A session at Energy Cities' 2022 Forum, held on 21-22 April in Brussels, showcased how Covenant of Mayors’ signatories rethink the local democratic governance from their cities’ transition plans.
Four mayors and deputy mayors from four different EU countries and two Deputy Director General from the European Commission's DG MOVE and DG REGIO shared experience-based solutions, key elements, challenges they faced while implementing local climate pacts or city climate contracts with citizens and local stakeholders.
“Local transition plans are also about a cultural change”.
Mohamed Ridouani, Mayor of Leuven (Belgium)
All speakers agreed on the necessity to involve citizens into the transition plans and to root those processes into democracy. Based on their experiences, they provided different analysis and solutions. First, “local transition plans are also about a cultural change”, as Mr. Ridouani, Mayor of Leuven (Belgium), said. Governance needs to shift from a traditionnal top-down approach to a bottom-up approach, by going through direct contact with the local communities. The role of the Leuven 2030 initiative is then to bundle projects, money and resources and not to impose transitions plan which have been decided without citizens.
This analysis is also shared by Allen Coliban, Mayor of Brasov (Romania), who spoke in favour of a change in the way cities communicate with their citizens.
“We need to go where the citizens are, not the opposite”.
Allen Coliban, Mayor of Brasov (Romania)
This way, citizens can get to grips with transition plans by co-designing and implementing those plans, assuring at the same time its success.
Hanna Zdanowska, Mayor of Lodz (Poland), experimented a concrete local governance solution by organising a citizens' assembly dealing with citizens’ concerns. By bringing knowledge to citizens and letting a plan emerge from their debates, the municipality allows trust to be built between citizens through dialogue.
On a larger governance scale, the way we implement transition plans at a European level is also a key issue. Here again, a bottom-up methodology has to be adopted, as Normunds Popens, Deputy Director General of DG REGIO, underlined.
“Transition projects need to be spoken out and grasped locally to assure their success”.
Nordmunds Popens, Deputy Director General in DG REGIO
Since funding is available through European programme like React EU or Horizon Europe, Mr Popens reminded the necessity to deploy those funds into local transition projects. With this in mind, Matthew Baldwin presented the 100 Climate-Neutral Cities EU Mission which according to him is a tangible implementation of a bottom-up approach from cities to the EU. Cities involve their communities to co-design their plans, receiving funds and technical support from the EU and peers.
Once again, this session highlighted the undeniable vital role of cities as a driving force in the fight against climate change and the transition towards sustainable cities and future!