Hamburg: German Role Model for Urban Sustainability


In its efforts to construct environmentally friendly and sustainable cities, China could be inspired by German examples.

The city of Hamburg has been known to set an example in green city planning and is carrying the title of European Green Capital 2011. The award presented by the European Commission honors the city’s efforts to set high environmental standards and goals.

Hamburg, Shanghai’s sister city since 1986, has consistently made an effort to cut its carbon emissions. From 1990 to 2007 emissions were reduced by 15 percent - in spite of the persistent growth of the metropolis and its industry, service and trade sectors. 4.3 Million people live in the larger Hamburg region, the city is home to 500 industrial firms and the third largest harbor within Europe. Nevertheless, Hamburg has set the goal to lower carbon emissions by 40 percent until 2020 and 80 percent until 2050, compared to the figures of 1990. By this point, the city wants to eliminate all fossil fuels from its energy consumption (Green Capital Hamburg 2011).

Facilitating renewable energies

An important aspect in Hamburg’s efforts for sustainable development is therefore the support for renewable energies, which were almost tripled in terms of energy generation in the past twelve years. Currently the proportion of renewable energies in overall energy generation amounts to 17 percent, including solar power, wind power, water power, geothermal energy and biomass. In September 2010 the Hamburg Renewable Energy Cluster was founded as a joint effort of businesses and academia to promote the renewable energy industry in Hamburg.

Advancing sustainable buildings

Various projects in Hamburg aim to implement sustainable urban planning. The “HafenCity Hamburg” is currently Europe’s largest city development project, striving for low carbon emission living and working conditions. Since 2007, two years before the German Sustainable Building council (DGNB) introduced a certification for all of Germany, the HafenCity Hamburg GmbH has been awarding an environmental certification, honoring the construction of sustainable buildings. The label takes into account aspects such as primary energy consumption, the use of environmentally friendly building materials and the sustainable use of public resources. Residential buldings must fulfill the strict passive house standard.

A second example for Hamburg’s green building efforts are the “Climate Houses Haulander Road”, a pilot project of the International Building Exhibition Hamburg (IBA), to be constructed until 2013, which will incorporate efficient wastewater management, an intelligent rainwater management system and solely rely on renewable energies. The goal is to achieve a carbon neutral residential and business area with minimal energy consumption and closed energy flow and water circuit. The IBA facilitates a broad range of projects in sustainable building, aiming to develop the city of the future.

Enhancing green cooperation

Hamburg and Shanghai can look back on successful cooperation in green building issues since 2003. From 2004 the cooperation project “ecobuild shanghai 2006” as part of the European Solar Building Exhibition featured a two year long awareness raising campaign with Hamburg experts supporting ecological building concepts in Shanghai. The sustainable concepts applied in Hamburg and other German cities can continue to offer new ideas and opportunities for urban planning in China.

Sources and Further Links:

Deutsches Generalkonsulat Shanghai. 2011. Hamburg: Grünes Vorbild für Europa.

Ecobuild Shanghai. 2011. Ecobuild Shanghai 2006.

IBA Hamburg. 2011. Internationale Bauaustellung IBA Hamburg: Was ist eine IBA?

IBA Hamburg. 2011. Klimahäuser Haulander Weg: Wohnen in guter Atmosphäre.

Umwelthauptstadt Hamburg. 2011. Hamburg: Umwelthauptstadt Europas 2011.

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