Europe’s cities have the potential to kick-start green growth in Europe and improve quality of life for our citizens, but better partnerships with the European Commission and member states are needed.
Europe is facing a serious economic crisis. Public sector budgets are under severe pressure. Cities are having to cut staff and spending, but maintain services, which are more in demand than ever. Despite these difficult times, indeed because of them, we must find a model for renewed economic growth that does not further aggravate our climate and environment. As Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, I have put this at the heart of our city strategy. It is both possible and profitable for the EU to meet economic needs while advancing environmental priorities.
Throughout history, cities have been cradles of major progress and innovation. Together with my colleagues in the EUROCITIES network, mayors and leaders of 135 major European cities, we see this to hold true for the future. Cities account for 80% of energy use. They are therefore also the places where the biggest progress can be made. Cities are producing 85% of the EU’s GDP and cities are the main population and employment centres. By concentrating population and providing critical mass for innovation in resource efficiency, cities offer the most sustainable form of development for the future.
Green growth will no doubt be driven by new products and technologies, but we must go beyond considering the products alone, and find fully-developed solutions. What does this entail? I believe it requires bringing together a political vision for the future, with the technology needed to support it, the organisational processes that will see it through, and the knowledge, human capital and skills to make it happen. This is where I see the indispensable role of Europe’s cities.
If we want Europe to build up its economic competitiveness, to deliver a high quality of life, we must invest in cities
Cities are ideal test beds for new solutions, trying out not only new technologies but also new partnerships, with business, citizens and other levels of government. We want the EU to make good on the Lisbon Treaty’s promise of stronger multi-level governance, which cannot stop at regional level, but must directly engage the cities as real partners. The sooner we pull all levels of government together to take concerted action; the sooner Europe’s economy will pull through.
The launch of the European Commission’s smart cities initiative is very promising. It could provide fertile ground for Europe’s cities to drive forward the kind of development that green growth requires.
And of course the size and scope of the future EU budget will be critical as well. EUROCITIES is convinced that a budget better designed to empower, equip and resource cities will result in a more significant impact for the greatest number of people.
If we want Europe to build up its economic competitiveness, to deliver a high quality of life, we must invest in cities. Cities need to be able to perform economically, socially and environmentally, driving the development of their regions and countries for the benefit of all citizens in Europe.