Freiburg (Germany) and Malmö (Sweden) are leaders in the EU when it comes to sustainable development. Both cities first began working on a district approach towards sustainability. Freiburg's Vauban district and Malmö's Western Harbour and Augustenborg neighborhoods serve as a showcase and model project for their and other cities.
In their plans, both cities have also underlined the importance of citizen involvement to guarantee the long-term success of sustainable development through their participation in workshops, by providing input, becoming involved and launching their own initiatives.
In Freiburg, citizens reap the benefits of their own efforts, where one of the main outcomes of its environmental policies has been employment. Sustainable development has contributed to keeping jobs, such as in construction, which would have otherwise been lost. Moreover, the number of people working in the region's environmental industry is 25% above the national average. It is also a great marketing tool and attracts tourists.
Malmö and Freiburg have both made bicycling a top priority, with 410 km of bicycle paths in the former and 500 km in the latter. One quarter of the population in Malmö and one third in Freiburg use bicycles daily.
In Malmö, solar panels have been installed in schools, retirement homes, outdoor pools, museums and industrial buildings. Money spent on solar and other renewable energy technologies allows finance to stay within the community instead of being spent abroad on gas, oil or uranium. All of Malmö's municipal properties have also reduced energy consumption by 20% since 2001. Freiburg, which has dubbed itself a "solar region", has approximately 1,800 annual hours of sunshine, making it an ideal place for solar energy. Leading solar technologies research institutes are based in the German city as well as several small- to medium-sized companies dealing with regenerative energies.
Many other cities and neighborhoods across Europe have also taken steps to develop innovative sustainability projects to fight climate change and move mentalities in the right direction. They include Beddington (London, UK), Vesterbro (Copenhagen, Denmark), Kronsberg (Hanover, Germany), Dundalk (Ireland), Lausanne (Switzerland) and Hammarby Sjöstad (Sweden).
Now, the question is whether sustainable development will become widespread in Europe. The current main criterion for sustainability is money, a luxury not every city enjoys. An alternative is for cities to bring different actors to jointly implement energy and environmental projects, activities and strategies.