Cities need support for clean air measures: Energy Cities President meets German chancellor Merkel


Publication date

September 4, 2017

Today, Energy Cities’ President and Mayor of Heidelberg, Dr. Eckart Würzner, meets with German chancellor Angela Merkel during the National Municipal Summit. During the event, Germany’s Head of State will debate clean air strategies with around 30 Mayors as well as regional and federal ministers and federations of municipal authorities.

Ahead of the meeting, Würzner recalled cities’ priorities for improving local transport through better urban planning and public transport: “It is not enough to talk about emission limits for combustion engines. We must tackle mobility as a whole. We need to improve the public transport offer, develop more cycling paths and have much better rail freight transport. The aim is to improve the quality of life in cities. Less car travel does not only mean cleaner air, but also more safety and more quality of life in our inner city. We do not achieve this by bans, we also need environmentally-friendly offers.

After the recent Dieselgate, some German towns and cities had been threatening to ban diesel cars altogether, worried about elevated levels of pollution.

As the Mayor of Heidelberg, a German city of 160.000 inhabitants, Würzner claims for better financial and regulatory support from the regional and national authorities. According to him, each large town should receive a three-digit million subsidy. In addition, planning laws need to be reviewed in order to allow for a city to create public infrastructure. “Today, this is almost impossible. As soon as a juridically well-informed citizen is opposed, 10.000 commuters can forget the long-desired tram line.

Based on his experience within Energy Cities network and as a signatory of the Covenant of Mayors, Würzner also emphasized the importance of reducing commercial and residential emissions for achieving good quality of air. Transport and housing should follow the same rules: “reduce unnecessary energy-demanding investments and cover any unavoidable consumption with renewable sources.“

With this National Summit, Merkel makes a statement at a politically sensitive time: the recent scandal over dirty diesel engines is still simmering, while Merkel is seeking a fourth term in office in an election on September 24th.

Good to know:
European cities define their low-carbon transport and low-pollution strategies in their Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMPs) and Air Quality Plans.

The European Commission presented a new strategy for low-emission mobility in 2016 and, this year, its “’Europe on the Move” concept, with a wide-ranging set of initiatives. Indeed, there are a number of measures available for Member States to make transport more efficient and sustainable. But more needs to be done, notably at national level.

On the same topic, Energy Cities leads the CITIZEN project and Living Streets, involving a total of 12 cities.

Discover local mobility actions from all over Europe on Energy Cities’ database !