#NewEuropeanBauhaus “Building beautiful, sustainable, inclusive places to live together after the pandemic”

Policy op-ed by Claire Roumet


Publication date

April 15, 2021

Just for once, I’m going to write about what is going to happen in the coming days rather than about last month’s highlights.

On 21st April, Energy Cities’ members will discuss with the Co-President of the Club of Rome its recent report and proposal to seize the European Green Deal as a genuine opportunity to change our economies.  The report was published in October 2020 and lays down a real roadmap for the recovery plans.

Faced with the rapid changes needed and the inability to anticipate future crises, like the one we are facing now, we clearly need more agility and a new compass to guide our policies. Energy Cities wants to broaden its vision and adapt its mission to this new context in order to better navigate the next decade. This is why Sandrine Dixson Declève, from the Club of Rome, is going to help us redefine our priorities for action through a discussion with our member cities.

Energy remains the crux of the matter since our landscapes, cities and lifestyles are still shaped by fossil and fissile energy sources. But to transform our local economies and the energy they feed upon, we need more than one lever: all resources must be preserved or regenerated. To better harness the interactions between energy and the structuring resources, i.e. materials, food and public space, we need to develop an approach to interdependencies. We must work on local ecosystems and surpass the energy-centred sectoral approach. This is why we have signed a strategic agreement with ACR+, the association of cities and regions for sustainable resource management, to reinforce the synergies between sectors and to combine our forces. It is the first partnership in a long series that will reinforce our collective expertise and will open up new opportunities for our members.

The President of the European commission has just launched a hybrid initiative, an institutional and political UFO: the #NewEuropeanBauhaus. This initiative is based on a realisation that we share: it is time to rethink the places where we live, how we live in them and who has access to them to transform our societies.  And it is because there is no single answer but multiple ones, as many as there are places in fact, that reinventing public spaces involves launching local “conversations”.

I attended one of them organised by the Mayor of Seville. It was striking to hear so many contributions and ideas come out of a purely institutional framework!  Very open questions and a common framework for discussing them not only make sense but are also the materials of possible common narratives for the future.  There are no big cities or small towns, experts or elected representatives, just residents who share a common space and who are seeking to define a desirable future. This is sufficiently unusual to be noted (even though the trend towards cross-sectoral programmes is gaining momentum, like this experimental programme by ADEME in the Ile-de-France Region) and to encourage our members to take an active part in the conversation.

But European institutions must be ready to draw their own conclusions, that is, to review all the budgetary lines and policies so that they genuinely support the emergence of such shared visions. And when we look at the recent assessment of national recovery plans made by CAN Europe, there is no choice but to accept that the change has to be drastic since, for the time being, the projects they intend to support are a very long way from adopting a systemic, multi-sectoral and really transformative approach.

We will meet again on 21st April in the morning to discuss these points before we engage in multiple conversations about the #NewEuropeanBauhaus objective “Building beautiful, sustainable, inclusive places to live together after the pandemic”!