The sustainable transition to climate neutrality is possible with mayors and cities on board. This is the simple position of the new Mayors Alliance for the European Green Deal, which so far draws together almost 40 mayors from across the entire breadth of Europe. From Reykjavik to Burgas and from Turku to Porto, mayors come together to say that the European Green Deal must be kept at the top of political agendas.
Launched in the same week that the EU announced its ‘Fit For 55’ climate package, which sets about rewriting the bloc’s regulatory framework in order to meet its upgraded ambition of reducing carbon emissions by 55% by 2030, the Mayors Alliance is a strong reminder that a successful path to achieving climate neutrality by mid-century must start with vigorous action at the local level.
It is in cities that the challenges related to energy consumption, sustainable urban mobility, digital transformation, air pollution, the circular economy, jobs and skills and adaptation to climate change come together. It is in cities where most greenhouse gas is emitted, where most GDP is produced and where most people live. And, it is in cities that many of the most ambitious and innovative policy developments already happen.
But these city efforts often fly under the radar of national and EU decision makers when it comes to designing collective agendas, such as the Green Deal.
Efforts such as in Tallinn, which in 2013 became the first capital in Europe with free public transport. Looking towards 2025, this will not only be free, but also carbon-free, making it the first city in the world to do so.
Glasgow, which is the host city for COP26 later in the year, has plans to adapt over 430,000 homes to better hold heat and energy and plant 18 million trees over the next decade – that’s ten trees for every resident.
Ghent will ensure that its houses and apartments consume 30% less energy by 2030.
And Florence is developing a hydrogen-driven railway, while also aiming to achieve climate neutrality by 2040.
Meanwhile, Bonn is boosting eco-mobility by adding fast bike lanes, converting its bus fleet to electric and working with citizens to become fully climate neutral by 2035.
Across Europe, there are many more examples from cities that will be essential in the joint effort to combat climate change and environmental degradation while improving the wellbeing of citizens. The Mayors Alliance for the European Green Deal will endeavour to showcase many of these initiatives over the coming weeks and months.
Greening the recovery efforts
The mayors contend that we currently have a key window of opportunity to drive transformative change and galvanise local level action. The EU’s post-Covid-19 recovery plan, which sets aside 37% of the available €673 billion for funding targeted towards green investments, can open the door to a recovery that is better targeted at the level of people.
“Our ability, as city leaders, to implement ambitious policies to make the European Green Deal a reality for all citizens can be a real game changer for Europe. At the same time our job can be made a lot easier when we can work with national governments that are willing to step up their climate ambition,” said Dario Nardella, Mayor of Florence.