“Cities have a key role to play in translating national and EU policy objectives into concrete action. They directly or indirectly implement EU policies and legislation and contribute to EU’s major policy objectives, particularly its Jobs, Growth and Investment agenda, the Digital Single Market and the recently adopted Energy Union with a forward-looking Climate Change policy. However, despite discussions for decades at intergovernmental level on coordination of urban related topics, progress on the ground remained limited. Cities have increasing difficulties in dealing with the effects of climate change (heat, heavy rainfall, etc.), congestion and air quality in cities is often deteriorating, urban poverty remains an issue, etc. To address these challenges, the city level needs to be better taken into account when designing and implementing EU policies.”
European cities are set to benefit from greater involvement in EU legislation on issues such as air pollution, climate adaptation, and energy transition under a new agreement between 28 EU member states announced this week.
National ministers responsible for urban policy in the EU have adopted the Pact of Amsterdam, which states that European cities will get more involved with EU legislation, access to financing, and knowledge sharing on the basis of the “Urban Agenda for the EU.”
The Urban Agenda — a joint initiative between the EU Commission, member states and the European Cities Network — contains proposals for the improvement of existing EU policies, with the first phase focusing on 12 challenges.
These 12 challenges include air pollution, housing, the circular economy, climate adaptation, the energy transition, urban mobility, digital transition, and sustainable land use.
“Cities are living laboratories in the transition to a low-carbon economy,” said Maroš Šefčovič, vice president in charge of the EU’s Energy Union. “The European Commission works hand in hand with mayors and regional authorities to enable them to showcase the good examples as an incentive and a source of inspiration to others, in Europe as well as outside Europe.”
As part of the pact, an initial partnership focusing on air quality has been established for the next three years, which includes the cities of London, Helsinki, Utrecht, Milan, and Constanta.
New London mayor Sadiq Khan will soon consult with residents over a number of measures aimed at cutting air pollution in the city.
The objective of the air pollution partnership targets improving air quality in cities. It also targets elevating the “healthy city” concept higher on the EU agenda.
Four main areas for action have also been set out by the air quality partnership, focusing on: improving data on pollution through modeling city-specific situations; mapping regulatory instruments and funding; compiling recommended best practices; and setting out a guideline for cities’ air-quality action plans.
With 70% of European citizens currently living in urban areas — expected to rise to 80% by 2050 — the Commission said it was important to increase cooperation and best-practice sharing between cities.
“Cities are hubs of creativity and engines of European growth, but they face major challenges, such as social exclusion, air pollution or unemployment,” EU Commissioner for regional policy, Corina Crețu, said in a statement. “We need to tackle these problems together. Our commitment to having an Urban Agenda shows that we are putting urban matters higher on our agenda and are ready to listen more to our cities when it comes to what works for them and what needs to be improved.”
We cheer this effort. The need is imperative.
Image via Pact of Amsterdam