ / sqm in the other European cities.

Traffic: In public transportation, biofuels and electric vehicles are used. Despite a well-developed transport and cycle network, nearly every second citizen in Germany uses the car for the way to work - in Europe it is 38%.

Water use: All German cities perform very well in the category of water use. The per capita water consumption is low (59 m3 per inhabitant and year compared to 107 m3 on average in Europe) and the rate of loss due to leaks in the water network is low (loss of 8% compared to 23% on average in Europe).

Waste and Land Use: The analyzed German cities have a higher volume of waste than the other major European cities (528 kg / inhabitant compared to 528 kg / inhabitant). But there are comprehensive measures for recycling and waste prevention. Although green areas are protected in German cities, the promotion of the revitalization of old industrial areas is insufficient.

Air Quality: The German cities have air pollution control plans and air quality goals. Thus, even cities with an increased volume of traffic reach good results in the category of air quality. The annual average ozone concentration corresponds to that of other European cities, the measured concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter are much lower in Germany.

Environmental Management: The environmental policy in the twelve German cities comprises an environmental strategy, an environmental department, the support of international environmental initiatives and information campaigns. Only two of the cities have set up concrete targets for all environmental sectors. The publication of current environmental reports is neglected in Germany, as well as citizen involvement in important environmental decisions.

From the press release: Compared to the rest of Europe, German cities rank close together and are very similar in performance. This is partly due to legislation: the directing and implementing of sustainable urban development policies has a long history in Germany. In addition, Germans have a high degree of environmental awareness. "The study also shows that environmental protection is not a luxury," says Emily Jackson, project manager at the EIU. "Despite sometimes considerable differences among the cities in terms of income, population, geographical location and amount of industry – none of these factors have a measurable effect on a city's ranking in the Index."

Photo by robinbos.