City needs, drivers and barriers in the journey towards climate neutrality
06 May 2022
European countries have committed to the European Green Deal, pledging to reduce emissions by 55 percent by 2030. Since 75 percent of emissions are generated in cities, they are central to meeting these targets. The European Commission has already selected 100 European cities (plus 12 additional cities from associated countries) to join its Mission on Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities. The cities will receive support from the NetZeroCities programme led by EIT Climate-KIC to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and achieve climate neutrality. NZC released the report City Needs, Drivers and Barriers Towards Climate Neutrality, a first step in helping cities achieve their goals.
The report compiles the experiences of 64 participating cities from 22 EU Member States and three associated countries in their efforts to reach climate neutrality. Through discussions with city representatives, the NetZeroCities (NZC) team analysed the reasons why a city would like to become climate neutral (drivers), the difficulties hindering the journey (barriers) and the components that an enabling environment should have (needs).
Policy and governance
The fragmentation of responsibilities within the municipal administration and the lack of appropriate coordination between administrative levels is one of the greatest barriers for municipalities to achieve their climate goals. The consulted cities indicated that they would need to implement a systemic approach and a new governance model, and secure reciprocal commitments at the European, national and regional levels. According to them, the Climate City Contract (a non-binding document that sets up the goals and targets, strategies and the roadmap for achieving the transition, while mapping out involved stakeholders and responsibilities) is one of the most interesting governance tools as it is also a long-term commitment that ensures cooperation between cities and other government levels.
- 47 percent of the cities identified fragmentation of responsibilities as a barrier (EC’s Mission EoI)
- 27 percent of the cities admitted a lack of available staff in implementing the Climate City Contract (EC’s Mission EoI)
Cities highlighted the disconnection between strategy development and concrete actions and expressed the need to scale up existing projects and initiatives to move from a project approach to a portfolio approach. They also pointed out the lack of human resources and the existence of cultural barriers as key challenges. The lack of knowledge about a solution often becomes a reason for not changing the ‘business as usual’, instead of being a driver to explore new opportunities.
Culture, social innovation, and participation
Cities are aware that engaging local communities is key to achieving climate neutrality, but communities can be averse to change and resist a move towards transition. Cities particularly struggle to effectively involve more vulnerable groups. Municipalities said they need tools, methods and best practices on engagement practices, and need to learn how to generate acceptance from citizens and other stakeholders.
- 31 percent of the cities engage vulnerable groups in climate change mitigation/emission reduction policy making (EC’s Mission EoI)
Finance and business models
The lack of funding and financing schemes is one of the most important barriers for cities to implement tangible climate action. This is due to high initial investment costs, regulatory and governance barriers, and a lack of know-how and expertise on climate finance and climate investments. Cities need a structured framework to assess funding alternatives and different financing options.
- 68 percent of the cities identified lack of funding/financing schemes as the biggest barrier to pursuing climate neutrality (EC’s Mission EoI)
Cities are eager to learn from one another and share tools, methods, experiences and best practices. Peer reviews, training by external experts and presentation of tools and methodologies used successfully by other cities are all helpful elements. There is also a need for frameworks to measure progress, outcomes and impact to evaluate policies after their implementation as well as the access to quality data and KPIs.
- 48 percent of the cities are in the process of analysing the co-benefits generated by their climate mitigation policies (EC’s Mission EoI)
This assessment is only the first step in an ongoing dialogue that NetZeroCities will establish with the cities throughout the duration of the project. To learn more about city needs, drivers and barriers in the journey towards climate neutrality, download the full NZC report here.
Please note the report is under review by the European Commission and has not yet been validated.
Read the report
Learn more about how EIT Climate-KIC is supporting the most ambitious challenge owners to reach near-impossible climate targets by visiting our COP27 landing page. And if you are interested to know more about the sessions that EIT Climate-KIC will participate or lead in during COP27, visit our dedicated activities page.