Now That Bristol is European Green Capital 2015, what can Liverpool and other cities learn from them?

Video: Bristol Green Capital Partnership 2015 Presentation to European Jury

Post by Dr. Alex Nurse

On Friday, it was announced that Bristol is to be European Green Capital in 2015, beating off competition from the other finalists Glasgow, Brussels and Ljubljana.  We would like to congratulate them on their success, and in this post we consider what the lessons are for other cities, particularly Liverpool.

Prior to its success, Bristol has made numerous bids for the award – including being runner up for the 2014 award (which went to Copenhagen) and finalists in 2010/11.  Above all, what this indicates is that Bristol used the process of compiling and submitting its bid as a means to assess its environmental performance, addressing any shortfalls identified and coming back stronger.  Rather than bowing to failure, the city proactively continued to develop.  Throughout this process, leaders of Bristol Green Capital Partnership attributed no dis-benefits from making an unsuccessful bid – instead pointing to significant reputational enhancement, especially at a European scale.

Now, as Liverpool remains in the early stages of exploring a bid, the lessons in this regard are clear.  By beginning this process now, Liverpool can assess how it will perform in a bidding environment, and then take meaningful action to address any shortfalls.  In the same way as Bristol, this has two benefits:

  1. It establishes the city’s green ambitions, as a place to invest, live and work.
  2. It helps to create an environment within the city to support a future successful bid, engaging policy makers and residents alike in a shift in perceptions that allows them to see Liverpool as a green city.

Reflecting point two, in particular, based on assessment of past winners, the award appears to be given to cities fitting two broad models:

  1. The Idealised City – This winner is a city that is a high-achiever in terms of green performance and has been for some time.  The award in this case is intended to celebrate this progress and show what other cities can learn from it.  Examples include Stockholm (2010), Vitoria-Gasteiz (2012) and Copenhagen (2014).
  2. The Aspiring City – This winner is a city that is making excellent progress on environmental issues, yet is not considered to be a ‘green performer’ in the popular imagination.  Often these winners are post-industrial cities which have embraced green growth and the benefits that it can bring to their citizenry.  Examples include Hamburg, (2011) and Nantes (2013).

Analysis conducted by Low Carbon Liverpool suggests that Bristol fits into the ‘idealised city’ model, comfortably leading the English competitor cities against a host of indicators including per capita CO2 emissions and recycling.

Considering a future bid for the award by Liverpool, we anticipate that Liverpool would fit comfortably into the aspiring city model.  Building on its industrial heritage to move into a new economic model, Liverpool would be able to contribute to that narrative with ease.  It is also worth nothing that of the cities that have won to date, Hamburg and Nantes both bear striking similarities to Liverpool i.e. a major port city which has undergone significant social and economic shifts in the last few decades.

We congratulate Bristol on taking the prestige of being the first UK city to win the award, and hope Liverpool can learn from this.  Liverpool and Bristol would offer rather different things – in many ways, the situation could be likened to two boxers competing for belts in different classifications which, while appearing similar, require markedly different attributes in order to succeed.

In conclusion, we think there are two major lessons that Liverpool can take from Bristol winning the European Green Capital award.

  • Firstly –  While Bristol is the first UK winner, it sits within a different paradigm.  A Liverpool candidacy would offer different outcomes, and represent a different kind of green capital: one which has undergone a significant transition from a city of post-industrial decline.  Thus the city still has legitimate claim to be an innovator if the appetite is there.
  • Secondly – Winning the award is the validation of a process.  Bristol has undertaken several years of pragmatic investment in its environmental agenda prior to being designated European Green Capital.  Liverpool should welcome a similar process, not as a burden, but as a fundamental tool in identifying and delivering the city’s key priorities for the future.

 

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