Publication date

January 18, 2024

What if preparing for the future meant taking care of our many heritages, of the land that has been bequeathed to us? It was with this proposal that the Mayoress of Valencia launched the European Green Capital year and the “Mission 2030” label award ceremony.

Marìa-José Català told us how the way in which the area was managed during the Arab Caliphate left us with, among other things, a unique irrigation system that is still the pride of the city today, as well as its renowned vegetable gardens and rice paddies, the two green lungs of the city. They also left a legacy of water tribunals, a system of joint resource management by users that remains a model of simplicity for resolving conflicts. So effective, in fact, that the Spanish Constitution explicitly states that their decisions cannot be appealed.

Valencia also has 12 kilometres of urban parkland, the result of an unprecedented mobilisation of civil society in the 1980s to transform the Turia riverbed into a park for all to enjoy, instead of a large urban motorway—at a time when motorways were being built everywhere.

The city and its surrounding towns are the product of these mobilisations, the long history that runs through them and the local forces on which future transformations are based. With Valencia crowned European Green Capital, the city’s Mayoress has a huge responsibility to look after the land of our ancestors. By placing our actions in a millennial continuum, while acknowledging the climate emergency in which we find ourselves, Valencia places care and heritage at the heart of this challenge.

To achieve this, the rules need to be adapted, and the Mayoress has asked the government to recognise the Green Capital year as an “Acontecimiento Excepcional de Interés Público” (an Event of Exceptional Public Interest); it’s difficult to find the exact expression to translate this concept, but it’s a legal formula that allows companies that invest in the concept to receive a tax advantage. This “derogation” was obtained more than ten years ago by Vitoria-Gasteiz, Europe’s second Green Capital and the only other Spanish city to hold this title.

And new fiscal and budgetary rules are exactly what is needed now, since the massive scale-up of transformation projects that will decarbonise our cities and our economy cannot be achieved with rules that do not take into account the future costs of our actions. This needs to be one of the priorities of the next Commission and the next mandate of the European Parliament.

How can we transform our territories to ensure that, in a thousand years’ time, our descendants can be proud of what we have managed to leave behind? What European policies do we need to achieve this? These are the questions I invite you to discuss with all the member cities of Energy Cities and the Mission Neutral Cities 2030 on 26 and 27 June… in Valencia!

* “The Good Ancestor“, a book by Roman Krznaric