Almost 30 European cities including Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo, Prague and Budapest have signed the European Circular Cities Declaration, a commitment to work towards speeding up the transition from a linear to a circular economy.
The declaration – which was launched on the sidelines of the 9th European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns – has been developed by a range of stakeholders across the political and civic spectrum, including: ICLEI, the European Investment Bank (EIB), The Ellen McArthur Foundation, Eurocities and the UN Environment Programme.
Speaking at the conference, hosted virtually by the German city of Mannheim, Helsinki’s Deputy Mayor for Urban Environment, Anni Sinnemäki, said: “Helsinki is ready and willing to promote the circular economy, our declaration includes crucial fields for cities, such as construction work.
“Cooperation is essential in leading the transition [and] Helsinki is willing to learn more from other cities and also to share our own experiences.”
The four key aims of the declaration are:
- To allow local and regional governments across Europe to communicate their commitment to supporting the circular transition.
- Provide a shared vision of what a “circular city” is.
- Underline the critical role which local and regional governments need to play in making this transition happen.
- Establish a network of committed organisations to share their experiences, challenges and successes.
European Green Deal
The declaration reflects broader European efforts to rethink the way economies and societies are organised.
In December 2019, The European Green Deal – a €1 trillion (US$1.1 trillion) plan to transform the 27-country bloc to a low-carbon economy, without reducing prosperity while improving people’s quality of life through cleaner air and water and improved health – was announced by European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, who described it as Europe’s “man on the moon moment”.
Its practical terms include a bloc-wide goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and a 50-55 percent cut in emissions by 2030 (compared with 1990 levels).
Peter Kurz, Mayor of Mannheim, told Cities Today: “European cities and regions are supportive [of]the objectives of the European Green Deal and we are ready to join forces with all levels of government, European institutions, businesses, academia and citizens to become hubs for climate and development solutions.”
While cities have largely welcomed the Green Deal, concerns have been raised by some member states about its cost and the economic impact the shift to a low-carbon economy will bring.
Some central/eastern European countries that rely heavily on fossil fuels have been particularly vocal in their scepticism about the plan, particularly since the onset of the pandemic, with Czech Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš, calling on the EU to drop the deal and focus on fighting coronavirus and a looming recession.
Image: Ben Simo (Flickr)