21 November 2022

On November 17, the Intelligent City Challenge (ICC) and the European Committee of the Regions co-organised a virtual event during which the cities’ major achievements in developing Local Green Deals were celebrated. The event was held as an EU side event for COP27 which ran from November 7-18.

Mark Hidson, Deputy Regional Director at ICLEI moderated the discussion which saw key insights and success stories from ICC cities shared, in particular regarding engaging the local businesses and citizens in the green transformation.

“Cities are at the heart of the transformation that we need for a sustainable future, both environmentally and socially.”

In her opening remarks, Valentina Superti, Director of Tourism & Proximity at DG GROW, European Commission outlined the key role of cities in society and need for proper governance in cities. She shared her admiration for the strong determination of cities to fight the ongoing continuum of crises, from economic crisis to COVID-19 and to the Russian war of aggression on Ukraine.

Whilst affirming the European Commission’s strong commitment to reaching climate neutrality by 2050, Ms Superti reminded the audience of the crucial role that cities, communities and proximity economy actors will play. She reported back from the European Commission’s work in Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) and the Mayors’ Forum, on 15 November, where Mayors unanimously agreed to develop Local Green Deals.  The ICC plays an important part here by enabling the delivery of the European Green Deal commitments by engaging local businesses and bringing together active communities across Europe to drive the transformation of local economies and to strengthen their resilience.

“Climate change does not respect borders.”

Representing the European Committee of the Regions, Mayor of Braga (Portugal) Ricardo Rio then took the floor to encourage close cooperation between cities, regions and countries. He explained how he views Local Green Deals as a driving force for bringing global goals to a local level and how local and regional authorities play the role of key actors here by identifying ways to ensure and carry out the transformation. Nonetheless, the role is not exclusively theirs, for Local Green Deals to take shape, they have to be supported at all levels of governance. Further, it is important to engage a variety of actors such as schools, companies, social institutions and individuals.

Every Local Green Deal starts with a strong plan and coalitions with local businesses and citizens

Doctor Diana Pretzell, Mayor of Mannheim (Germany) explained how the city of Mannheim began its Local Green Deal journey with a solid structure and a clear idea of what the city specifically needed from local actors. The city then effectively translated the eight topics of the European Green Deal into concrete actions at the local level of the city. The success of its Local Green Deal was also thanks to a wide range of deals with a variety of partners to bring both citizens and businesses into action - the so called Mannheim iDeal. Mayor Pretzell expressed that in order for cities to make Local Green Deals a successful reality, EU funding is needed.

A multi-level, inclusive governance is fundamental

Through making cities and regions an official part of the transformation process, Local Green Deals are crucial in securing the success of the European Green Deal at a local level according to Vincent Chauvent, Mayor of Autun (France). A multi-level governance which includes all stakeholders at the local level must be consulted to efficiently implement change and to cultivate ownership of the green agenda among businesses and citizens, particularly youth. He acknowledged that Local Green Deals can sometimes be more ambitious than the national, EU or global level, making cities and rural communities the real engine of the transformation.

Create a network to drive change together

Deputy Mayor of Leuven David Dessers shared Leuven’s unique story. After analysing the current situation in Leuven, the city was quickly able to understand where improvements could be made and even more quickly realise that the city did not have the capacity to reach the goals alone. An independent network organisation to bring together the local stakeholders to deepen their engagement and to accelerate the transition in a just and social way was therefore created. This brings together universities, companies and industry who equally collaborate and drive forward Leuven’s green transformation.

Tips for Local Green Deal implementation

To finish off, the speakers gave insights and recommendations for other cities on how to successfully implement their own Local Green Deals:

  • Carry out a social check when taking measures so that the transformation happens in a social and just way.
  • Avoid focusing on bad news by consistently referring to climate change. Instead, focus on what you are trying to build healthy, wealthy, safe, live-able cities.
  • Leverage the potential of your city for the innovation and transition that is needed.

The ICC thanks all speakers and attendees who joined the event and the partnership with the European Committee of the Regions.