“Local transition plans are also about cultural change”

Take-aways from Energy Cities' Forum sessions on Future-proof governance


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May 5, 2022

Energy Cities’ Hub “Future-proof local governance” aims to rethink the governance of transition strategies by setting up long-term local partnerships and trying out new participatory processes to transform local ecosystems.

Let’s take a look back at the insightful discussions around this needed future-proof local governance that happened at Energy Cities’ 2022 Forum in Brussels!

A lot of speakers shared their views on this crucial governance question, each one at their own level: as mayors and elected representatives, technical experts, European Union officials, knowledge organisations or NGOs. They all agreed on the fact that we have to undertake a systemic and radical change in the way we consider local governance, in order to successfully implement transition plans.

“Local transition plans are also about cultural change”.

Mohamed Ridouani, Mayor of Leuven (Belgium)

One aspect of this necessary cultural change is the transfer of power to the local level, or to the level which is the most relevant to act. For example, the municipality of Leuven in Belgium transferred a part of its power to the Leuven 2030 initiative, in charge of the participatory local transition programme, allowing the consortium of politicians, citizens, knowledge institutes and associations not to be impeded in the policy-design and implementation process. This approach is also shared by the city of Dunkirk in France, and Viladecans, in Spain. Both cities invited all the local stakeholders to be involved in the transition plans. In Dunkirk for example, the city built a partnership with industries that have high needs in terms of heating, universities, citizens and local authorities. This partnership resulted in a 3-year plan to decarbonise local industries.
If it is clear that governance at local level is already reinventing itself, support from higher levels of governance is equally necessary for a better implementation of transition plans.

“Local governments must have the possibility to adjust unhelpful governance structures and set the agenda for national and EU bodies to change regulation”.

Collectively-formulated statement, session “Systemic Changes in Governance – what do cities need to really do for being climate neutral?”, Energy Cities’ 2022 Forum.

This collectively-formulated statement expresses that governance must shift at a upper level to foster bottom-up approaches. Both delegations from Vienna and Dijon highlighted the importance of European programmes to fund local actions. Indeed, the implementation of EU-funded projects is simply impossible without cities, as reminded Nordmunds Pope from the European Commission’s DG REGIO.

“Transition projects need to be spoken out and grasped locally to ensure their success”.

Nordmunds Popens, European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional Cohesion (DG REGIO)

To ensure that transition projects be participative and community-driven, they should be rooted in democratic principles. Thus “We need to go where the citizens are, not the opposite” as Allen Coliban, Mayor of Brasov (Romania) said, insisting namely on the fact that the opposition that cities sometimes face during the design and implementation of transition plans is fruitful if they allow each citizen to be heard. By building trust between citizens and local political leaders through dialogue, debates, assemblies, participatory budgets, this renewed governance can be suited to meet the climate challenges.

Learn more:

Energy Cities’ Hub “Future-proof local governance”

Energy Cities’ Forum 2022 held on 21-22 April in Brussels.