A covenant for the future: interview with Katarina Luhr

28 April 2021

The European Covenant of Mayors, a mayoral movement for sustainability across Europe and the world, is stepping up its ambitions. Now mayors have set 2050 in their sights for bringing forth decarbonised and resilient cities with access to affordable, secure and sustainable energy and limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Some cities are front runners in signing up for the new commitments, and among these is Stockholm. Why was Stockholm in such a rush to commit itself to the new covenant? We spoke to Vice Mayor Katarina Luhr about the city’s drive to change the world and inspire other cities along the way.

So, why is joining the Covenant 2.0 important for your city? 

To put us on track towards 1.5 degrees, we need to work together and be bold. The Covenant of Mayors has always been about cooperation, but its previous commitments were unfortunately no longer meeting the needs of the moment. Systemic changes are required to turn the climate crisis around, and I believe the Covenant 2.0 will play an important role in leading this transformation. I also hope that our pioneering climate work in Stockholm will show other cities that ambitious climate policies and social and economic prosperity can go hand in hand.


What advantages have you seen over the years from being part of the Covenant?

The Covenant has been instrumental in highlighting the importance of cities for national and EU climate policies. This really cannot be overstated. Especially when we consider the fact that over 70% of EU greenhouse gas emissions emanate from cities, and that cities have traditionally been on the sidelines of EU decision-making. Today, there is a more open dialogue among EU institutions and local actors on climate, and I hope the new Covenant will lead to even closer cooperation going forward. Everyone needs to do their part. That is what is needed if we want to make the most of the opportunities on the ground and turn the European Green Deal into a reality.


How do you see those benefits growing even more with the new neutrality objective?

As we all know, science dictates that we need to reach climate neutrality as soon as possible to have any chance of reaching the 1.5 degree goal. Meaning that we all benefit every time a new city, town or region decides to join the Covenant 2.0. I also believe that the climate neutrality objective can inspire a race to zero, spurring local and regional actors to reach the objective even faster than by mid-century, which is very much needed. And I really hope that this will lead to new forms of collaboration among local, national and European actors.


Can you share a concrete example of how your city is advancing its climate ambitions?

In 2016, the City of Stockholm adopted the goal to become fossil fuel-free by 2040. This was already an ambitious goal, but given the urgency of the climate crisis, we realised that we needed to set our sights even higher. So in 2020, we adopted a new climate plan that will put us on track to become not just fossil-fuel free, but climate positive by 2040. This means that by 2040 at the latest Stockholm will actively contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.


Why are mayors essential actors in ensuring that Europe can achieve its climate ambitions? 

As I mentioned before, over 70% of the EU’s greenhouse gases are emitted in cities. Which is why it is so important that real action happens on the ground. This can take many forms. New modes of transport have to be put in place, the cityscape has to be redesigned to fit pedestrians and cyclists, and new waste management systems have to be developed, just to mention a few. Here, mayors play a key role not just as decision-makers but also as conveners and facilitators for public-private partnerships, and the engagement of citizens. No other actors have the mandate, contacts, or in-depth knowledge of local conditions to gather the wide range of stakeholders that is needed to effectively tackle the crisis on the ground.


What are your main priorities for the next 10 years?

When it comes to reducing our emissions, we have identified transport sector emissions as one of the hardest to cut. The reduction of plastic waste is another difficult area. To stay within our carbon budget, finding ways to reduce emissions from two sectors will be two important priorities. Given that both these issues are highly affected by both national and EU legislation, this can only be achieved if multiple governance levels work together towards the same goal, all of them taking action at their different levels.


If your city is ready to make a fresh commitment to the future, please contact Eurocities at




Eugenia Mansutti Projects coordinator & Policy Advisor (Covenant of Mayors, Climate and Energy)