Sustainable mobility, Europe’s most virtuous cities are coloured green

The European Commission’s Green Capital Award acknowledges the European capitals that excel in sustainable mobility projects and green policies. The Green Capital 2020 is Lisbon, which boasts one of the world’s largest e-vehicle charging infrastructures.

Published on 5 December 2018

Sustainable mobility, Europe’s most virtuous cities are coloured green

Pollution has become a global plague, and we must find a cure through new solutions. Can digitalisation, innovation and sustainability provide a response to what the WHO says has caused the death of seven million people worldwide in 2016?

Examined close up, when can a city truly be described as “green”? How else can we assess the virtuous nature of a population centre if not by the quality of the air its citizens breathe? At a time when we’re hearing more and more about “smart cities,” there is no doubt that mobility is the first factor to take into consideration. The prerequisites for the development of a modern “smart city” that reflects the needs of its citizens and its host planet are commitment, investment, as well as a vision that remains open to change and the identification of all available opportunities, even in unexplored areas. It is also vital that citizens, institutions and companies remain willing to take part in the transition towards more efficient systems and cleaner resources. In May Brussels was the venue for the European Union’s Green Week, entitled “Green Cities for a greener future”, dedicated entirely to promoting ecologically sound practices in European cities. The event was an opportunity to examine all the protocols laid down by the EU to help member nations develop and implement policies on air quality, noise pollution, nature and biodiversity, water resources and waste management. The objectives set by member states will support cities in their progress towards a circular economy, laying the foundations for the creation of a cleaner future. The previous “Green Week” saw the presentation of the new “Green Cities” instrument, a store of information and ideas for green, sustainable urban planning that cities can use to assess their ecological performance in constant comparison with other centres.

We now know that clean air prolongs life expectancy. A study published in the magazine Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics showed that the inhabitants of Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö now live a year longer than 25 years ago due to the fact that they now breathe air of a much higher quality. The researchers from Stockholm University’s Department of Environmental Science and Chemistry used the results of the monitoring stations located in each of the three cities to measure nitrogen oxides, ozone and particulates in the atmosphere between 1990 and 2015. In the case of nitrogen oxides, mainly generated by internal combustion engines, concentrations fell noticeably in all three cities, and life expectancy rose by around 4-5 years in the 25-year window examined in the study.

Nowadays more than two-thirds of Europeans live in cities, and most of the environmental challenges facing our society are concentrated in urban areas. This has led the European Commission to establish over the past 10 years European Green Capital and the European Green Leaf Award, developed to promote and reward respectively the large European capitals and small towns of between 20,000 and 100,000 inhabitants implementing environmentally-favourable practices ranging from plans to become zero carbon dioxide emission cities to sustainable urban planning.  

Lisbon is the current green capital of Europe after being awarded the title of “European Green Capital 2020” by EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella. The Commission also granted the city a financial incentive of 350,000 euro. Lisbon set out on its journey towards green policies during a period of crisis, and has thus shown how sustainability and economic growth can go hand-in-hand, providing a model for many other European cities to follow. The group of experts highlighted how Lisbon, the 11th city to be awarded Green Capital status, has been able to leverage its increasing emphasis on sustainability to generate progress in urban mobility, green growth, eco-innovation, adapting to climate change and waste management. In the context of sustainable transport, a crucial element for cities worldwide at a time when the shift to electric motors is an urgent necessity, Lisbon became the first European capital to sign the “New Covenant of Mayors for Climate Change and Energy” in 2016 after achieving a reduction of 50% in C02 emissions between 2002 and 2014.

The Green Capital 2020 has a clear, well-defined vision for sustainable urban mobility. In 2017 Lisbon launched an e-bike sharing service to encourage cycling in the city’s outer areas. The Portuguese capital also boasts one of the world’s most extensive e-vehicle charging point networks with e-vehicles comprising 39% of its municipal fleet.

This is the context for the Enel Group’s investment policy promoting sustainable mobility. In particular, Enel X’s e-mobility Investment Plan is part of an ongoing commitment to install a comprehensive charging station network throughout Italy. There will be 14,000 charging stations across the country by 2020, and 28,000 by 2022. E-mobility supported and enabled by Enel X is already operational in North America, Spain and Romania, but it will soon be appearing in other countries.

The future of Europe’s cities is green, and is based on e-mobility.

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