23 June 2021

On 22 June, the European Commission’s Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) and the European Committee of the Regions held their joint Mayors Summit on Local Green Deals, which also saw the launch of Local Green Deals -  Blueprint for Action. The Blueprint supports cities and towns in accelerating their sustainable transition via a seven-step approach. Experts and officials from various cities shared their knowledge and experience on making the green transition a reality, and the specific role of cities in the transition.

The introductory speakers specifically stressed the interconnection of cities’ Local Green Deals and industrial strategies. “Our cities are hubs of proximity economy and innovation. They are key levers to deliver a sustainable, human-centred, innovative industrial future,” said Maive Rute, deputy director general for DG GROW. “LGDs are an important step in this process.” Indeed, Cristian Silviu Bușoi, chair of European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee sees LGDs being delivered through the EU Industrial Strategy to deliver climate innovation and digitization at all levels. While he recognized that sectoral industries can be very fragmented, he believes that industries, cities and a broad group of societal and business actors will be able to band together to address the growing impacts of climate change.

Panellists also acknowledged that Local Green Deals are not just about the environment. Prof. Dr Peter Kurz, the mayor of Mannheim (Germany) stressed that cities should not only go green for the sake of being green, but to support and grow their economies. Getting this across will be key in presenting the Local Green Deals as a positive and inspiring path for local governments and businesses. This message was reinforced by Prof. Dr. Eckart Würzner, mayor of Heidelberg (Germany), who stressed “Local Green Deals will showcase the new economic perspective of the transition towards climate-neutrality; to demonstrate that economic growth is coupled with the green transition. It is great support towards the future”. That is why Heidelberg has launched different green initiatives with businesses to create a new economic perspective for citizens and cities.

Many speakers stressed the importance of involving local and regional authorities and stakeholders at the planning, implementation, and monitoring stages of the Local Green Deals. Vasco Alves Cordeiro, first vice-president of the European Committee of the Regions underlined that the Local Green Deals cannot be achieved without political leadership and action at both local and regional level, and co-creation with the local economic actors. These arguments were reinforced by Tjisse Stelpstra, member of the council of the Province of Drenthe in the Netherlands, who stressed that “local and regional authorities are so important because they are closest to citizens”. Kata Tüttő, deputy mayor of Budapest (Hungary), explained how her city puts that into practice by organising a Climate Assembly, where more than 10 000 citizens could voice their opinions on ways to tackle climate change.

Speakers also applauded  Local Green Deals - A Blueprint for Action. They recognised the richness and practical approach of the guide and made commitments to launch local green deals and monitor progress.. Mayors from ICC cities also discussed how the Intelligent Cities Challenge is supporting their green transition. According to Konstantinos Tzioumis, mayor of Tripoli (Greece), ICC has offered his city the opportunity to shape a vision and identify individual projects for green transformation and -together with other Greek ICC cities- to lead the way as pioneers for the urban green transition in Greece.. Similarly, the Danish city of Aarhus’s mayor Jacob Bundsgaard explained how his city came up with a new climate action plan with concrete targets for 2030 and how they “need the ICC, and especially the experience from other cities involved in this initiative, to reach these targets”.

Speakers agreed that the time for talking has come and gone and that cities need to pass from commitment to implementation. This will require concerted action, with sustained stakeholder involvement from the planning through to the implementation and monitoring stages. That is why the city of Turku (Finland) is involving its citizens, businesses and other stakeholders to reach climate neutrality by 2029. “It is the role of the city to show the right direction,” says Turku’s Mayor Minna Arve “We want to take responsibility and show political leadership but will need the help of all actors involved”. Leuven’s (Belgium) mayor Mohamed Ridouani also emphasised the importance of collaboration, championing radical participation and empathetic leadership to empower citizens and stakeholders to collaborate in a structural way on complex societal challenges.

Anna Athanasopoulou head of unit for DG GROW’s proximity, social economy and creative industries at the European Commission echoed this sentiment of cooperation and implementation in her closing remarks, where she invited all mayors to keep up the strong momentum, share their experiences on Local Green Deals and monitor progress. She expressed the hope that this will help the European Union achieve climate neutrality by 2050, without leaving any citizens or regions behind.

Download Local Green Deals -  Blueprint for Action, a concrete guide to help cities localise and implement the European Green Deal to support their citizens and economies.