In June, city administrators, businesses and investors came together in Helsingborg, southern Sweden, in celebration of Climate Impact Day to discuss climate-neutral and smart cities. The outcome was crystal clear: we have to act now. And we have to act together, as climate change seriously impacts life on Earth. The event clearly showed governments are eager to tackle the complex nature of climate change.
Encouraging climate-neutral dialogue
Torrential rains in China. Wildfires raging in Peru. Sweltering heatwaves in Japan. These are only a few of the past weeks’ extreme weather conditions across the globe. But they serve as a clear reminder that the climate crisis affects us all.
Cities account for more than 70% of the world’s CO2 emissions. And at the same time are considered the main actors striving for climate-neutrality. That’s why the European Commission launched the EU Mission to realise 100 climate-neutral and smart cities. But cities cannot do the job alone. Collaboration is needed between governments, innovators and public and private investors in order to scale-up solutions and speed up the transition to climate-neutrality.
On 15 and 16 June 2022, Cleantech Scandinavia hosted, in collaboration with supporting partners, such as the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, BABLE and VINNOVA, an event highlighting City Climate Impact Day during the H22 city expo in Helsingborg, Sweden. During this event, investors from all over Europe came together with companies and city governments to share insights in future-proof, climate-neutral cities.
The cities at the heart of climate transformations
Cities themselves can have huge influence on whether or not climate-neutral targets are met. Responsible for climate action planning, defining goals and targets, and engaging their citizens, local city governments also carry the power, or burden, to implement innovative solutions that arise from different markets. This is a new, exciting and yet immensely important task unlike any other city administrators have faced before.
Local governments and business can make the change
While city administrators may have the ability to implement innovative solutions, it´s up to the industrial actors to bring technologies to the table, and convince public and private investors to get their innovations off the ground. By proposing sustainable business models and functional financial mechanisms that can scale-up climate-neutral city solutions, business and government can jointly create long-term impact. An approach the Netherlands strongly believes in.
According to a deputy of the Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), “banks should offer a discount or a premium for loans concerning sustainability. Also, financial institutions have to build trust with the cities.”
Several speakers at the event voiced similar opinions : “the climate city investment plan should be based on a long-term vision and should involve multistakeholder participation to mobilise capital from both the private and public sector.” They also highlighted the importance in appointing a leader to ensure the investment plans be carried out, such as a mayor for example.
A space for interesting dialogue
Helsingborg 22 provided room for other fruitful discussions on the future of our cities. Important lessons can be drawn from Olga Kordas, director of Viable Cities, a Swedish innovation platform that supports 23 Swedish cities, and the EU Mission Board Member, Julio Lumbreras. They believe in order to reach climate-neutrality, cities should adopt a portfolio approach in the form of an investment plan rather than develop a climate action plan. Moreover, cities should increase their commitment and involve their citizens from beginning to end in their climate plans.
What’s next for smart, climate-neutral cities?
From 15 to 17 November, the Smart City Expo World Congress takes place in Barcelona. City representatives, companies, national governments and other organisations will meet to discuss the future of cities in terms of climate-neutrality and intelligent developments. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency will also organise a dedicated trade mission to the event.
Do you have a great idea that contributes to this wider mission? Join us as we continue the dialogue on smart, sustainable cities. Find out how to get involved by contacting the Climate Neutral and Smart Cities Hub at the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.