European mayors are still committed to climate action despite funding and policy challenges, according to a new survey from Eurocities.
The Eurocities Pulse Survey gathered responses from 92 leaders representing 210 member cities in Europe, including the UK. The survey, which comes one year before the European elections, encompassed most major European cities, covering a population of over 150 million people. It aims to provide an overview of important urban trends, including the key challenges and priorities faced by mayors.
Based on the study, the primary challenges identified by mayors in 2022 were the energy crisis (28%), climate change (26%), and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic (23%). These challenges mainly emerged over the past three years and have been encountered by governments at all levels in Europe.
Regarding longer-term issues, mayors highlighted ongoing challenges such as the housing crisis, transportation, and constraints on local budgets.
“European city leaders face growing pressures: rising inequalities, climate change and ecological breakdown, pandemics, disruptive technologies, war and mass migration, populism and nativism.” said Ben Rogers, director of the European Cities Programme at LSE Cities. “If we are entering the age of the permacrisis, cities are in the eye of the storm.”
Currently, addressing climate change has become the most crucial concern for 2023 onwards, with over half of the mayors (54.95%) ranking it in their top three priorities—more than double the number for any other category. The energy transition was also a prominent focus, chosen by 11% of mayors.
When asked about their plans to tackle climate change, mayors mentioned specific initiatives, such as implementing low emission zones, expanding green spaces, reducing air pollution, promoting sustainable practices, and adopting a circular economy throughout cities and services.
Mayors expressed their expectations for support from the EU in several ways. They stressed the importance of increased dialogue between cities and the EU, additional funding, and simplified processes to access that funding. Funding was seen as the most influential factor in the next five years, particularly in relation to climate change and energy transition (75%), sustainable mobility (63%), and digital transformation (33%).
However, the report also underscored the uncertainty felt by mayors regarding whether they would have sufficient resources to address the needs of their cities. Only 6% of mayors expected to have “sufficient funding” for climate change and energy transition plans, while 52.69% believed they would have resources to cover at least part of their needs. Rising costs of products and services were identified as the main funding challenge, with over 86% of mayors at the city level reporting that current high levels of inflation had affected their ability to make strategic long-term investments.
What is the EU planning?
Over the next five years, the European Union plans to allocate a significant amount of funds to cities, particularly focusing on climate change and digital technologies. For example, the EU Recovery plan has earmarked at least 30% of its budget for climate and biodiversity initiatives, and 20% for digital measures. Furthermore, the EU Cohesion Funds for the period of 2021-2027 intend to allocate a minimum of 37% to climate action, with a strong emphasis on investing in sustainable transportation and infrastructure.
Moreover, the European Commission’s 100 Climate Neutral and Smart Cities Mission represents the increased attention given at the European level to the role of cities in achieving climate neutrality across Europe.
“Looking ahead, the European elections next year will mark another pivotal moment. Now is the time to raise our collective voice to make sure that the people across our cities are heard and can be put at the heart of EU decision-making.” said president of Eurocities and Mayor of Leipzig.
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