Wolfgang Teubner, Source: ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability

The 9th European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns will formulate local and regional answers to the European Green Deal

The 9th European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns will formulate local and regional answers to the European Green Deal

Interview with Wolfgang Teubner, Regional Director for Europe, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability

The 9th European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns – “Mannheim2020”, the flagship European conference on local sustainable development, will take place from 30 September to 2nd October for the first time online. Wolfgang Teubner is the Regional Director Europe of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability – the main organiser of the event, together with the City of Mannheim.

Mr Teubner, could you tell us about the main topics of the 9th European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns that begins on Wednesday, 30 September?

The programme is primarily dealing with questions on social change towards climate neutrality and resource conservation so that our development can take place in harmony with the boundaries of our planet. This concerns both the restructuring of our infrastructure and a change in social and economic systems, including aspects of everyday culture.

The conference will put tensions between existing global resource limits and the prevailing economic growth paradigm in the spotlight, and look at how to ensure a fair distribution of resources. In line with this, the conference will also formulate local and regional answers to the European Green Deal.

The Mannheim Message, now open for endorsement, is a call to involve local governments as real dialogue partners for policy development. It has been agreed on in the Mannheim2020 Mayor’s Meeting, and will be formally presented to the European Commission on 1 October at the 9th European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns.

Cities have great potential to drive the transformation of Europe. What are the biggest challenges they have to face?

One of the challenges is certainly rebuilding essential infrastructures, such as infrastructure for energy supply, buildings, transport and mobility, but also the so-called green and blue infrastructure. The fact that in most European cities we are dealing with a high proportion of long-term existing, partly historical infrastructure makes this more difficult, than the construction of a new climate-neutral and low-traffic green district.

Infrastructure is also an expression of life and behavioural cultures that have to adapt in parallel. Bringing key stakeholders and the general population on board and involving them actively in the transformation process is a major challenge in its own right that has to be mastered to maintain social and societal stability.

How can cities finance their green transition?

Given the existing debt burden and the limited revenue opportunities of cities and municipalities, we have to work with the assumption of cities not being able to shoulder these tasks alone. Appropriate funding from federal and state governments and, as far as possible, from the European level will certainly play an important role here.

However, to accelerate change private investments will also be required. Here it is important to know which business models will be used, what costs and burdens will arise and how these will be distributed so that negative social impacts are avoided.

It would be important to strengthen and focus on innovative public service approaches. This could also strengthen civic commitment to community tasks at the economic level.

Would you agree that digitalisation will be a key factor for Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050?

It is already the case today that digital solutions play an important role in many areas, such as the restructuring of energy supply or mobility. It is particularly important that innovation and solutions are shaped to respond to social challenges, i.e. that they are demand-driven, and that no attempt is made to push products on the market that are partly counterproductive, as was sometimes the case with smart city approaches.

A close link and exchange between public demand and innovative companies – also within the framework of corresponding procurement approaches – is certainly helpful in this context in order to develop and implement digital solutions in a targeted manner. Digitalisation also needs to keep an eye on the social and societal impact.



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