18 March 2024

Leading local and EU decision makers discuss translating the EU Green Deal into local action

Last week brought more than 200 Mayors and local representatives together with EU leaders and the Belgian EU Council Presidency to discuss translating the EU Green Deal into local action. During the event, key EU decision makers including European Commission Executive Vice President Maroš Šefčovič and Director-General of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Climate Action, Kurt Vandenberghe, recognised the crucial role and significant impact local governments have on the path to climate neutrality.

Not only are local governments and representatives closest to citizens and best placed to mobilise local communities for place-based sustainable solutions within the spirit of the EU Green Deal, but they are also at the forefront in tackling the disastrous consequences of climate change. Delivering on national and international climate and energy objectives will be decided in cities across the globe. To do so, local governments need to be empowered to influence key national and EU legislation with local impact and have access to adequate funding solutions to translate targets and objectives into local reality effectively. Present local and regional leaders expressed their commitment to the EU Green Deal and provided concrete recommendations to EU and national leaders in a joint Declaration. The declaration was handed over to the Belgian Presidency to take it forward in European Council meetings of EU Member States. 

From the EU framework to Local Green Deal in practice

As part of the conference, ICLEI discussed with RexCom Members, Martin Horn, Mayor of Freiburg (Germany) and President of ICLEI Europe, and Lasse Frimand Jensen, Mayor of Aalborg (Denmark), concrete examples of what a “Local Green Deal” can look like in reality and what is needed to implement Local Green Deals European-wide.

A concrete example for the diversity of possibilities Local Green Deals offers is the collaboration between the City of Aalborg and local businesses for equipping a local school with sustainable school furniture. “We need collaborative efforts and a bottom-up driven approach to reach our climate and energy targets. We see Local Green Deals as tools to attract engagement and create impact,” noted Mayor Jensen.

In Freiburg, the city aims to tackle the housing shortage with one of the biggest city development projects in Europe. Building an entire new quarter for 16,000 people, the “Dietenbach” project is ambitious not only in size- the new quarter aims to be climate neutral, affordable and accessible with ample green space and a vivid community life. Mayor Horn spoke to the value of knowledge exchange in implementing Local Green Deals, saying, “There is always a social dimension to Local Green Deals. We are looking around all over Europes to share ideas between cities and pick up the best ideas to make the transition as effective and fair as possible. We have to and we want to learn from other cities via networks like ICLEI.

It is clear that for the European Green Deal to be successful, it needs to be implemented in cities in regions.