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Green light for climate-neutral cities

Europe is aiming to have 100 climate-neutral cities by 2030, as part of the continent’s EU missions strategy to ‘solve major societal challenges’.

It is estimated that more than two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, up from around 55% today, so making these urban centres climate-neutral is a ‘must’ for policy makers worldwide. Europe, which is striving to become the world’s first net-zero continent, is leading the way with its plans for reaching 100 climate-neutral cities by the end of the decade. Hitting the target will be a major achievement, with the transformational journey these cities go on acting as signposts for others, as the first 100 become replicable centres of innovation and experimentation.

“Cities are the place where decarbonisation strategies for energy, transport, buildings and even industry and agriculture coexist and intersect,” the EU mission page on cities states. “The climate emergency must be tackled within cities and by engaging citizens who are not only political actors in a governance structure, but also users, producers, consumers and owners. Through a multi-level and co-creative process formalised in a Climate City Contract, adjusted to the realities of each city, the Mission is fully anchored on the European Green Deal Strategy to make Europe climate neutral by 2050.”

Action will be the driving force of each EU mission, with ‘research projects, policy measures and legislative initiatives’ mobilised to support the ambitions of measurable goals, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the European Green Deal.

Preparing cities for the future

In an article for Innovators Magazine Richard Mullane, Environment & Communities Sector Leader for Hassell, San Francisco, took us inside the green cities revolution; specifically a project in the South City San Francisco Bay Area set up by The Rockefeller Foundation.The architect and urban designer believes collaboration is key to unlocking opportunities to deliver resilience for connected urban centres.

He said: “Working with community collaborators and other specialists, as part of an international design collective, the year-long program in the Bay Area combined the creativity, knowledge and experience of residents, public officials and local, national and international experts to develop inventive, community-based solutions – seeking out an alternative approach to the hard-edged, engineering based interventions such as concrete protective barriers, that have previously failed the region.”

At the start of this UN decade of ecosystem restoration from 2021 to 2030, Mullane says architects, designers and urban planners need to shift their focus, ‘onto exploring the potential for architecture and design to combat emerging global challenges, and preparing cities for the future’.

“This revised approach calls on architects, designers and urban planners to involve local communities more than ever, drawing on local knowledge and local understanding of longstanding eco-systems, and empowering local communities to ensure the successful delivery, and ongoing stewardship of the local environment they know so well – urban or natural. Rather than focusing our attention on instantly constructed outcomes, ecosystem restoration presents the challenge of growing and evolving socially sustainable solutions over time, from the ground up.”

This approach echoes the findings of a recent report by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and McKinsey Sustainability, which presented a list of 15 ‘high-potential’ adaptation actions that can work in ‘many types of cities’.

“The impacts of the climate crisis are already being felt across the world’s cities and mayors are taking the urgent steps needed to prepare for a rapidly heating world,” added Mark Watts, Executive Director, C40 Cities. “The Focused Adaptation research released by C40 and McKinsey will help mayors and city leaders to make better decisions on where to focus investments and which projects to prioritise. That will ultimately mean city residents are safer, healthier and better prepared for the future.”


Innovators Magazine is media partners with next month’s CIVITAS Forum, which is focused on accelerating ‘smart routes towards climate-neutral cities’. It is a platform where citizens, cities, policymakers, projects, NGOs, and academics can connect and push on with the ‘European Commission’s mission to create 100 climate-neutral cities by 2030′.

“What is the role of mobility and transport in meeting this 2030 goal? How do smart mobility and climate-neutral mobility relate to each other? And what do local authorities need – from the private sector, the European Commission, and each other – to create the smart and climate-neutral cities we need?,” the event website states.

The CIVITAS Forum in Aachen, Germany, is on from 20-21 October. The draft programme is available now, and there are a limited number of in-person spots available due to covid – but this will be a hybrid event. Register for the in-person element.

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Written By

Executive Producer of the Inside Ideas podcast, writer on sustainability issues, and social media content creator.


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