“The fact that Valencia is World Design Capital 2022 is NO coincidence,” states Sergi Campillo Fernández, Valencia’s Deputy Mayor and General Coordinator of Urban Ecology, Climate Emergency and Energy Transition. Having served as part of the city government since 2015, Campillo Fernández has a deep appreciation for Valencia’s highly creative and innovative design community that is renowned not just within the Mediterranean region, but also on the global stage. 

Even before Valencia was named World Design Capital® (WDC) 2022, the city had fully committed itself to urban sustainability. For years, municipal policies and plans have been guided by this push to become a 21st century city – one that is “healthy, free of emissions and pollution, green and natural, participatory, supportive, inclusive and tailored to the people.” 

The transformation of the old Turia River bed into the current Turia Gardens is one of Valencia’s renowned green spaces.

Indeed, with the looming threats of climate change, and in the context of a global energy crisis and slowing pandemic, there has never been a more critical time for cities to begin implementing more planet positive approaches. Around the world, “cities have a strategic and fundamental role to maintain the objectives of ecological transition without neglecting the needs and protection of all social sectors. Cities must be prepared to be a climate refuge in all senses.” 

“Sustainability and the fight against climate change cannot be achieved from only one discipline, one sector, one activity or one technology, but we must direct all this knowledge in the same direction in order to guarantee success.” 

Over the last few years, Valencia has made significant strides in their sustainability efforts, both in terms of green infrastructure and sustainable mobility, as well as the reduction of emissions and increase in energy efficiency. The result is that the city has seen an improvement in air quality as well as the reduction of noise pollution and fostered the development of new, pedestrian-focused spaces for civic engagement. As noted by Campillo Fernández, “the public perception regarding quality of life in Valencia is very positive.”

The city’s 2030 Urban Agenda and Strategic Framework was developed in collaboration with citizens to ensure that it spoke to their needs.

Valencia’s 2030 Urban Agenda and Strategic Framework outlines how sustainability has become a key part of municipal policy. In addition to achieving climate neutrality by 2030, the agenda proposes four key action areas to support a healthy, sustainable, shared and entrepreneurial city. Developed in collaboration with citizens, the framework combines a broad set of public policies and a mission-oriented governance model that is specifically designed “to improve people’s lives.” Campillo Fernández argues that cities must strive to promote design and innovation as a tool to foster “experimentation, learning and the creation of knowledge” which can then be transferred into public policy. 

Àgora València, the city’s World Design Capital pavilion, was built using traditional methods and sustainable materials. Credit: World Design Capital® Valencia 2022

As further evidence of their planet positive status, Valencia has been named a finalist to become the European Green Capital of 2024. The award, presented by the European Commission, recognizes cities’ efforts to improve the environment and the quality of life of their residents and visitors. Bidding for the title initially started in 2019 as an exercise to determine if Valencia’s recent strides in sustainability were on par with other European cities. Receiving the designation “would represent a recognition of Valencia’s efforts towards becoming a model of sustainable environmental, social and economic development.” It would also be another accolade to add to the city’s growing list of sustainability credentials, which includes the title of European Capital of Smart Tourism 2022 and the Capital of Sustainable Food in 2017. The recipient will be announced on 27 October 2022. 

As the city’s World Design Capital programme continues on through to the end of the year, having most recently wrapped the week-long World Design Street Festival, Valencia will no doubt remain cemented as a leader in urban sustainability long after 2022. 

Sergi Campillo Fernández is the Deputy Mayor of València and General Coordinator of the Area of Urban Ecology, Climate Emergency and Energy Transition. With a Doctor cum laude in Biology from the Universitat de València, he has worked as a researcher on evolutionary ecology at the Cavanilles Institute for Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, and also completed a 5-month stay at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom. From 2015 to 2019,  Sergi was Deputy Mayor and Councilor for the Interior Government and Devesa-Albufera Natural Park of the Valencia City Council. In 2019, he was re-elected and now serves as Deputy Mayor in the local government, overseeing urban ecology and energy transition. 

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