Behörde für Umwelt und Energie

Hamburg’s Population is Growing Opportunities and Challenges for the Environment and Climate Protection

Five years after its year as European Green Capital, Hamburg still stands for being a sustainable city, addressing the challenges of urban environmental and climate protection. Time and again, Hamburg has made it clear that its year as European Green Capital was merely a partial victory that the city sees as an incentive to continue developing further.

Opportunities and Challenges for the Environment and Climate Protection

Hamburg has been a very popular city for many years. As a result, its population is growing steadily. Forecasts predict that up to 1.9 million people may be living in Hamburg by the mid-2030s. The population in the metropolitan region is also expected to grow by up to 20 per cent by 2045. As in other cities, the number of refugees seeking protection in Hamburg has also increased substantially in recent years. While the number of people seeking refuge and requiring at least temporary accommodation was just under 1,000 in 2011, this figure rose to 22,000 in 2015. As a city-state, Hamburg is faced with the challenge of it becoming increasingly difficult to accommodate refugees within its state boundaries, due to the lack of appropriate land and buildings. Integration issues must also be tackled.

For the City of Hamburg, the overall growth means that the housing supply and urban infrastructure for transport, cultural and social facilities, energy supply and stormwater, and so on have to be expanded accordingly. And not only that: in tackling these issues, nature conservation, climate protection and the environmental quality must be further improved.

Against this backdrop, the city has developed ground-breaking projects and strategies in recent years in a bid to align the needs of the growing city with the interests of environmental and climate protection. Some measures were not implemented due to a change in government, or they were adapted to new findings. For example, the city ultimately decided not to pursue the introduction of a light railway system any further. Instead, the Parliament passed a resolution to modernise and speed up the bus system and to expand the underground railway, which would improve air quality and create more sustainable public transport options.

The growing population also presents climate and environmental challenges when it comes to building homes.

In Hamburg, there is great demand for the limited supply of available housing. One million homes are to be made available in Hamburg by the early 2020s. The city has set itself the goal of approving and building 10,000 apartments each year. Of these, 3,000 should be state-subsidised rental apartments for low-income and middle-income households. The number of permits has been increasingly steadily since 2011; in 2015, building permits were granted for just under 10,000 residential units.

In the process, inner urban development must have a higher priority than development in the outer zones; space-wasting construction, vacant buildings and misuse must be curbed effectively. Quality objectives for inner urban development include more efficient use of land; preferred use of land earmarked for conversion; and urban density with high-quality open space. However, these targets must not detract from the objectives of retaining existing green areas and open spaces and of setting ambitious environmental and energy standards in new and existing buildings. The city has responded to this difficult balancing act by setting standards for investors and compensatory measures. In this respect, the city has pursued innovative funding approaches. For example, there are plans to finance the preservation of natural capital via the increase in value generated by the altered land use.

In the future, Hamburg will continue to take a leading role as a green city with a high quality of life for all its residents.