28 October 2021

Action catalysed by the Mannheim Message one year on

One year ago, in October 2020, the Mannheim Message was launched at the 9th European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns, known as Mannheim2020. The European Commission welcomed the launch, with Diederik Samsom, Head of Cabinet of Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, expressing: “I think the Mannheim Message takes us forward and I believe we need inspiration from what is being done at the local level.”

Today, one year since its launch, 54 cities or region, 61 organisations, and 127 individuals have endorsed the Mannheim Message. In light of this achievement, and in the context of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), ICLEI spoke to Mannheim's Mayor, Dr. Peter Kurz, to reflect on how the Message – and its call to localise the EU Green Deal – has been implemented, and how he sees Mannheim’s sustainable future.

To join the conversation, connect with ICLEI Europe and Mannheim at the Local Government Multilevel Action (LGMA) Pavilion at COP26, as they explore Mannheim's innovative pathway towards implementing a Local Green Deal and achieving climate neutrality during a session on 2 November (15:15 GMT).


Since last year’s conference, the City of Mannheim has taken great strides to localise the European Green Deal. What do your local “Mannheim Green Deals” look like, and how have you gone about crafting and implementing them?

Fortunately, we had already begun our transformation before the Mannheim Message was launched, so we weren’t starting from scratch. In fact, we have long been a “city of transformation”. However, the logical next step immediately after Mannheim2020 was to begin aligning our strategic mission statement, which is based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, with the EU Green Deal targets.

Today, we are acting as a Local Green Deal (LGD) pilot city. This is a dynamic process – we see an LGD as a framework for concrete municipal and community action, and as a recovery and resilience plan to help transform our city and local economy towards sustainability and climate neutrality.

The first step in translating this vision into concrete action was to establish our Local Green Deal Office, which was charged with exploring the potential for tailored LGDs associated with each of our urban projects in the areas of climate, zero pollution, clean and circular economy, ecosystems and biodiversity, mobility, sustainable food, clean energy, and energy-efficient buildings. These tailored LGDs also had to incorporate the three cross-cutting themes of citizen and stakeholder participation, just transition, and knowledge transfer and innovation.

We then assessed the potential of LGDs for all departments’ and city enterprises’ projects, identified gaps in strategies and goals, and brought together ideas, projects and actors in a coordinated way.

The municipal council recently adopted an initial LGD and we set out new targets: Mannheim aims to reach climate neutrality by 2030.

Mannheim is an industrial city, so large companies play an important role in making their own relevant and visible contributions to this ambitious goal.

As such, they are central to our next step: the twenty companies that make up the Mannheim Climate Protection Alliance will present their proposals for climate action by the end of October.

How have the Mannheim Message’s five core systemic changes and nine policy shifts shaped your approach to Local Green Deals in Mannheim?
For readers’ context, those systemic changes are: 1) transformation of infrastructure, 2) development beyond growth, 3) cooperation and inclusion, 4) a culture of sufficiency, and 5) reorientation toward the common good. The nine policy shifts are: 1) safeguarding public income, 2) shifting taxes away from labour, 3) sufficient financial support, 4) local value chains, 5) integrated land use, 6) new use of urban space, 7) needs-driven research, 8) replacing products with services, and 9) guaranteed living income.

Our Local Green Deal brings together and concretises sustainability and climate goals, focuses on socially just transformation, uses funding and financing opportunities in a targeted manner, and integrates international commitments and networks. As such, the LGD is poised to catalyse best practice examples and projects which make the principles in the Mannheim Message a reality.

Organising and managing a programme as comprehensive as Mannheim’s Local Green Deal is quite ambitious. Clear communication, transparent policies and an enabling administration are decisive– the Mannheim Message has laid the groundwork for that.

How has your work with ICLEI continued since Mannheim2020? How has your engagement with ICLEI and its Members supported your work over the past year?

As a Local Green Deal pilot city, we have a role to challenge European and local decision-makers to bring about fundamental changes for a resilient, inclusive and sustainable Europe, and to promote LGDs. This spread of best practices and bold ambition can only be achieved with strong city networks that can influence policies and regulations at multiple levels, like ICLEI.

Through our varied collaborations, we are working to ensure that cities strategically build their own Local Green Deals, using a collaborative process that leaves space to experiment outside the current legal framework and come up with ground-breaking solutions. For example, we recently began working with ICLEI as a mentor city in the 100 Intelligent Cities Challenge, and we contributed to the “Local Green Deals: a blueprint for action” publication. We are developing several other joint project ideas, always keeping LGDs in mind.

Cities cannot achieve climate targets alone, no matter how ambitious they are as pilot or model cities. That is why we call for goal-oriented agreements between municipal and national, as well as international, levels. We will take this conversation forward at COP26 in Glasgow, where ICLEI and Mannheim are co-organising a session on “The Local Green Deal – achieving climate neutrality by 2030 with Mannheim’s innovative governance approach”. The session is hosted by the LGMA Pavilion, and will take place on 2 November at 15:00 UTC.

Where do you see Mannheim – with regards to achieving its Green Deal goals – in 2030? How will the city look?

With the Local Green Deal, we want to create a positive and inspiring path to noticeably better quality of life in our city. It should come as no surprise that successful implementation and successful European and national efforts make our city greener and more liveable.

In 2030, our urban forest, green spaces, and roadside trees will ensure all those in Mannheim feel close to nature, with easy access to green space. Urban nature will be expanded flourishing even years after hosting the German National Garden Show in 2023. Riverbanks will be renatured, the Rhine and the Neckar will be clean. Our coal-fired power plant will be switched off, and thousands of solar panels will glitter on the roofs of the city. The bicycle has turned into the main form of transport, in most of the streets parking spaces transformed into green islands, and building with wood has been a matter of course for years.