On May 27, over 40 representatives of cities and social economy organisations gathered to discuss how collaboration between cities and local stakeholders can support the implementation of the EU Green Deal in local areas.

The session was held during the European Social Economy Summit 2021, hosted digitally by the City of Mannheim. The panel discussion brought together both speakers from organisations working on defining a local approach for implementing the EU Green Deal (i.e. a “Local Green Deal”) and ICC cities that have developed innovative governance models for engaging local stakeholder into sustainable initiatives.

Elsa Durieux (Senior Officer, ICLEI Europe) moderated the discussion. The first point on the agenda was an intervention by Dana Eleftheriadou (Head of Cities and Proximity Team at the European Commission/ DG GROW), who started her intervention by highlighting that the EU Green Deal cannot be delivered without the support of cities, towns and their local stakeholders. She shared that cities and towns handle 70 per cent of EU legislation, two thirds of public investment and one third of public spending, which places them in a key position to facilitate local action supporting the EU Green Deal.  Ms Eleftheriadou then proceeded to introduce the ICC Blueprint on Local Green Deals, an upcoming guide designed to provide cities and towns with an introduction to the topic and a step-by-step approach to developing Local Green Deals. She concluded by announcing that the European Commission’s support for cities working on Local Green Deals will likely translate into funding opportunities, and invited the audience to watch out for upcoming announcements.

The second part of the event brought together a panel of expert organisations and cities, who shared their views on the role of local stakeholder engagement into Local Green Deals. Matthew Bach (Coordinator, ICLEI Europe) kickstarted the discussion by highlighting that the implementation of the EU Green Deal will require the large-scale take-up from cities and towns through the development of a Local Green Deals movement. He highlighted that social economy stakeholders have a key role to play in ensuring that sustainable initiatives can be scaled up quickly and effectively in cities and towns, ensuring a fair and inclusive representation of local stakeholders into decision-making processes.

The second panelist was Agnes Schoenfelder (CEO of the Mannheim Climate Action Agency and Spokesperson for Local Green Deal Mannheim). Ms Schoenfelder shared insights into Local Green Deal Mannheim, a programme of action which brings together citizens, political, administrative, business, research and civil society representative to lead Mannheim onto path towards a “noticeably better quality of life in a climate-neutral, sustainable and inclusive city”. She highlighted that five structural trends are creating a strong potential for cooperation between the city and local stakeholders through Local Green Deal Mannheim:

  1. Environmental challenges increase sensitivity to social inequalities.
  2. Mobility is being rethought: inclusive and environmentally friendly.
  3. The local and social infrastructure is undergoing a revitalisation.
  4. New committed people with socio-ecological motivation are emerging.
  5. The common good is gaining in importance.

Ms Schoenfelder’s intervention was followed by a contribution from Maria Tiilikkala (NGO Cooperation Coordinator, City of Espoo- an ICC mentor city), who provided insights into the Espoo Active NGOs network. Active NGOs provides a strong governance framework for creating cooperation between the city and the 3,000 NGOs which are active in Espoo, helping them to jointly implement initiatives supporting the delivery of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in the city. Ms Tiilikkala announced the upcoming publication in June 2021 of a book called the Power of Civic Ecosystems, which compiles good practices examples in city-NGO cooperation from Espoo and five other European Cities. This guide will be a key resource for cities looking to involve this sector into sustainable actions through Local Green Deals.

Representing the ICC core city of Lille Metropolitan Area, Cécilie Dagmey (Project Manager, City of Lille), closed the panel discussion. She delivered an inspiring contribution highlighting how the city of Lille has embedded collaboration with social economy stakeholders into its governance structures through the adoption of a supportive policy framework, stakeholder engagement work, and the provision of financing opportunities to over local 130 NGOs since 2011. She illustrated the positive impact of this approach by highlighting how involving local social economy organisations into one of the city’s major urban redevelopment plans had allowed avoiding the gentrification of the existing neighbourhood and enabled local residents to get involved in the design of new green infrastructure.

The presentations were followed by a discussion and Q&A, in which all panellists were invited to share their recommendations for cities wanting to start involving their social economy actors into Local Green Deals, leading to the following responses:

  • ICLEI: the starting point of a Local Green Deal will be different for all cities, but the first step should involve a mapping exercise, identifying what policies, stakeholders and initiatives already exist in a city that could support a Local Green Deal.
  • City of Mannheim: internal communication is key. Before starting to engage with local stakeholders, cities need to develop a strong vision of what they want to achieve through their local green deal, and frame it in positive terms.
  • City of Espoo: partnerships between cities and local stakeholders should go beyond communication. The starting point for effective cooperation will be to build trust between different actors, for example using successful pilot projects to demonstrate the value added of partnerships. 
  • City of Lille: a strong political commitment is a necessary condition to start collaboration between cities and local stakeholders on a Local Green Deal

The ICC thanks all session speakers and participants and looks forward to the development of a Local Green Deal movement across the EU!