From culture to energy, cities lead the way

21 April 2023

Cities’ cultural policies and actions need to be sustainable, inclusive and support the ecological transition, said Dario Nardella, President of Eurocities, at a high-level European Commission meeting today.

Speaking at a roundtable for representatives of the cultural sectors and industries, Nardella – who also serves as the Mayor of Florence – encouraged municipalities “to build back better” after the pandemic.

“It’s not just about installing alternative energy sources for cultural spaces, using circular materials for exhibitions, recycling them, promoting public transport to attend events and setting sustainable criteria for festivals. It’s also about changing perspective, working in tandem with local actors, sharing spaces and training staff from cultural organisations to become more sustainable,” he remarked.

Mariya Gabriel, EU Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, hosted the event to strengthen cooperation among cultural and creative sectors and industries in the EU.

There is still a long way to go: local governments need time and support to learn how to make their policies more sustainable. That is why Eurocities will launch its “Lille Call to Action on sustainable culture” during the upcoming Brussels Urban Summit on 12-15 June this year.

The call will invite mayors to commit to a series of principles around two main pillars:

  • The ecological transition of local cultural policies and events
  • Inclusion in culture and through culture

“You have full support for your call to action on sustainable culture,” Commissioner Gabriel assured Nardella.

For Eurocities, the next step is to prepare concrete proposals for EU-funded actions with a strong local impact and present them at the next roundtable with Gabriel on 6 June.

More power to cities for the energy transition

Just a few hours later, Nardella called for a change in governance mechanisms to adequately reflect cities’ growing role in the energy transition.

Despite cities proving that they’re crucial partners in achieving EU energy and climate goals, local governments’ contribution is too often overlooked in National energy and climate plans, the Eurocities President said at a high-level level discussion at the European Commission.

Participants of the “Looking at the future energy union beyond the crisis” event debated how regional cooperation, solidarity and local involvement can build a more resilient EU energy system, ultimately ensuring secure and affordable energy for everyone in the EU.

The meeting comes ahead of next year’s expected revision of the Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union.

For Nardella, a multi-level collaboration principle must be reinforced and implemented to ensure that cities can fully contribute to the national energy and climate plans. A truly coordinated action at European level is the best way to ensure secure, affordable and clean energy to all European households and businesses, the Mayor of Florence noted.

Collaboration with the local level is already enshrined in the Governance regulation. However, cities’ own experience paints a very different picture.

In 2019, only 42% of Eurocities members were asked by their national governments to take part in the drafting of National Energy and Climate Plans, a Eurocities survey showed.

This approach undermines the potential of cities to contribute to an acceleration of the energy transition. “It is a way of working that neither member states nor the EU can afford anymore,” Nardella said.

In Eurocities’ position, the clean energy transition requires – for example – strong local knowledge to identify areas in which to develop wind and solar projects. More generally, urban governments can find new ways to save and produce clean energy by working in tandem with residents, NGO’s, energy communities and other associations.

Cities have been implementing climate and energy measures for decades. When last winter’s energy crisis hit Europe, municipalities proved that they can have a transformative role in shielding people from dramatic energy spikes. In support of the REPowerEU Package, local governments implemented emergency measures in public buildings; they also offered guidance to residents and businesses on energy reduction measures.

Examples of local-EU level actions include the Covenant of Mayors Cities Energy Saving Sprint, a joint initiative of the European Commission with the Covenant of Mayors and the European Committee of the Regions. The scheme helps cities reduce their energy bills in several areas, including heating, lighting, mobility and communication.

Nardella told participants that regional cooperation and a stronger multi-level dialogue with energy authorities, stakeholders and international partners is paramount to develop cross-border infrastructure and projects, enhance existing capacity and create resilient energy systems that leave no one behind.


Eugenia Mansutti Projects coordinator & Policy Advisor (Covenant of Mayors, Climate and Energy)
Julie Hervé Head of Culture
Daniela Berretta Eurocities Writer