The concept of the green urban economy - economic development geared to ecological sustainability - not only provides answers to the urgent questions of climate change and environmental protection in urban areas, it also offers cities more scope for action in a highly innovative area of economic growth.
Cities have a wide spectrum of options for influencing the framework for ecologically sustainable economic development and making urban areas fitter for the future. Important factors include city government targets in local and regional climate change policy, sustainable transport systems, stepping up the use of solar and wind power and energy generated from biomass, and launching energy efficiency programmes in the construction industry. Integrated concepts for green economic development generate economic growth while shaping urban life, which becomes increasingly attractive as noise, air and water pollution are reduced. By promoting certain types of energy and regional economic activity, they drive this process.
Bielefeld's Initiative for energies of the future and energy efficiency, which has won many awards, was first founded in 2006. Its focus is the renovation of older housing stock and heat insulation, along with the promotion of energy efficiency and renewable energies in industry, trade and municipal facilities. The Initiative has now spawned a regional network with some 130 members, which fosters an exchange of experience between private businesses and institutions and trains motivated personnel in this field. The association KlimaTisch Bielefeld e.V. brings together experts in the fields of energy consultancy, building biology, architecture, engineering, carpentry, roofing, painting and decorating, solar technology, heating/plumbing and finance. These experts also advise Bielefeld's citizens on issues including energy efficiency, increasing the value of housing, healthy housing and financing options.
The green sector is booming. New businesses are starting up and existing building firms and trades contractors are modernising. Entirely new business opportunities are emerging, including the installation and maintenance of solar panels, the energy-efficient management of heating and air conditioning systems, and the recycling of industrial and domestic waste. This sector also offers excellent opportunities for cooperation between cities and private businesses, meaning that cities' green growth initiatives to promote business development have great intervention opportunities. As the above examples demonstrate, the strategic networking of actors from the realms of local politics, local authorities, the private sector and the academic community, as well as the further training of experts to develop urban markets for renewable energy and energy efficiency are essential.
Local economic activity, especially activity aimed at providing the urban population with agricultural produce, is becoming increasingly important, opening up new avenues of influence for cities, so as to initiate and coordinate green growth processes of this sort. As a result of the rapidly growing middle classes and changing eating patterns, this is becoming increasing relevant in developing nations and emerging economies, which makes possible new urban-rural economic activity in the agricultural sector to the mutual benefit of both sides. The food exporter Lecofruit, for instance, works with several thousand small farmers in Madagascar and now also supplies vegetables to supermarkets in the country's capital, Antananarivo. It uses standards and quality management originally developed for export purposes for the diversified range of products now being supplied to local markets. The urban middle classes benefit from a wider range of fresh, low-pesticide vegetables, and the farmers gain an additional source of income. CO2 emissions are reduced because produce is only transported over short distances.
Similar interventions are also being successfully undertaken in other sectors along green value chains and using regional economic activity. Thus, the green urban economy is becoming increasingly important for urban business development. By fostering innovation, growth and new jobs and reducing pollution levels, cities are becoming more attractive places to live and fitter for the future.
In 2006 the City of Bielefeld’s industrial development company founded the Bielefeld Initiative for Energies of the…