Political agreements like the Paris Declaration, the Sustainable Development Goals and Germany's climate protection goals set ambitious targets for reducing the environmental impact. By now, it has been widely recognised (e.g. by the EU, OECD) that "systemic" changes are necessary if we want to achieve those reduction goals. Those systemic changes are often referred to as transition and include more than just singular innovations, but a fundamentally different way of economising, planning and behaving.
One politically accepted concept for a systemically different and sustainable economy is that of green growth, which stands for the decoupling of economic growth and environmental impact. Green growth as a concept assumes that such a decoupling will achieve the climate protection and sustainability targets without hampering economic development; it is implicitly presumed that a transition to green growth will translate into a transition to sustainable development.
However, what does the concept of green growth actually mean for cities and metropolitan regions in China and the European Union? Which dynamics impact green growth in Chinese and European cities? What capacities to influence green growth do (political) actors have on the municipal and regional level? Those are the core-questions addressed in various case studies carried out by the international team of researchers involved in the DRAGON-project.
The project team of the Wuppertal Institut focuses on the conceptual conjunction of transition theory and green growth on the one hand and on the application of those theoretical considerations to the specific case of the metropolitan region of Cologne/Bonn (North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany) on the other hand. The case study has two thematic clusters: The energy-intensive industry in the county Rhein-Kreis Neuss and the settlement development in and around the city of Cologne. The energy-intensive industry, which is highly important for achieving climate protection and sustainability targets, has already reacted to resource scarcity over the last years and is even considered a good example for the implementation of decoupling strategies. In contrast, settlement pressures in and around Cologne result in a considerable pressure on the administrations to react, which could lead to a neglect of climate protection and sustainability targets.
Based on an analysis of present political strategies and concept within the region and on semi-structured interviews with stakeholders and experts, the researchers will examine the dynamics of green growth in Cologne/Bonn. The research aims at scientifically testing the validity of our theoretical considerations regarding transition and green growth, at detecting perspectives for future research and, simultaneously, at developing tangible recommendation for practitioners.
In addition to the qualitative case study in the region of Cologne/Bonn the project team will also explore the methodology of urban metabolism assessment of cities, which is key for green growth.