Organised with ICLEI Europe and the Federal Ministry for Housing, Urban Development and Building, Germany. 

Harnessing on ICLEI’s most recent work on operationalizing the concept of Common Good in urban sustainability management, this Policy Lab explored the connection between the EU Mission on Climate-neutral and Smart Cities and sustainability transition with the Common Good.

The cities of Mannheim (DE), Valencia (ES) and Helsingborg (SE) shared their local experiences as well as the possibilities and challenges they face on the path towards climate neutrality.

The format of the Policy Lab allowed for rich exchanges between the representatives of different cities and organizations and interaction with the public. Participants were able to shed light on the importance of synergies, co-creation and governance, the practice of using the Common Good as a guiding concept for sustainability processes, and the experiences of conflict on the way towards climate neutrality.

Expert contributions

Synergies and Co-creation

Patrick Child, Deputy Director General, DG Environment, European Commission

Cities need a favorable regulatory environment to be able to maneuver swiftly. They also need to be able to draw on national and regional programs, which need to be aligned well to make them effective and to avoid duplication of efforts. To reach the goals of the 100 Climate-neutral Cities Mission as well as unleash important private investment, European Union institutions will provide technical, financial, regulatory support. This Mission represents learning by doing, which is a new process, and national networks are there to foster a new spirit of co-working. Synergies and co-creation with stakeholders are of high importance in this process. A range of different programs need to be brought together and partnerships should be utilized where possible.

A Value-based Approach

Niklas Mischkowski, Governance and Social Innovation, ICLEI Europe

The New Leipzig Charter steers processes of governance. By introducing the concept of the Common Good, a value-based approach to sustainability management is facilitated, which can help create consensus-oriented dialogue for voluntary commitment. The SDGs are characterized by trade-offs between its parts, which causes them to not be implemented effectively. These trade-offs are determined by private values, whereas the Common Good is guided by public value. A Common Good mindset can lead to public value creation. Together with the practice of addressing processes, routines, and logics, this can create the systemic change that the Climate-neutral Cities Mission requires. The Climate City Contracts, which the Mission Cities are developing, also need to consider certain activities, such as citizen involvement and consensus making, and the importance of value creation should be referred to once conflicts arise.

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Identifying Co-benefits

Agnes Schönfelder, Spokesperson Local Green Deal Mannheim

Integrating targets for the sake of identifying co-benefits of interventions is crucial in paving the way towards climate neutrality, as this will facilitate the formation of partnerships and the achievement of real action from the bottom-up. The city of Mannheim developed a platform to match and co-create inspiring ideas. The idea of sufficiency is important here: doing things right but in alternative manners. It is not just about one action or field anymore, it is necessary to analyse different levels of change pertaining to, for example, participation, finance, and monitoring, and check them in all sectors.

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By and for Citizens

Alejandro Gómez Gil, Technician in Energy and European Projects, Valencia Climate and Energy

It is important to align multiple levels and areas of governance, while keeping in mind that political consensus is a foundational element. Political shifts should not be able to undermine the progress made thus far. Simultaneously, it is crucial to present the Cities Mission as a shared one for and by citizens. The city of Valencia is reflecting this notion in their Climate Missions Alliance, which shows the commitment of the different layers partaking in the alliance. The city’s efforts towards creating new governance structures with the five helixes aims to break the habit silo thinking which can hinder transition. To avoid conflicts, creating co-benefits and valuing the Common Good is crucial, as is engaging in dialogue with stakeholders and underlining that these guiding concepts do not require making sacrifices.

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