The spirit of innovation is growing among European cities. The EU Commission’s 100 Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities by 2030 project could be one of the reasons for excitement.
The project (EU Mission) opened for city applications in November 2021 and in April 2022 the champions were unveiled. It turned out to be not only 100, but 112 cities becoming role models for climate action. Out of these, 100 cities are EU Member States and 12 are in Associated Countries.
What are the goals?
The EU Mission commits to:
Deliver at least 100 European climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030.
Ensure that these cities also act as experimentation and innovation hubs for others to follow, to enable all European cities to become climate-neutral by 2050.
This is quite a big deal. And a big chance for EU Cities to learn from each other and create best practices. As with all EU projects, there are robust procedures to be followed. It starts with the signing of a Climate City Contract, consisting of three sub-components.
What are the first steps?
At the outset, all EU cities will face the same process. Starting with building the commitment across stakeholders (Core Contract), followed by a course of action (2030 Action Plan), and the development of a funding strategy (2030 Investment Plan) is the icing on the cake. This is all done under the umbrella of the Climate City Contract.
1. CCC Core Contract - A commitment
The first step for the cities is to co-create a vision, set a city-wide strategy and allocate specific responsibilities. The cities will need to identify the sectors and sub-sectors to tackle, collaboratively set targets at the operational level, and enable everyone to share responsibility for the transition. This is a strong signal of the unity and direction of the political leadership, across parties.
2. 2030 Action Plan - A course of action
The second is to create an evidence-based, coordinated and exhaustive portfolio of interventions. This is where cities execute their pathway from the CCC Core Contract. Cities build their baseline and create a portfolio of actions. With the 100 EU Cities being home to 12% of the EU population, the chosen actions will impact millions of Europeans in their day-to-day lives.
3. 2030 Investment Plan - A funding strategy
The third and final step in the process – after an impressive amount of work already – cities will assess, plan and mobilize funding to actually have the means to implement the actions. This is a chance for cities to develop investment plans that unlock financing. By presenting a holistic business case that reports on the cost and co-benefit effects of emissions reduction strategies, cities are encouraged to build a set of metrics, and find a way to track the full impact of investment decisions.
What about the long run?
The EU Mission is a huge political and financial investment for the EU Commission and the cities themselves. Only in the years 2022-2023, cities will receive €360 million of Horizon Europe funding for actions in research and innovation to address clean mobility, energy and urban planning. Cities can also build joint initiatives and ramp up collaborations in synergies with other EU programmes.
But despite the coordinated criteria from the EU – the Climate City Contract process – cities will take various approaches to this challenge. For instance, 20 Cities out of the 100 Cities have already chosen an innovative path by working with digital climate plans.
The 100 EU Mission is an ambitious project that will benefit the region, the citizens and the environment for centuries to come. The goal of climate neutrality by 2030 is, in a way, only a first milestone.