By Anna Lisa Boni, Secretary General, EUROCITIES
Imagine if city leaders set the EU agenda. We would be on track to meet ambitions for carbon neutrality, take the lead in benefitting from digital opportunities, and effectively combat social inequality and poverty.
City leaders have a lot to be proud of, but in this year of European elections in May we need to push that little bit harder to make sure our voices are heard. This is our rallying cry to European leaders: Give cities a seat at the table to create a future together that works for all people.
Cities are leaders
Cities across Europe are committed to the transition to a greener, more sustainable and inclusive future by working with citizens and collaborating in partnerships.
When it comes to climate change, cities often show more ambition than their national and EU level counterparts. For example, through the Covenant of Mayors around 6,000 local climate and energy action plans have been adopted across Europe, with an agreed average CO2 reduction of 27 percent expected by next year. In other areas–such as providing cleaner air, establishing cleaner water and tackling waste–cities are at the forefront of global change.
Cities are getting smarter too. By taking advantage of new technologies we are finding more efficient and environmentally friendly ways to deliver services that people want. For example, smart lamp posts can be used to transmit WiFi signals. Fitted with LED bulbs, they save over 50 percent of the energy used for street lighting. Sensors installed in the lamp posts can also give the city administration information about noise levels, air pollution and congestion patterns which can inform further urban developments.
As the closest level of government to people, we are also mindful to keep people at the centre of our thinking. A modern society, and especially an urban society, is on the go 24/7, and our politics should reflect this. Many city administrations are experimenting with online democracy platforms to allow citizens a direct say in decision making. We value citizen engagement, which is why over 60 EUROCITIES members have so far committed to our Declaration on Citizen Engagement.
Cities are leading in the fight against poverty and social exclusion across Europe. We need a fairer, more equal and inclusive Europe that puts people at its centre. EUROCITIES’ new initiative, ‘Inclusive cities for all: Social rights in my city’, takes the spirit of the European Pillar of Social Rights to deliver concrete actions on the ground. Twenty-one cities, representing more than 20 million citizens, have so far pledged €4.32 billion in city measures to implement the principles of the Pillar.
Cities are leading change in these and many other areas.
A stronger urban focus
Urban and European challenges continue to be strongly connected. Through EUROCITIES’ city leaders’ agenda for Europe we want to strengthen the urban focus of European decision makers. Recent years have seen many positive developments, notably the establishment of the Urban Agenda for the EU, which is a milestone for Europe and cities.
To ensure this recognition is continued into the next European legislature, we are asking for strengthened leadership on urban matters at EU level through the nomination of a vice president in charge of urban affairs in the European Commission. We also call for a stronger transversal coordination of urban matters within the Commission and the other institutions.
Cities are the place where things happen. We are leading the fight against climate change, ensuring citizens participate in decision making, and building equal and inclusive societies. A city leaders’ agenda for Europe can help deliver concrete results to people on the ground where it is most needed.
EUROCITIES is the political platform for major European cities. We network the local governments of over 140 of Europe’s largest cities and more than 40 partner cities that between them govern some 130 million citizens across 39 countries. www.eurocities.eu