As cities around the world strive to find more organica European capital is already leading the race sustainability.
TallinnThe capital of Estonia and the northernmost of the Baltic cities, has undergone a number of radical changes to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
These strategies have been welcomed by the European Commission, which for 2023 has awarded the title of Europe’s Green Capital in Tallinn. The Estonian capital will succeed the French city of Grenoble, which received this award for 2022.
But as more metropolises strive to reduce their CO2 footprint, what can we learn from Tallinn’s modern approach to sustainability?
Cows, pollinating insects and cyclists
Protecting public land, reducing noise pollution and improving water quality were key elements in the awarding of the title to Tallinn, according to the European Commission.
“Tallinn […] has demonstrated commitment and concrete actions to create healthier and better places for its citizens“said Environment, Maritime and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius.
The most important among these initiatives is the city’s commitment to providing comprehensive green areas to its inhabitants. Tallinn’s network of parks represents 19.5% of the total area of the city. To compare, Paris only take into account 9.5%.
ONE recent study suggests that European cities could avoid up to 43,000 premature deaths a year if they provided adequate green spaces for urban residents.
As Tallinn’s population continues to grow – the Estonian capital now has over 445,000 inhabitants, according to the latest figures – a number of key projects are in place to ensure that sustainability remains at the heart of this growth.
40% reduction in emissions by 2030
“Tallinn 2030“is a long-term strategy aimed at creating a”healthy urban environment and promote sustainable use of natural resourcesby 2030. The project is supported by Tallinn’s action plan for landscaping, rainwater strategy and action plan for sustainable energy.
These projects draw accusations of “greenwashing” from their opponents, but looking beyond their impressive headlines, a real change can be seen.
On the outskirts of the town you can see a herd of Scottish highland cows grazing in the nature reserve Paljassaare, which helps to increase biodiversity and preserve the area as a habitat for wildlife.
And if green areas of the city, in full expansion, are open to the public, they also have another calling. Parks, gardens and nature reserves will thus remain wild to promote pollination with insects.
“The goal is to expand the possibilities for pollinators and inspire more people to use ‘Pollinator Highway’, a green corridor that runs through six city districts“, Explains Liivi Maekallas, gardener and landscape architect.
This 13-kilometer walk is another example of how Tallinn is urging its citizens to drop their private vehicles in favor of a more sustainable transporter.
The city gained great international attention as it made public transportation accessible available for the residents in 2013 – a key step in the city’s journey towards a reduction of 40% emissions by 2030.
“For us, a green capital means that Tallinn is welcoming, comfortable and clean – a city of the future“, Says Mihhail Kõlvart, Mayor of Tallinn.
“The time is over where the protection of nature and human progress was opposed – we have learned to combine innovation and development with a sustainable economy and green thinking. “
The Baltic capital also aims to increase the number of cyclists on its roads, for that purpose 11% travel will be made by bicycle in 2027.
And according to soft mobility specialist Erik Sarapuu, this does not only mean that more cycle paths must be built: “You need to have a good idea of why people should cycle and have motor deterrents“, he says.
“You have to somehow make room for the cyclists, because if you do not take up space, they will not change their routine and just keep riding“, he adds.
Implement lasting change
The Estonian capital was once home to a number of highly polluting industries, including paper and mining
Today, these industries have been replaced by a boom in entrepreneurship, academia, and major investments in technology development.
And as the city’s green projects expand, the standard of living offered to its residents continues to improve.
According to a study conducted by the apartment rental brand Essential Livingthe people of Tallinn enjoy the best quality of life in the world.
The study took into account the city’s low pollution levels, the low cost of living and modest crime rates.
According to Krista Kampus, Tallinn’s development manager, the extra costs for environmental measures will only make the city more habitable.
“I also believe that it is economically and economically advantageous in the long run to make the city greener and more climate neutral.“, she says.
“In the short term, we need to make investments and spend money, but if the result is a better, greener and more livable city for everyone, then I think the money is worth spending.. “