Carlos Campillos Martínez, Spain - Together Ambasador in Antwerp
Europe is the world’s beacon of peace, rights and liberties. No other community has ever been able to secure stability, prosperity and equity across national borders for such a long time. However, for many people the European Union has ceased to be legitimated just by its past achievements. It is hard to base the Union’s legitimacy in the shift from war to peace for those who have always lived in peace. For many, the EU must now deliver on the expectations of its citizens, who seek to live in a more secure, more egalitarian and more inclusive continent. A progressive Europe is the one that gives a response to those citizens’ concerns. In my view, climate change is the most urgent, most important challenge that both the world and the European Union are facing in the 21st Century. In tackling this challenge, all levels of governance must weigh in their capabilities and align their efforts in the same direction.
Cities are the governance level that is closest to European citizens, but also the first ones to suffer from the economic and social impacts of climate change. Desertification puts additional pressure on water reserves in Southern Europe; floods are ravaging Central and Eastern European countries; and sea level rise is already an existential threat to coastal and port cities, always taking its toll on the most vulnerable ones. For this reason, cities must spearhead both climate ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and efforts to protect citizens from the adverse effects of climate change. Only by empowering cities to take such decisions, the EU will be able to deliver to its people, and we can wait no longer. A progressive Europe is the one that allows for that, building a bottom-up response to the real needs of European citizens. A progressive Europe is not one that lives out of its past, but one that builds its future by caring for its present.