As part of Energy Cities’ inspirational day in Modena, on 18th October we invited city leaders on a journey to the fictional city of Thekla to discuss the challenges and opportunities of developing resource-wise policies. They talked about the future that they want to build for their cities and the possible paths to achieve it. They shared their visions of a sustainable future that should deliver well-being for all.
In its opening keynote, former EU Commissioner for the environment Janez Potočnik reminded local leaders that global material consumption is predicted to double by 2060. Stopping such a fast trajectory is a matter of survival. The debate in Thekla focused on resources and the need to reframe the discussion around needs, shifting from resource-ownership to resource-use: a person might need to use a car, but this does not necessarily imply the need for them to own one. Such discussions are already happening in some cities, but they need to be scaled up. A sufficiency-based approach to resources would allow us to redefine prosperity and foster well-being for all. Cities are at the heart of such change as they have a high degree of autonomy in terms of governance. As said by the former Commissioner “If problems are concentrated in cities, the solutions are too!”.
In Thekla, local leaders shared their experiences of developing policies requesting less resource consumption. Three important messages emerged from the debates.
Shifting economies towards resource-wise models requires solid political narratives. The EU Green Deal helped strengthen such narratives, that already existed at the local level. However, local leaders called for more clarity around the EU long-term vision and expressed the need for guidance to ease the implementation of the Green Deal and to limit resource consumption. Faced with he complexity of EU regulations and funding mechanisms, local representatives asked the EU to go from a sector-based approach to a place-based approach. Such an integrated approach would better support local and regional authorities and allow decision-makers to pay attention to the side of demand when it comes to resource management. Echoing the presentation of Janez Potočnik, participants agreed on the need for a change in taxation policies at the EU level. Prices do not take into account negative externalities. We need to tax more what we no longer want – fossil fuels – and to tax less what we need the most to fast forward the sustainable transition.
This work was made possible thanks to the French Agency for the Ecological Transition (ADEME)