How cities can lead Europe towards a sustainable future

This is the Antwerp Statement on how cities can lead Europe towards a sustainable future. Join the debate!

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Cities are key drivers for achieving the sustainable development goals. Cities are more than policy implementers: they are innovative policy creators that connect global targets and local communities. Cities are a reflection of our society and of our behaviour toward the future. Cities act like magnets attracting innovation and entrepreneurship. With stronger involvement of cities, progress in the fight against climate change, environment pollution, loss of natural resources and social injustice will be enormous. Poverty, homelessness, unemployment and energy management, have to be top priorities. Cities also need concrete plans to adapt to climate change. We, progressive mayors, policy makers, experts, entrepreneurs and citizens, have come together in Antwerp on 23 November 2017 to discuss the role of cities as progress enablers in achieving the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. We thereby commit ourselves to achieve the following goals in the next 10 years:


1. To equip city governments with the necessary tools for real influence over EU policy making. For EU and national policy makers, consulting cities remains to a large extent optional, and city government’s inputs are too easily disregarded. Nonetheless, cities are pivotal for achieving the international sustainability commitments EU states have pledged themselves to. That is why urban knowledge should be more systematically included in the design, implementation and review of EU policies. In addition, European cities should work together and share their experiences with cities from all over the world.


2. To maximize the full potential of the Urban Agenda and find solutions to common European challenges and objectives. Although the EU’s Urban Agenda was welcomed by European mayors, it has not yet lived up to its full potential. The Urban Agenda should be de-bureaucratised, be more transparent on how the input provided by city officials is included and clear goals for cooperation should be defined. Moreover, the EU and the Member States should do more to facilitate inter-city cooperation and partnerships that pave the way to sustainable economic and social initiatives. This can be done by creating or adapting legal frameworks that remove obstacles created by national borders. Furthermore, European policy analysis should take the city realities of growing inequality into account in order to develop better targeted European policy approaches.


3. To use ports as vectors for an efficient and ambitious European green economy. Ports occupy a unique place in global supply chains, which offers opportunities yet unexplored to influence the sustainability of these supply chains. Imports of fossil fuels and raw materials by sea could be gradually replaced by renewable sources and land based secondary materials from the “urban mine”. Depleted oil- and gas fields near European shores could be used for the storage of harmful industrial CO2-emissions. Waste heat from energy intensive port industries has to be harvested in industrial ecosystems and used as heating source for nearby cities via district heating. As multimodal nodes, ports are perfectly suited to bundle and shift goods towards clean and energy efficient modes of transport. The EU should support the role ports have to play in the transition to a fair, climate neutral and circular economy. A revised Alternative Fuels Infrastructure directive should foster the decarbonisation of transport via the supply of alternative fuels and shore-side electricity. An EU wide road-charging scheme has to internalise the environmental and congestion costs of the hinterland freight transport, stimulating innovative logistics and a sustainable modal shift. The ETS-innovation fund needs to support investments in energy cascades (valorising waste heat) and the transport, utilisation and storage of CO2.


4. To create a diverse, desegregated urban environment. As cities deal with the transition to a sustainable economy and city environment, it is important that the costs and benefits are distributed fairly between their habitants. Imagining and planning the city of the future should go hand in hand with envisioning better, healthier, more equal and workable living spaces. In an urban context characterized by super-diversity no one should be left behind. We are committed to connect and reconnect city inhabitants separated by different social backgrounds, or due to their different ages, genders, abilities, incomes, migration histories or religion. Sustainable housing, education, jobs, transport, public services, tourism are essential to our vision of Europe’s future.


Cities are, right now, part of the problem in adressing climate change. Cities consume 2/3 of the world’s energy and are responsible for 70% of global CO2 emissions. In order to build a sustainable future, cities need to become part of the solution. There is so much that needs to be done, we need to increase the use of renewable energy(wind, solar etc), upgrade the energy efficiency in buildings, transit to electric vehicles with lithium-air batteries, support community farms(intensive farming has a negative impact in global warming). Cities need to do this but they can’t do it alone; these changes are necessary but expensive. And this is where the European Union is important. The EU has the dimension, funds and power to push for this transition by creating a Green New Deal. A Green New Deal would build a sustainable and more green future in Europe but also solve the problems of chronical unemployment. With all the problems that unfair trade policies create to Blue-Collar Working class; green collar jobs are the alternative ! They can’t be shipped overseas and many of them can’t be replaced by technology in the near future. We will need green building architects, solar energy engineers, eletricians who install solar panels, worker’s that insulate older buildings and many other jobs of low, medium and high skill that need to be here in Europe! I’m optimistic about these changes, after all, cities are the magnet for innovation, entrepeneurship and development and the combination in a partnership with businesses and the European Union we will build a more susteinable future.

3 months, 1 week ago in Sustainable Future

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.

3 months, 2 weeks ago in Sustainable Future
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