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The Antwerp Statement is a very important step forward in recognising the essential role of cities in paving the way for a sustainable future in Europe. Despite the statement accurately includes ports as vectors for such model of development, I find that the full potential for cities to play a key role in developing nature-based solutions to climate change is unexploited. I would add a paragraph on the importance of cities in developing adaptation plans to cope with climate change impacts and be at the forefront of the new Europe that protects. Climate risk affects people in Europe unevenly, both in geographic and economic terms. Central, Eastern and Southern European Member States are more vulnerable to climate-related disasters. On the other hand, those sectors of society with less resources available (such as low-income households, young farmers or SMEs) are also more vulnerable to potential economic losses. As climate-related disasters become more frequent and more severe, insurance to protect assets and properties become less affordable for these sectors. Using urban planning and transformation to develop nature-based solutions to climate impacts is a key element of this attempt to protect those vulnerable groups and minimise geographic and socioeconomic inequalities. Cities would therefore need better, simpler and more transparent access to EU funds in order to develop capacity to draft adaptation and resilience plans, complemented with capital-raising plans to fund those reforms needed. Such plans would inform EU Member States at the time of developing national plans and build a bottom-up, resilient Europe that protects its citizens.
Cohesion policy has a unique role in reducing inequalities. As one of the European Union’s main investment policies, it has a tremendous potential to create new market pulls, send the right signals to investors and promote inclusive growth. On the other hand, climate change is one of the major challenges of the 21st Century and the EU needs to demonstrate it can lead by doing in the global climate agenda, especially when former strategic partners like the US have relinquished their leadership role. Therefore, the EU needs to make sure its cohesion policy is directed to preparing regions and cities in Europe for a just transition to a low-carbon economy. Cohesion policy needs to provide a way out for those workers currently employed in high-carbon activities such as coal mining or energy-intensive industries. Cohesion policy has the potential and the instruments to finance early retirement for senior workers and retraining for the junior ones. It also has a robust financial backing to invest in low-carbon infrastructure such as charging stations for EVs and electrified highways. Also, this infrastructure needs to be resilient to the effects of climate change, ensuring jobs and prosperity for workers even in adverse conditions. For example, workers at ports deserve a safe working environment in the event of sea level rise and farmers deserve fair and affordable insurances against losing their livelihood to extreme climate-related events. Cohesion policy is therefore an essential instrument to build a new Europe, one that protects its workers and prepares them for a low-carbon future. European Socialists have worker rights and reducing inequality at their core and therefore European Socialists are best positioned to turn the EU’s Cohesion Policy into the best instrument to ensure a Just Transition for European workers, regions and cities.