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.