Sufficiency, the key to achieving a climate-neutral EU

How the implementation of sufficiency measures at a local level can make cities, and therefore Europe, future-proof


Publication date

January 17, 2024

Do we really need to drive an SUV to travel for 5 km? Maybe – depending on where we live – we can bike, take a bus, or use a smaller, better if electric, car.

Do we really need to waste that much energy, water, and food? Maybe, we can consume just what is truly needed.

In a world where climate, financial, energy, and resource-related crises are occurring with increasing frequency and greater intensity, the mobilization of sufficiency has become more relevant. If it’s true that sufficiency implies a behavioural change in our daily lives, it’s first of all needed that all governmental levels take sufficiency into account when setting the agenda towards climate neutrality. Indeed, the potential of structural sufficiency policies, capable of transforming society enough to use only the necessary resources, is largely untapped in Europe.  

Citizens’ well-being and a resource-wise approach: the benefits of adopting a sufficiency agenda

The energy crisis, worsened by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, has highlighted how sufficiency policies were not only easy and low-cost to implement, but also highly beneficial and effective. Initiatives like the Covenant of Mayors’ Cities Energy Savings Sprint showed how cities, at the forefront of crises, can rapidly implement measures that reduce the use of resources. Despite several policymakers being afraid that sufficiency measures would not be feasible and make them unpopular, local authorities in various countries (e.g. France, Finland, or Austria) are proving that sufficiency-based policies lead to greater resilience, higher quality of life, and safer paths to meet climate goals

Cities are undergoing an important transformation to deliver public services and shape the urban space with a sufficiency approach, especially to answer resource scarcity. Inspiring, concrete examples of sufficiency implementation at a local level are reported in our latest paper Sufficiency: the missing pillar for a resource-wise Europe. If Flensburg (Germany) decided to address the growing demand for affordable and efficient housing by transforming the area of the old harbour into a new sufficient neighbourhood, Tampere (Finland) is introducing innovative public procurement schemes to implement circular economy principles in building, while Grenoble (France) is rethinking its public services in collaboration with citizens.

Sufficiency is not only possible but also desirable

Respecting planetary boundaries to secure our future on Earth is our only option. Sufficiency is a pragmatic response to the scarcity and poor distribution of resources that Europe already faces and will have to confront even more in the coming years. The recently published Clever Scenario shows that carbon neutrality by 2045 and a reduction of 55% of our final energy consumption is possible if we carry out strong cross-sectorial sufficiency policies.

Cities are the first level affected by climate-related challenges. The time to act is now. Despite their ambitions, they cannot make it alone. For instance, they need funds and skilled staff. They need the support of the Member States and the European Union to accelerate a socially just transition towards climate neutrality. Not only local authorities but also citizens are ready, as a study conducted by the junior research group “ENSU” shows by comparing mitigation policy recommendations formulated by citizen assemblies, in ten countries, with the ones written in NECPs. According to the authors, 39% of citizen assemblies’ policy recommendations include sufficiency, which is a great deal more than the NECPs.

Energy Cities calls on both the new European Parliament and Commission to put sufficiency into action at the European level for the period 2024-2029, to ensure social justice while respecting planetary boundaries and reinforcing the EU’s resilience.  

Read the full paper here!

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