13 January 2020

Lisbon kicks off its year as European Green Capital

ICLEI Member Lisbon (Portugal) kicked off its year as the European Green Capital this weekend.

This prestigious title is awarded annually to a European city that is a leader in sustainable development, including environmental, social and economic considerations. The title includes a €350,000 prize to further bolster exceptional sustainability efforts. Only 12 cities have been awarded this title, ten of which are ICLEI Members.

For the past year, ICLEI Member Oslo (Norway) held the title of 2019 European Green Capital. On 10-11 January 2020, they officially handed this honour over to Lisbon.

Oslo achieved many milestones during its own Green Capital year. These include:

  • funding hundreds of green community projects;
  • ensuring all of Oslo’s schools are sustainable and that teachers have access to extensive sustainability teaching resources;
  • inaugurating its first electric passenger ferry, first 115 electric buses, and first emissions-free construction site;
  • enacting new policies on climate action;
  • increasing cross-sector partnerships for sustainability such as increased commitment from the local business community; and
  • hosting 113 delegations from 38 countries to share their knowledge with the world.

Oslo has made great strides towards its goal to be zero-emissions by 2030. Now it is Lisbon’s turn to showcase its success and continue to push sustainability forward.

Lisbon was selected as Green Capital for a number of reasons, including the city’s vast green roof coverage, commitment to increasing green space and solar energy use in the city, push for greater energy efficiency, and more.

At the Green Capital Award handover ceremony on 10 January, Lisbon Mayor Fernando Medina declared the city’s commitment to lead by example this year. That commitment was already on display on its first full day as European Green Capital, during which residents planted over 20,000 trees throughout the city.

The theme of Lisbon’s green capital year is “choose to evolve.” Mayor Medina explained that the word “choose” is used to summon people, emphasising that combatting climate change will require us to come together and choose to take action.

The 10 January ceremony – and site visits around the event – brought together representatives of the European Commission, United Nations, and Mayors from across Europe who are committed to forging green cities.

While celebrating the Green Capital, Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President of the European Commission leading the Commission’s work on a European Green Deal, stated unequivocally, “Lisbon is going to be a leading city in greening Europe.” While Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, encouraged every city mayor to follow Lisbon’s example and have the political will to take action on sustainability.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres returned to his hometown of Lisbon for the event. He urged us all to act, stating, “We have to change this [unsustainable] status quo.”

Lisbon’s commitment to combatting unsustainability was depicted symbolically on 11 January, as the city raised a special Portuguese flag – one made entirely from plastic recovered from the sea. The ocean is a critical part of Lisbon’s past, its culture, and its very fabric. The ocean is thus also a vital part of its Green Capital year and overarching sustainability efforts, and combatting ocean degradation was one of the focal points of the Green Capital handover event.

What is perhaps most impressive is that not only has Lisbon achieved great things in sustainability – spanning from fighting ocean degradation to increasing urban green space – but that the city became a leader in sustainability in the midst of a financial crisis. They overcame prevailing thought, proving that sustainability can even be taken on in times of serious financial strain.

For more information on Lisbon’s Green Capital year, watch a short video here.

Learn more about the European Green Capital Award, follow Lisbon’s progress, and view resources compiled by the European Green Capital Network – the Network of former and current winners and finanilists of the European Green Capital Award – here.