EU climate action can help cities thrive

20 May 2021

“If the European Green Deal is the EU’s growth strategy, the new climate and energy legislation should be its engine,” reads a letter signed by 50 organisations, including Eurocities, sent on Thursday to EU and national leaders.

Ahead of the European Council’s discussion on 25 May about new climate and energy legislation – the so-called Fit for 55 Package –, the letter calls on EU decision makers to further step up the EU’s climate action by expanding the scope of the EU 2030 climate targets. This should include emissions from international aviation and shipping; a strengthening of efforts on emissions from road transport, buildings and agriculture; and increasing targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency according to the authors.

The Fit for 55 Package is to be the EU’s new road map, following the decision last December to cut emissions by 55% by 2030. It “should send a strong signal that Europe’s recovery will be consistent with the achievement of its climate objectives,” reads the letter.

Eurocities had previously called on the EU to raise its level of ambition regarding climate emissions, which would follow the path already being set by several cities, including 12 Eurocities members that have even committed to become climate neutral by 2040.

Cities as climate leaders

For cities, one of the biggest areas of focus must be on the transport sector – where climate neutrality requires a 90% reduction in transport emissions by 2030. This can mean strengthening more active modes of travel, such as cycling and walking, as well as rethinking the use of public space and infrastructure for active mobility.

At the heart of Prague’s transport policy, for example is a more integrated, energy efficient and environmentally friendly public transport system. The focus is on electric rail transport, suburban railways, the metro, trams and new battery-powered trolleybuses, all connected via transport terminals that bring together different modes of transport, including buses and bicycles.

Similarly, Porto has calculated that 31% of its total GHG emissions come from the transport sector, and consequently reducing this is a major area of focus for the city. For instance, the city recently replaced 70% of its public fleet of diesel-powered light vehicles with electric and hybrid vehicles, decreasing CO2 emissions by an estimated 542 tonnes. The city’s metro system has even more impressive results: an estimated 45,000 tonnes of CO2 is removed from the atmosphere each year thanks to a shift in transport use from cars in favour of the metro.

Amsterdam, too, is one of the cities leading climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. Doing so, as Marieke van Doorninck, the city’s Deputy Mayor, points out, will entail close cooperation between cities and the EU, to which the authors of the letter would also add businesses, investors, NGOs and regional authorities.

Read the full letter from the Coalition for Higher Ambition here.