Sustainability is a central theme for the city of Bonn that runs like a thread through all areas of political, social and cultural life. In Bonn, sustainability is not only a topic of conversation; it is practiced at all levels.
Bonn as a Center for Sustainable Development
The city of Bonn boasts an impressive record of development: The former federal capital is now an important location for global sustainability policy. The United Nations bundles its sustainability activities here in one place. In addition, more than 150 locally based NGOs, political institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany as well as scientific institutions and economic enterprises ensure a unique exchange on development policy. In addition, the numerous international conferences on sustainability topics held in Bonn make a significant contribution to solving the questions on the future of humankind.
UN City - Shaping a Sustainable Future
This is particularly evident in the city's status as a UN city since 1996. 26 UN institutions in Bonn now implement the work of the United Nations on sustainability under the umbrella of "UN Bonn - Shaping a Sustainable Future". The common goal of their efforts is to implement the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The focus of their work is on climate and environmental issues, the protection of biodiversity, volunteer work, as well as development cooperation and disaster risk reduction.
International Cluster for Sustainable Development
The United Nations organizations are not the only ones to benefit from the establishment of the UN Campus, which has grown up in Bonn's former federal district in recent decades. An environment rich in synergies has developed there involving federal ministries and agencies, scientific institutions, business enterprises and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Among them are German NGOs in Bonn dealing with sustainability issues in a national and international context, such as the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC), which works in crisis areas around the world to reallocate former military resources for civilian purposes. Among the largest development organizations based in Bonn is the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), which works internationally on behalf of various ministries of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Numerous international NGOs have joined forces in the BINGO network (Bonn International Non-Governmental Organizations Network) and pursue common goals such as the production and certification of goods according to social and ecological criteria or research in renewable energies.
The intensive dialogue between the institutions and organizations has created an exceptionally productive "microclimate" of cooperation. This special working environment makes Bonn one of the central locations for the development of solutions to the future issues of humankind.
Conference Venue for Sustainability
At the numerous major conferences at which the international community of states negotiates in Bonn on trend-setting issues such as climate protection, biodiversity or renewable energies, sustainability is the "common thread" in terms of content. These conferences include the regular "Bonn Climate Talks" of the United Nations or the "Global Festival of Action" of the UN Action Campaign for the Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, there are other international conferences such as "Daring Cities" - an important networking event for cities and regions in the climate crisis. The Bonn location thus provides important impetus worldwide.
The City of Bonn as an Actor for Sustainability
The City of Bonn is also a strong advocate for sustainability and the SDGs at the international level: by participating in international networks, by acting as a pro-European municipality, and by engaging in municipal development cooperation through project partnerships around the world.
The City of Bonn's involvement in international networks includes, for example, its commitment to the UN Global Compact Network, the ICLEI network of cities, and the Climate Alliance of Cities. In 2020, Bonn also became the third German city to join the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities. This international platform has around 230 members in 64 countries. It promotes exchange on lifelong learning and the implementation of the 17 SDGs. The members of the network share a common vision: all residents of their cities should have the opportunity to engage in lifelong learning - regardless of age, origin, social status, gender or educational biography.
Bonn is breaking new ground in municipal cooperation through sustainability-oriented project partnerships and cooperation with cities around the world, including Chengdu (PR China), Ulan Bator (Mongolia) and Cape Coast (Ghana). The focus is on municipal exchange of experience and joint project work in thematic areas such as sustainable development, education and culture.
At the federal level, the city of Bonn is a member of the Fair Trade Towns network, which comprises more than 830 municipalities. In recognition of its commitment to fair trade conditions, Bonn was awarded the "Fair Trade Town" certificate by the network. In addition, Bonn joined the German Bio-Cities network in 2019 as one of 24 cities nationwide, which means it focuses on organic food in daycare centers, schools and public institutions, in addition to campaigns and educational work.
Bonn's mayor Katja Dörner has been a member of the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) since 2023. The RNE advises the German government on all issues relating to sustainable development. The federal government has appointed the independent council every three years since 2001. The body consists of 15 members from public life, civil society, business, science and politics. The Mayor of Bonn is the only municipal representative.
Agenda 2030 in Bonn
The city also lives the guiding theme of sustainability for its own citizens. Sustainability is present in all municipal policy areas, from fair trade and sustainability in sports to gender equity and a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly design of the local transport network.
Bonn’s Sustainability Strategy
As one of the first municipalities in the Federal Republic of Germany, the city of Bonn adopted a resolution in 2016 to implement the 2030 Agenda at the local level. Subsequently, the City developed its own municipal sustainability strategy in cooperation with local stakeholders, which was adopted in 2019.
Based on the holistic sustainability approach of the Agenda 2030, the Bonn sustainability strategy applies the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations to six municipal fields of action. The strategy deliberately includes areas that had not been explicitly considered in the context of sustainability to date: Social Participation and Gender Equality. The other thematic areas are Mobility; Climate and Energy; Natural Resources and Environment; Work and Economy; Global Responsibility and One World.
The sustainability strategy of the city of Bonn brings together projects, programs and plans in these central fields of action to form a municipal agenda for sustainable action. The strategy's success is due in no small part to the commitment of the city's citizens.
The citizens of Bonn have collected information on what they consider to be sensible measures for a climate-neutral and livable Bonn and which steps they recommend as part of the "Bonn4Future - Wir fürs Klima" (Bonn4Future - We for the climate) participation process. The participation process, initiated by the transition town initiative "Bonn im Wandel" and supported by the city, concluded in 2023. The Bonn City Council then decided by a large majority to review the 37 climate action plans, which the committed citizens in the Bonn4Future process had developed, for implementation.
Bonn’s Reporting on Sustainable Development
With its sustainability strategy, Bonn is one of the pioneering cities in the local implementation of sustainable development goals. The city has already submitted a "Voluntary Local Review" (VLR) on the sustainable development goals twice (2020 and 2022). These reports document the developments in the municipal fields of action of sustainability since the adoption of the Bonn Sustainability Strategy in February 2019.
With its 2020 report, the city of Bonn was one of the first cities worldwide to compile such a document and received a great deal of positive feedback for it at the international level. With the preparation of the second VLR 2022, the City of Bonn participated in the testing of the "Sustainable Municipality" reporting framework, which was developed by the "German Council for Sustainable Development". This presented a novel format that for the first time combines quantitative indicators and qualitative reporting aspects in sustainability reporting. Here, too, the international response was very positive.
By now, more than 200 cities on all continents are preparing local implementation reports on the SDGs. In doing so, they do not only shed light on the status of activities locally, but also provide important suggestions and examples for other cities on how the SDGs can be implemented at the municipal level. Further information and reports: (english version attached).
Climate Plan 2035
For its Climate Plan that was passed in March 2023, the city of Bonn follows the motto "Think globally - act locally". With the "Climate Plan 2035", the city of Bonn shows how it can succeed in becoming climate neutral by 2035. For example, the energy supply is to be switched to regenerative energy sources and measures for adapting to the consequences of climate change are being developed.
Mobility Turnaround and Parking Strategy
The share of transport on the territory of the City of Bonn in 2018 amounted to 26.8 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the mobility transition is another building block of the climate plan. The City of Bonn is making great efforts to make transport in the city more inclusive, people-friendly and sustainable. Demand-oriented and affordable offers will enable the participation of all people and bring about a reduction in noise, air pollutants and more safety in traffic.
Above all, the 2021 bicycle referendum and the 2022 parking strategy are making the mobility transition increasingly visible in the cityscape. For example, cycling and walking are being strengthened by numerous measures, such as new bicycle parking spaces and the development of a continuous safe cycling and walking network. With its parking strategy, the city of Bonn is ensuring that, among other things, residents' parking zones reduce parking pressure in neighborhoods and freed-up spaces are used for alternative mobility options and green spaces.
Subsidized Measures for Adaptation to Climate Change
The city of Bonn promotes the use of the potential of solar energy. Whether on the balcony or on the roof, photovoltaics is an important component in achieving climate protection goals. For greening of buildings and unsealing measures of areas, both subsidies and consultations as to their ecologically valuable design are available.
Every year, the City of Bonn also awards funding for projects that contribute to development education, to strengthening Bonn's project partnerships, and to implementing the 2030 Agenda. In this way, it primarily targets smaller organizations or initiatives based in Bonn. In terms of content, the funding program is based on the "Future Concept for Bonn as an International Political Location," which the Council adopted in 2014.
Bonn has a large active sustainability scene at the civic level. In a variety of initiatives, associations and church congregations, the residents of the federal city contribute their own ideas and help shape the climate-neutral Bonn of tomorrow. Numerous offices of the Bonn city administration cooperate with actors from civil society, a small selection of which is mentioned here as an example.
The "Bonn Network for Development - Responsibility Justice Future" currently comprises 68 associations and organizations that are involved in development policy both locally and internationally. In addition to civil society actors, members also include municipal institutions such as the Adult Education Center, the Office for Local Sustainability, the Office for Children, Youth and Family Affairs and the Department of International Affairs and Global Sustainability. The network was founded in August 2011 on the initiative of the City of Bonn and makes an important contribution to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals through a wide range of activities and voluntary commitment. The focus is on human rights, sustainable business, responsible use of resources and fair trade. The network regularly participates as a partner in projects of the Bonn SDG Days.
The Agenda Office and the Office for Local Sustainability are primarily responsible for coordinating and supporting the wide-ranging activities, especially those relating to the "Fair Trade Town" and "Bio-City of Bonn". In these, the City of Bonn, together with many active members, organizes numerous events such as the series "Bonn-Rundum Nachhaltig" (Bonn – All Around Sustainable).
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
Education for sustainable development has a long tradition in Bonn and many active supporters. Bonn has received several awards from the German UNESCO Commission and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as an "ESD municipality" and is active in the network of German ESD municipalities. The city participated in the United Nations Decade of ESD from 2005 to 2014 with a wide range of activities.
Statewide, Bonn is currently very well positioned with no less than two certified institutions in the network of 27 ESD regional agencies in North Rhine-Westphalia: The city-run "House of Nature" is one of four nature park centers of the ESD regional agency “Naturpark Rheinland”. In addition, the multi-certified ESD regional agency "Abenteuer lernen" 2023 received the national ESD award in the category "Places of Learning" with its inclusive projects.
Scientific and Business Networking
Sustainability is a top priority in Bonn, as evidenced by platforms and initiatives at the local level from the fields of science and business that have initiated important steps toward implementing the SDGs. For example, the "Bonn Alliance for Sustainability Research" was founded in 2017. Its goal is to tackle projects in the complex thematic field of sustainable development with pooled expertise and experience. The alliance established the Bonn Innovation Campus (ICB) as a platform for society-wide work on a sustainable future. Stakeholders from diverse backgrounds are invited to share their perspectives and knowledge and work together on their ideas relating to sustainability issues.
Sustainability Hub Bonn Region
"Transforming the Economy!" is the motto of the "Sustainability Hub Bonn Region" platform, which has been actively advancing the Bonn economic region on the path to climate neutrality and in achieving the sustainability goals, since the summer of 2021. The platform goes back to a resolution of the Council of the City of Bonn. Its goals and focal points were developed together with stakeholders from business associations, chambers, universities and companies. The Hub supports companies, self-employed individuals and start-ups in their sustainable transformation and offers space for networking and knowledge exchange. Synergies between business and science make it a wide-ranging network that brings together needs and solutions and makes innovative approaches and implemented examples visible.
The institutional network "Gender@International Bonn" has been committed to promoting gender equality and the thematic expansion of Bonn as an international location in this field since 2014. The network includes the United Nations in Bonn, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the city of Bonn together with UN Women Germany, the "Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit" (GIZ) and "Deutsche Welle". Since its founding, the network has also set international accents for gender equality with its own events and publications.
Bonn Energy Agency e.V. (BEA)
The Bonn Energy Agency (BEA) answers questions relating to energy-efficient construction and renovation and provides information about the use of renewable energies and possible funding programs. Established in 2010 as a service point for citizens, it has been supplemented since 2012 by the "Bonner Energie Agentur e.V." association. This is where local expertise in construction, renovation and urban planning comes together in cooperation with professional associations, the Consumer Center and the City of Bonn. The members of the association are united by the goal of improving climate protection at the local level. The focus is on initiating and supporting measures and activities in the fields of energy-saving construction and renovation. The BEA provides experts, organizes events such as the "Bonner Energietage" (Bonn Energy Days) and advises builders, tenants and homeowners on sustainable construction measures.