The European Green Capital Award for 2020 recognises Lisbon’s water-wise strategy

The Portuguese city of Lisbon has won the European Green Capital Award for 2020, while the title of European Green Leaf 2019 goes jointly to the cities of Cornellà de Llobregat and Horst aan de Maas. These prestigious titles were awarded by Karmenu Vella, the EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, at an awards ceremony in Nijmegen, the Netherlands – the current European Green Capital.

  • Lisbon was the first capital in Europe to sign the New Covenant of Mayors for Climate Change and Energy in 2016, after achieving a 50% reduction in C02 emissions (2002-14); reducing energy consumption by 23% and water consumption by 17% from 2007 to 2013;
  • 76% of people in Lisbon live within 300 m of green urban areas, and
  • It has a strong commitment to sustainable land use with particular focus on establishing green infrastructure, or connected networks of green space, to counteract the effects of climate change, such as drought, extreme heat, and storm flooding. [1]

The International Water Association is pleased to have collaborated with the city of Lisbon and many other urban professionals in the area, inspiring a shared water-wise vision that resulted in their endorsement of the IWA Principles for Water-Wise Cities earlier this year.

“Engagement with the International Water Association and the internal rounds of discussion to subscribe the Principles were crucial in the final phase of Lisbon’s application to the Award and were highly regarded by the municipality’s president while defending the city in the final”, said Sofia Cordeiro, Advisor Urban Green Infrastructure, Climate and Energy Councillor’s Officer, Lisbon.

Building sustainable and resilient societies that optimize the use of resources, while protecting and restoring the world’s water-related ecosystems is not an easy task. Although investing in “natural” infrastructure –like healthy forests, wetlands and river ecosystems from which water supply is sourced– can provide climate resilient and cost-effective solutions, this is currently an opportunity that only four out of five cities in the world are taking. Many more cities, like Lisbon, could thus meaningfully reduce pollution and improve water services efficiency through practices like forest protection, pastureland reforestation and improved agricultural practices.

Jaime Melo Baptista, Coordinator of the Lisbon International Centre for Water (LIS-Water) said: “This award is the recognition of the sustainability strategy of the Municipality, with great increase of green spaces, public spaces, sustainable mobility and water integration. There are strong environmental, social and economic reasons to disengage from the traditional practice of “extract, transform, consume and discard”, and move towards a ‘circular economy’ where water, energy and materials are reused and recycled to ensure a better future for all.”

“This award provides Lisbon with an additional incentive to become a front-runner on the theme of water and effectively transition to the circular economy. I am sure that Lisbon can contribute to help third parties to give response to recent and important international initiatives, in particular the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and the Lisbon Charter – Guiding the Public Policy and Regulation of Drinking Water Supply, Sanitation and Wastewater Management Services of the International Water Association”, said Jaime Melo Baptista.

Lisbon’s lessons from establishing green infrastructure as part of their journey towards water-wise sustainable development will join stories from regulators, utilities and other cities in the work that IWA and TNC are developing jointly, responding to practitioners demands for nature based solutions that improve water and land management from catchment to consumer and ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Currently this work has two streams, one focusing on promoting the connection of water utilities and cities with their basins, and the second on supporting regulators and regulation to enable consideration and investment in nature based solution to improve water security and safety. The latter is led by the IWA Task Force “Building nature based, resilient water systems: Catalysing the Role of Water Regulators”, both works will be discussed  in several occasions during the 5th International Water Regulators Forum, and the IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition 2018.


[1] More about this year’s EU Green Capital Award: