Tallinn to present ideas for European Green Capital 2022 title bid

Tallinn. Source: Office of the Prime Minister.

On Thursday (October 8), Tallinn will present its ideas to bid for the European Green Capital 2022 award. The city is one of four finalists and the results will be revealed on Thursday evening.

Tallinn is competing against Dijon and Grenoble in France and Turin, Italy for the title. The city's ideas are centered around four areas: the state of the Baltic Sea, supporting biodiversity, carbon neutral mobility and sustainable urban planning.

Ideas include creating a 13 km park through the city which acts as an insect corridor, collecting points with each swipe of a public transport card which can be spent on tickets to sporting or culture events and converting the bus fleet to biogas buses.

Shortlisted cities have to convince an international jury of their commitment to sustainable urban development, their capacity to act as a role model to other cities and their strategy for communicating and engaging with their citizens.

The winner of the European Green Capital 2022 title will win €350,000 to kick-start green initiatives. The contest is backed by the European Commission and is the result of an initiative taken by 15 European cities, including Tallinn, in 2006.

The purpose of the Green Capital is to improve the living environments of European cities and to acknowledge the cities' efforts in improving the environment and quality of life. The commission will give the title to the city which has improved the city environment and is planning to change it as a whole through different activities.

The award is open to any city with more than 100,000 inhabitants in the EU member states, candidate countries, and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Applicant cities are assessed on the basis of twelve environmental indicators:

  • Air Quality
  • Noise
  • Waste
  • Water
  • Nature and Biodiversity
  • Sustainable Land Use and Soil
  • Green Growth and Eco-innovation
  • Climate Change: Mitigation
  • Climate Change: Adaptation
  • Sustainable Urban Mobility
  • Energy performance
  • Governance

Previous winners have been: Stockholm, Sweden (2010), Hamburg, Germany (2011), Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain (2012), Nantes, France (2013), Copenhagen, Denmark (2014), Brisol, UK (2015), Ljubljana, Slovenia (2016), Essen, Germany (2017), Nijmegen, The Netherlands (2018), Oslo, Norway (2019), Lisbon (2020) and Lahti, Finland has been awarded the title in 2021.

Tallinn's plan is republished below:

1. State of the Baltic Sea

As a capital that lies by the sea, we are extremely worried about the poor state of the Baltic Sea as one of the most polluted seas in the world.

Most of the litter that ends up in our sea, especially plastic, can be traced back to our everyday lives – for example, 50 percent of the plastic waste in the Baltic Sea consists of cigarette filters. 80 percent of the trash in the sea comes from the mainland, so it is up to local communities to put an end to this by spreading awareness of the cigarette butt issue and tackling the problem via reducing this type of littering actively.

In our 2020 pre-programme, the City of Tallinn in cooperation with the World Cleanup Day initiative launched a campaign "Bin Your Butts". The aim of the campaign is to spread awareness of the cigarette filter litter problem. The campaign partners are the Port of Tallinn, Tallinn Airport and major shipping companies that operate from the Port of Tallinn - Tallink, Viking Line and Eckerö Line.

In addition, 350 storm water drains in Tallinn got a special yellow marking in the campaign "Sea Starts Here", a project lead by NGO Pühapäevane prügikoristus piknikuga.

The city will also bring special bins meant just for cigarette butts on the streets – these are not ordinary, boring bins, but Ballot Bins – a design created in UK and has shown promising results by reducing cigarette filter litter by 50-80 percent depending on a specific location.

One of the painted street drain surrounds, which reads "The sea starts here" in Estonian and Russian. Source: Tallinn City Government

2. Supporting biodiversity

A city can be truly sustainable only if we live in harmony with the surrounding nature.

Tallinn is concerned about the steady decline of insects and especially pollinators. The numbers of insect species is shown to be decreasing on all continents due to the intensive use of pesticides and the effects of climate change.

It is a paradox that cities have become a safe haven for insects as there is no active agriculture and the use of pesticides is therefore much lower than in rural areas.

Tallinn has joined the movement of European Pesticide Free Towns, we have mapped our use of pesticides and we are taking steps to reduce it systematically. Tallinn Urban Environment and Public Works Department has reduced the use of pesticides necessary for keeping roadsides clean of weeds by 58 percent compared to 2017

The butterflies, bees and other pollinators flying around the city need much more. That is why, Tallinn is investing in creating an Insect Highway, a 13 kilometer pollinator-friendly corridor. Planting pollinator friendly flowers and bushes to the area of the corridor is an inseparable part of the project. A wish to create an urban space suitable for all species that call Tallinn home has lived in our hearts since the 13th century.

Putukaväil, or Insect Passage, is a 13 kilometer park to be built in Tallinn. Source: Augmented Urbans/YouTube

It was then when it was decided that no trees would be allowed to be cut in Aegna island – a sanctuary right in the city centre. 20 percent of Tallinn is covered with forest and we also have nature parks, landscape protection areas, unique alvars and bogs.  

 3. Carbon neutral mobility

Tallinn has been the capital of free public transport since 2013. We consider free public mobility as a corner stone of reducing emissions coming from the transport sector. Free public transport is a very ambitious target that many cities around the world are aiming for. But we are aiming higher.

Our goal is to provide free carbon neutral public transport. We have already started – all public transport already powered by electricity uses only renewable energy. This year, we are replacing 100 of the oldest buses with the highest emissions with new, compressed biogas buses. This is one of the most important and major investments of the last couple of years in Estonia.

By 2025, we will have 350 of these new Solaris biogas buses roaming around our streets. This means, that in 4.5 years, our public transport fleet will be running on renewable electricity, compressed biogas or is hybrid. And we will not stop. All of our public transport network is planned to run on green electricity by 2035.

The 2019 citizen's feedback survey showed that 44 percent of Tallinners use public transport for everyday movements, such as going to work or school. 38 percent use cars. But we have a plan to increase the number of public transport users ever further.

Tallinn has launched a public idea call for developing a sustainability function for the Ühiskaart ("green card") system which is currently used for validating rides on public transport. We believe that in order to get people to choose public transport or walking over using a car, motivation is needed. That is why we are creating a green credit system.

The system is simple – while validating Ühiskaart (which 96 percent of Tallinners already own) in public transport, at bicycle parking lots or other places that offer green alternatives to high emission or waste activities, a person will get green points.

These points can then be used by a person to get a discount on city services, such as kindergarten or hobby school fees or on a ticket to the zoo or the city's museums.

You could get points by:

  • validating your ride in public transport
  • using a bicycle parking lot

and in the next phases of the development

  • returning deposit packages,
  • choosing tap water over bottled water in restaurants
  • for walking distances

You can spend points on:

  • kindergarten or hobby school fees
  • tickets of cultural institutions of the city (theatres, museums, botanic garden, zoo)
  • tickets of sporting grounds of the city (swimming pools, stadiums, etc.)
A new biogas bus being trialled in Tallinn. Source: Tallinn City Government.

4. Sustainable urban planning

The central idea of city planning is being close to public services and living comfortably in all of the city's districts.

District centers need to act as community centres and as an alternative to visiting the city centre for everyday matters or leisure time. This is linked to nearby green areas that are accessible by bicycle or walking and are connected by comfortable public transport connections.

Our major projects are:

  • the development of the Skoone bastion area
  • creating a tram connection between the airport and the seaport
  • the development of Tondiraba eco-park, the biggest nature and family friendly park in the country
  • Green Insect Highway – this aforementioned project focuses on emission free mobility and designing quality urban space – not just for bugs, but for humans as well!

More information on the 2022 competition can be found on the European Commission's European Green Capital website.

More information from Tallinn can be read here.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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