To achieve the urgent task of cutting global greenhouse gas emissions, action is needed now “at all levels of government and across all sectors” according to a new position shared by the Eurocities network.
With the overall goal of achieving climate neutrality in the EU by 2050, the network suggests we need to radically transform the ambition for what is possible in the next ten years.
Rather than the current 40% targets, the network is urging the European Council to be bolder, by revising upwards its 2030 emission reduction target “to at least 60%”.
The socio-economic disruption caused by the current pandemic is not to be underestimated, but the network argues we should look to the recovery efforts as an opportunity. “A green recovery would not only benefit the environment and the climate but also create more jobs, provide higher short-term returns, and increase long term savings when compared to traditional stimulus programmes,” states the paper.
The network also cites the EU budget and recovery package as a vital tool that can help cities sustain the transformation process towards climate neutrality.
Already, many cities are stepping up their climate action: 64% of Eurocities members have committed to becoming climate neutral by 2050. Among them, twelve have even committed to become climate-neutral by 2040.
However, the EU has a central role to play in setting the “right financial and legislative enabling conditions,” including by working with leading cities through the proposed Horizon Europe Mission on Climate Neutral and Smart Cities.
The EU 2030 reduction target, of at least 60%, needs to be binding at EU level “and supported by a reduction target of least 55% at member states level to ensure commitment across Europe,” and should be included in all other relevant legislative proposals, such as the post-2020 Nationally Determined Contributions, to be submitted by EU member states by the end of the year. It also means reconsidering targets on things like renewable energy, finding ways to ensure the support and participation of people to undertake the necessary renovation wave of buildings, and setting targets for CO2 removal.
For cities, one of the biggest areas of focus must be on the transport sector – where climate neutrality means 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 – ideas for which should be included in the European Commission’s forthcoming Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy.