Twinning to accelerate climate action

6 June 2024

According to the Eurocities Pulse Mayors Survey, climate action remains by far the top priority for 2024, with more than half of mayors selecting it for the second year running.

Across Europe, cities have long been committed to averting the worst of climate change by reducing their carbon emissions. However, the magnitude of this task needs collective action, not just within individual cities but also across borders.

In this spirit, the NetZeroCities Twinning Learning Programme offers a unique opportunity for cities to join forces, share knowledge, and accelerate their journey towards climate neutrality.

“This programme is at the heart of NetZeroCities peer learning activities to build capacity in cities that are not part of the EU Cities Mission, and support their efforts to achieve climate neutrality,” explains Meline Gonzalez Piloyan, Project Coordinator at Eurocities.

Stronger together

Tackling climate change requires a multifaceted approach, involving not only local governments but also businesses, communities, and other stakeholders. Cities are hubs of innovation and collaboration, where diverse actors converge to address common challenges.

However, the scale and complexity of climate action demand collaboration beyond city limits. “The programme offers guided support and financial compensation to selected twin cities, to gain knowledge on the wide range of twenty two pilot activities that will be implemented by the pilot cities. These activities range from tackling behavioural change in the transport sector to activating green spaces in business and private apartment courtyards,” adds Gonzalez Piloyan.

Spearheading climate innovation

As pioneers in the journey towards climate neutrality, pilot cities across Europe are leading by example, implementing innovative initiatives aimed at reducing emissions, enhancing sustainability, and fostering community resilience. These cities act as living laboratories, testing grounds for bold ideas and actions that can inspire and inform climate action.

Each pilot city brings a unique set of challenges, opportunities, and solutions to the table, reflecting the diverse contexts and priorities of urban communities. From retrofitting buildings to promoting behavioural change of residents and private sector, pilot cities are at the forefront of experimentation, innovation, and collaboration

For example, Bratislava and Kosice are focusing on building power by tackling barriers to energy efficiency and emissions reduction in municipal, commercial, and residential buildings.

Their pilot activities include developing new governance structures, implementing smart energy data management systems, and engaging with the private sector to promote energy efficiency. These initiatives not only reduce emissions but also create jobs, improve energy security, and enhance the quality of life for residents.

Meanwhile, Lisbon’s LX Climate Lab is pioneering systemic and collaborative innovations to accelerate the city’s path to climate neutrality by 2030. Through initiatives like the One-Stop-Shop for Energy and the Climate Innovation Academy, Lisbon aims to foster collaboration, innovation, and community engagement.

By providing comprehensive support for energy-related initiatives and promoting cross-fertilisation and peer learning, Lisbon is setting a new standard for climate action in cities.

“The Twinning experience should facilitate meaningful knowledge exchange and collaboration between our city and the twin city, fostering cross-cultural understanding and appreciation” reads Lisbon application to become a pilot city. “A successful twinning experience would be characterised by mutual respect, reciprocity, and a shared commitment to building a better future in European cities together with the twin city.”

Similarly, Marseille is testing innovative methods of mobilisation and engagement to accelerate action on climate change, with a focus on addressing emissions from private stakeholders and citizens.

By involving citizens and private stakeholders, Marseille aims to remove systemic obstacles and foster a new governance model that better integrates the needs and expectations of local players in the city’s transition to carbon neutrality. These initiatives not only reduce emissions but also promote social justice, economic development, and community empowerment.

Zagreb, recognised as the greenest capital in the EU by the European Environment Agency, is embarking on a groundbreaking initiative to enhance its green spaces and achieve climate neutrality. The project focuses on transforming private and semi-public outdoor spaces into carbon-free, green areas, implementing nature based solutions in apartment and business courtyards.

A key component of the project is the Climate Neutral Greening Hub, which serves as a central hub for ecosystem and community activities, bringing together various stakeholders and seeks to promote entrepreneurship in landscaping.

“By collaborating closely and sharing best practices, we can enhance ability to address common challenges and find innovative solutions,” reads Zagreb’s application. “By leveraging each other’s strengths and resources, we can achieve meaningful results and make a positive impact on the lives of our residents, so we can build a more sustainable, equitable, and thriving community for all.”

Learning from each other

“Knowledge exchange between cities is key to build capacities and support the climate related actions in European cities,” acknowledges Gonzalez Piloyan. To support this, the Twinning Learning Programme offers a unique tailored learning method for cities to learn from each other, exchange lessons learnt, and collaborate on joint initiatives for a long-term partnership between cities beyond the duration of the programme.

“Twin cities would be supported to transfer their lessons learnt back to their local context, gained from the testing innovative climate pilot activities from pilot cities. Pilot cities will also benefit and be inspired from the twin cities practices related to the implementation of their pilot activities,” she adds.


Cities interested in joining the Twinning Learning Programme can apply by submitting their applications before the deadline on 7 June.

Selected cities will be paired with pilot cities from the second cohort of the EU Cities Mission, which acts as innovation hubs for rapid decarbonisation. Through meetings, workshops, and site visits, twin cities will have the opportunity to incorporate innovative practices from pilot cities and address barriers to change.

After completion, twin cities will develop action plans to embed their learning from pilot activities across the city.

All the necessary documents to submit the application are available here.


Lucía Garrido Eurocities Writer