A Green Deal for the urban age: A new role for cities in EU climate action

Publication date:
Sonia De Gregorio Hurtado, Department of Urban and Spatial Planning, School of Architecture, Polytechnic University of Madrid

In December 2019, just before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a European Commission communication set out the “European Green Deal for the European Union”. The opening paragraph recognises that “tackling climate and environmental-related challenges is this generation’s defining task” (EC, 2019a: 2), placing this responsibility at the core of the EU’s new post-2020 growth strategy. Compared with the EU’s previous economic roadmap, the Europe 2020 strategy (2010–2020), the European Green Deal (EGD) introduces an important paradigm shift. While climate and sustainability issues were present in the former, they appeared as sectoral targets that were frequently in contradiction with the overall objective of turning “the EU into a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy” (EC, 2010: 7). By contrast, the EGD proposes a new holistic strategy that seeks to decouple economic growth from the use of resources and achieve carbon neutrality by “mainstreaming sustainability in all EU policies” (EC, 2019a: 15). The Commission has presented the new strategy as an opportunity for Europe to undertake pending structural changes and to become a world leader in the circular economy, clean energy and clean technologies. The EGD aims to deliver benefits for the environment and biodiversity protection, health, quality of life, resilience and competitiveness as part of an ambitious vision that will require the review of existing policy and governance frameworks (including legislative changes) and the commitment of all EU actors.