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Herald Ruijters, Source: DG MOVE

Cities Mission has made citizen engagement and participatory processes an important part of its functioning

Cities Mission has made citizen engagement and participatory processes an important part of its functioning

Interview with Herald Ruijters, Director, Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE), European Commission

Mr. Ruijters, with regards to the goal of having 100 climate-neutral cities by 2030, what do you think the biggest obstacles to achieving this are and what advice can you give to Europeans to help overcome them?

It is important to note that the Cities Mission has two simultaneous goals: achieving 100 climate-neutral cities by 2030 and ensuring that these cities act as centres of experimentation and innovation so that all European cities can become climate neutral by 2050.

The path towards climate neutrality is one of fundamental transformation, across all aspects of a city’s functioning. And cities are highly complex systems in which a huge number of structures intersect: energy use and production, building insulation, waste management, mobility, and many more.

That is why the Cities Mission aims to provide support to cities to find their own tailor-made way to reach climate neutrality. In a complex system with lots of factors, there is no easy or straight path to success.

My advice to citizens would be to get involved, be part of the debate and shape how their cities will look like in the future. This is why the Cities Mission has made citizen engagement and participatory processes an important part of its functioning; to make sure that at the end of the day every city is liveable and lovable for its people.

Given there are over 800 cities with more than 50,000 people in Europe, how do we upscale the learning of the 100 Climate Neutral cities and how do we “leave no city behind”?

Upscaling solutions that contribute to reaching climate neutrality will be a major task to reach EU-wide climate neutrality by 2050. The Cities Mission is an opportunity to use experiences from one city, while adapting them for another city with different characteristics. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, we start out recognising that what works in Copenhagen is going to be different from what works in Athens.

Cities participating in the Cities Mission will have access to a Mission Platform, where they will be able to share experiences with each other, but also work on projects together, through thematic or geographic or any other links. One goal of the Cities Mission is to facilitate this kind of collaboration between cities.

Another important aspect is the creation of national and regional support networks, which go beyond the cities participating in the Mission. Some EU countries already have created such networks and we are encouraging others to think about how cities, irrespective of their participation in the Mission, can connect among each other. In some Member states, participating cities have easier access to funding, reduced tax burdens and improved joint planning, regulatory support and networking.

Through the past two years of preparing the Cities Mission, what we have consistently seen is overwhelming interest and willingness from cities and city residents, to make progress towards climate neutrality. I am confident that cities have the drive and determination to do what it takes to become green and smart.

EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK seeks to encourage behavioural change in favour of more sustainable travel. The challenge remains, however, in getting people to actually change their habits. What advice do you have for cities in how to better tackle this challenge and accelerate the rate of this behavioural change?

EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK is an annual awareness-raising campaign on sustainable urban mobility, which provides towns and cities across Europe, and indeed further afield, with an opportunity to try out innovative sustainable urban mobility planning measures, promote new infrastructure and technologies, measure air quality, and get feedback from the public.

Through providing participating towns and cities with an opportunity to test and implement sustainable mobility solutions, the campaign helps facilitate a behavioural shift toward sustainable urban mobility modes, in turning helping reach the EU Green Deal’s carbon-neutrality target. As an example, during EMW cities are able to test a given mobility solution limited to only one street or part of the city or a limited period of time. At the same time, it is crucial to involve all stakeholders in planning of sustainable urban mobility solutions, as this involvement and consultation is an integral part of the SUMP approach; if done properly, acceptance and ownership of solutions are much higher, inducing behavioural change.

 

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