How to achieve resource-wise cities?

Mayors visiting the invisible city of Thekla shared their visions of sustainable future



Selma Guyon

Publication date

October 23, 2023

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.  

Learn more about the event here

It’s easy to drive without brakes, the problem is to stop  

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!”. 

Cities can create communities that foster the transition to a resources-wise society 

In Thekla, local leaders shared their experiences of developing policies requesting less resource consumption. Three important messages emerged from the debates.  

  1. Cities have the power to create a strong community between all kinds of stakeholders, from citizens to business companies. By empowering citizens, for instance through energy communities, and taking on the role of facilitator, municipalities have increased acceptance and support for the transition. 
  1. We need bold policies and unifying visions. Cities have tools at their disposal to encourage the emergence of new practices, such as public procurement. A representative of the Swedish city of Växjö shared their “procurement for innovation”: the city demands a sufficiency-based service that is not yet on the market, pushing private stakeholders to evolve their practices.  
  1. A message for national and European leaders: Cities need your support! Municipalities are lacking funding and staff as much as a legislative framework to develop and implement resource-wise policies. For instance, in the field of circular economy, they lack a definition and market opportunities for second-hand materials. 

From narratives to funding and taxation: the EU need a place-based approach 

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.  

Are you among the local leaders who could not make it to Modena? You traveled to Thekla and want to continue the discussion? We have good news for you: more opportunities await in Energy Cities Hubs!

This work was made possible thanks to the French Agency for the Ecological Transition (ADEME)