29 May 2019

European Mayors set the tone in a time of climate action

A series of events critical to the future of the European Union took place this May, with important political happenings, such as the EU Leaders Summit and the EU elections, coinciding with intensified citizen action on climate change. European Mayors have led and set the tone in this time, releasing an Open Letter demanding specific EU climate action.

Deciding the future of Europe

The European Parliament elections, held from 23 – 26 May in all member states, marked an opportunity for Europeans to ensure that their representatives commit to building a more sustainable European future. This election saw an increase in voter turnout of more than 8 percent from the last European Parliament election, and the highest voter turnout since 1994.

Throughout this EU election period, Mayors spoke up through a campaign led by ICLEI Euope. They expressed their desire that higher levels of government join their efforts and be equally ambitious and targeted in their actions to build a more sustainable European future.

These flagship political events have taken place against the backdrop of citizen action. Notably, the youth-led ‘Fridays for Future’ movement, pioneered by climate activist Greta Thunberg, continued to increase in visibility and momentum throughout the year.

Mayors set the tone

The EU Leaders Summit on the Future of Europe conference took place in Sibiu (Romania) on 9 May. This was the culmination of a two-year process during which national leaders renewed their commitment to finding solutions to pressing challenges ahead of the 2019 European elections.

In advance of the Future of Europe conference, 210 mayors from across Europe, representing 62 million residents, released an Open Letter demanding specific climate action. The letter calls for the European Council and its Member States to commit the EU to a long-term climate strategy that leads emissions in the EU to peak by 2020, more than halve by 2030, and reach net-zero by 2050.

The Open Letter was initiated collaboratively by seven city networks including ICLEI Europe.

In the letter, Mayors acknowledge the Sibiu conference as a unique opportunity for the EU to commit to climate action in response to, among other things, evidence from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and citizen action.

The Mayors call for the EU to

  • Develop a long-term climate strategy that ensures that emissions peak by 2020, more than halve by 2030, and reach net-zero by 2050
  • Enhance the EU’s 2030 climate and energy targets, and Nationally Determined Contributions, to make them in line with the revised goals
  • Align the next EU long-term budget with these goals, including removing fossil fuel subsidies, and mainstreaming climate action as a priority across funding programmes
  • Commit all Member States to these goals

Importantly, the Mayors’ Open Letter also acknowledges that climate action must be carried out justly and inclusively to the benefit all citizens equitably.

Open Letter signatories represent 53 ICLEI Member Cities, spanning 23 countries. This breadth illustrates the extent to which climate action is being demanded by European residents. Furthermore, it reflects the high levels of ambition and engagement of ICLEI Members.

Ashok Sridharan, Mayor of Bonn (Germany) and President of ICLEI, said: “We are calling on national governments, the European Commission and EU parliamentarians to take more immediate and ambitious action to deliver on the Paris Agreement and prevent irreversible damage to our planet. As President of ICLEI, I request a European framework that facilitates multilevel acceleration of low emission development by 2030, aiming at climate neutrality before mid-century. As Mayor of Bonn, I am committed to leading by example to avert the climate impacts on people, nature and the economy.”

Martin Horn, Mayor of Freiburg (Germany) and Chair of ICLEI Europe, similarly declared: “Now is the time to act to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. We have to listen to science and take the IPCC report seriously – it is very likely that we only have until 2030 to limit climate change effects. We need a rapid and deep transformation to a more sustainable and just society for the benefits of our citizens, and should commit to a net-zero emissions target by 2050. Freiburg will continue to implement ambitious climate measures to safeguard the well-being of our and future generations.

Cities are leading climate action. The ICLEI-supported Open Letter reinforces the need for a European framework for cities that supports further action and mainstreams innovative solutions.

To read the Open Letter in various languages, click here: English | French | Spanish | German