For the greatest climate impact, engage people where they are: Cities

Publication date:
Irene García, Programme Officer at GMF Cities, The German Marshall Fund

The EU Climate Pact will be launched in December 2020. It is one of the strategic pillars of the European Green Deal (EGD) proposed by the EU Commission in December 2019, which commits the EU to become climate neutral by 2050. The pact aims to reconnect with disenchanted citizens and grant everyone – youth, businesses, academia, trade unions and the media – a proactive role in designing climate actions and supporting the EU in its new goal. As the level of government closest to citizens and frontrunners in the fight against climate change, European cities have great potential for strengthening the Climate Pact and reaching out to a wide range of local stakeholders. From talking about climate to triggering action and working together, they can become a key partner, but only if their role is recognised and they are empowered and equipped to make the appropriate contributions.

The 2019 European Parliament elections showed that for the first time climate change was at the forefront of voters’ priorities. The Greens ended up being the election’s big winners, increasing their number of MEPs from 51 to 74 to become the fourth largest political group (EP, 2019). Opinion polls in Germany and municipal election results in France have ratified this growing support for Green parties and policies.

This should come as no surprise to anyone. A month prior to the European Parliament elections, the Eurobarometer survey on climate change carried out in the 28 member states revealed that 79% of respondents considered climate change to be a very serious problem, and that widespread support exists for national and EU action to fight climate change and the transition towards a carbon-neutral economy (EC, 2019a). The youth mobilisations inspired by Greta Thunberg’s activism, which urged the EU to double its ambition on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reductions, also helped draw attention to climate change.