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European Sustainable Energy Week
News blog21 March 2024European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency3 min read

Localising EU ambition: empowering municipalities to drive the implementation of the EU Green Deal

By Mohamed Ridouani, Mayor of Leuven and President of the Energy Cities network

Localising EU ambition

Over the past 5 years, the European Union set up the legislative framework to become climate neutral by 2050 and deliver the EU Green Deal. 2024 marks the start of the implementation phase for EU’s climate and energy policies, and municipalities will have a key role to play. We, municipalities, can ensure the achievement of EU’s ambitious objectives, leaving no one behind. But we need staff and resources to take collective actions.

As Mayor of Leuven, I am proud to say we are among those municipalities that are leading the way towards the achievement of those objectives. Leuven 2030 has been uniting our community in the past 10 years under a shared purpose: climate neutrality. Our Climate City Contract, handed over to the European Commission at the end of 2023, is another step in that direction. Nevertheless, we should not underestimate the effort and resources needed to make the EU Green Deal a reality.

EU Green Deal going local: municipalities’ struggle for resources

Almost each Directive or Regulation part of the European Green Deal has elements that concern local authorities. A new publication by Energy Cities and Eurocities provides a detailed analysis, but, as an example, a lot of efforts are going to be needed at local level when it comes to mapping, planning, building management and renovation. A 2022 study shows that each municipality in the EU would need around 2.5 additional full-time positions only to decarbonise their built environment.

But the success of the Green Deal is also linked to social justice: how can we make sure it is not seen as a luxury, but as the number one social policy that will bring long term benefit for everyone? That is where municipalities can have a big impact, thanks to their proximity to the citizens and economic actors. They are best placed to coordinate the local ecosystem, bring everyone together as active participant in the transition, and provide support. This role has been widely recognised in European legislation, but the issue of corresponding financial and human resources remains.

To empower cities, we need structural changes at EU level

Some solutions have already been put on the table. The EU Social Climate Fund could be an opportunity for cities to finance their investments for a just and equitable transition. EU legislation, such as the Energy Performance of Building Directive suggests Members States provide training for local authorities. But at Energy Cities, we think that one-off measures are not enough. The upcoming discussions on the EU multiannual budget and the reform of the EU Cohesion Fund will make the perfect occasion to implement structural changes and equip local and regional authorities with the resources they need to make the EU Green Deal a reality.

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About the author

Born in Leuven, Mohamed Ridouani holds a master’s degree in economics and a postgraduate in international relations. He started his career as a business consultant but left the business world once appointed Deputy Mayor of Leuven in 2007, to fully focus on his political duties. He’s the inspirer of Leuven 2030, in which more than 300 companies, organisations and citizens are united to turn Leuven into a sustainable and CO2-neutral city by the year 2050. Ridouani was elected Mayor in October 2018 and President of Energy Cities at the end of 2023. He stands for positive change and aims to turn Leuven into one of the most caring, green, and prosperous cities in Europe, in cooperation with the citizens.


Disclaimer: This article is a contribution from a partner. All rights reserved.

Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on behalf of the Commission is responsible for the use that might be made of the information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and should not be considered as representative of the European Commission’s official position.