Madrid, Amsterdam and Milan: Three cities putting citizen participation at the heart of climate action

The Extinction Rebellion or Fridays for Future global actions have shown that citizens around the world want to have a say in climate decisions. For EIT Climate-KIC, it is of paramount importance to create the links between decision-makers and the public around climate action. Citizen engagement is therefore at the heart of our Deep Demonstrations programme, our large-scale projects to catalyse fast decarbonisation and drive adaptation and resilience in the context of climate urgency and radical uncertainty.

Speaking at a workshop with representatives from Milan, Amsterdam and Madrid at the EU Week of Regions and Cities on October 20, Kirsten Dunlop, CEO of EIT Climate-KIC said: “There are different forms of decision-making necessary for engaging citizens, and proximity matters. Not everything affects everyone, and change can start at a street-level or a district-level”. What’s important, she added, is that we learn from citizens who are experiencing their city and neighbourhood every day and are the best advocate to make it a better and more inclusive place in which to live.

The session was hosted by EIT Climate-KIC and the Democratic Society and aimed to share the experiences of these three cities engaged in the Deep Demonstration programme with about 70 participants.

Health and wellbeing at the core of Madrid’s energy transition

Madrid is one of 15 cities in Europe working with EIT Climate-KIC to accelerate their transition towards carbon neutrality and climate resilience. The Deep Demonstration Healthy, Clean Cities applies a multi-actor engagement process to deepen and accelerate the city’s climate action plans and projects. Madrid acknowledges citizen participation in urban planning as a way of having valuable input in processes and urban regeneration. In 2015, the city opened Decide Madrid, an online platform to engage local communities in the governance to drive the re-creation of their city. Through the platform, citizens can propose and support ideas for new legislation affecting them and comment and vote for any legislative text introduced by the council.

Working with EIT Climate-KIC on sustainable mobility as part of the Deep Demonstration programme, the Spanish capital is also working on reducing rush hour traffic. The city-wide plan connects councils, companies, universities, trade unions, citizens and many other city actors and organisations whose decisions and actions have an impact on the transport system. This involves telework and the distribution of trips more evenly to avoid peaks. Such improvements can also have an impact on the population’s health and wellbeing as they can help reduce infection rates during a pandemic like the one we’re experiencing today.

“The business case for the energy transition in Madrid supported by EIT Climate-KIC has revealed that most of the decarbonisation levers have a positive economic outcome for the city due to energy savings, job creation or health improvement,” says Santiago Saura, Councillor for International Affairs and Cooperation of the Madrid City Council. He found this to be a compelling argument to engage more and more citizens in support of acceleration towards decarbonisation and climate action.

In Amsterdam, citizens ask their government to act on climate

Further north in Europe, the city of Amsterdam, which is already considered a healthy, prosperous, green and sustainable place to live, has also committed to engage citizens in its transition to becoming a climate-neutral city. Its goals: to eliminate its dependence on coal, oil and gas, and reach 55% fewer emissions in 2030 and 95% fewer emissions in 2050, compared to 1990. Its plan to action: a roadmap, the “Routekaart Amsterdam Klimaatneutraal 2050” (Roadmap Amsterdam Climate Neutral 2050), which describes the city’s ambition, long term vision as well as proposed actions for the short term. In addition to policymakers, a total of 1,000 stakeholders have participated and signed the agreement. The city now intends to work closely with residents, businesses and organisations to experiment, collect data, evaluate, and learn during this complex process.

The municipality is also carrying out simultaneous buildings renovations and energy updates to make sure houses and offices are ready to overcome the challenges of the next decades. This “deep retrofit of future-proof housing” as it is referred to, requires the involvement of many actors and EIT Climate-KIC is helping to facilitate co-creation between these partners through the Deep Demonstration of Healthy, Clean Cities programme.

“Citizens are taking the initiative to renovate their own homes and cooperating to form local energy cooperatives,” says Jan Duffhues, Innovation Strategist at the city of Amsterdam. “This requires a different kind of government, who does not ask the citizen to participate but is asked by citizens to make their plans possible. The Deep Demonstration programme is helping us to find ways on how to do this, using a systems perspective while at the same time moving forward with actual renovations in various neighbourhoods.”

Games and apps encourage Milanese to participate in the city’s transition

In Milan, one of the main issues for the city is to tackle air pollution. In 2019, the Italian city signed the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration along 34 other major cities around the world. By signing the Declaration, the mayors recognised that breathing clean air is a human right and commit to work together to form an unparalleled global coalition for clean air. Today, the city is working on its Air and Climate Plan (ACP) and targets carbon neutrality by 2050. One of the five interconnected areas of work of the ACP is a commitment to citizen engagement.

Milan is now working with EIT Climate-KIC on the so-called Merezzate+ project, where a community App was developed to allow users to manage shared spaces and services within a housing complex situated on what used to be a neglected polluted industrial site. This place-based, city-wide, residentially led experiment aims to demonstrate how to transform Milan into a sustainable, climate-resilient city, by catalysing change one district at a time. The city is also working on behaviour change campaigns using apps and gamification activities to encourage people to take public transport while collecting data for policymaking. They are also organising citizen training and learning events to overcome the digital and ecological divides in the population.

In each of these examples, the Deep Demonstration programme is proving that the cities’ decarbonisation work delivers positive economic and health impacts, in addition to the climate impacts. These results are also helping to drive citizen engagement and support for a rapid decarbonisation, and to build the narrative and social support needed for climate action.

 
Location
Related Focus Area
Urban Transitions
Related Goal
Goal 3: Accelerate clean urban mobility
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC selects five partners in Global South to implement gender main...

The intersection of climate and innovation remains a male-dominated...

EIT Climate-KIC selects five partners in Global South to implement gender mainstreaming into entrepreneurship
In The News
Citizens inspire a car-free Leuven

A broad survey, possible solutions displayed on screens, inspirational...

Citizens inspire a car-free Leuven
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC accelerates climate tech solutions for a net-zero Africa 

Climate-focused start-up teams in developing countries face distinct challenges...

EIT Climate-KIC accelerates climate tech solutions for a net-zero Africa 
In The News
New European Bauhaus Hackathons will reward most innovative solutions

EIT Community New European Bauhaus partners will be hosting...

New European Bauhaus Hackathons will reward most innovative solutions
In The News
Slovenia takes a pivotal turn towards circularity

Slovenia has decided to actively combat climate change by...

Slovenia takes a pivotal turn towards circularity
In The News
Innovative climate projects part of EIT Community New European Bauhaus initiat...

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

Innovative climate projects part of EIT Community New European Bauhaus initiative
In The News
A new air and climate plan for Milan

The City Council of Milan approved the Air and...

A new air and climate plan for Milan
In The News
Meet the three EIT Climate-KIC innovators nominated for EIT Awards

Three innovators from EIT Climate-KIC’s community have been nominated...

Meet the three EIT Climate-KIC innovators nominated for EIT Awards
In The News
100 European cities take up the challenge to become carbon neutral by 2030

On Monday 13 June, the representatives of the 100...

100 European cities take up the challenge to become carbon neutral by 2030
In The News
The role of cities and regions in transforming wood value chains

Climate smart forest economies It’s a crucial decade for...

The role of cities and regions in transforming wood value chains
In The News
Glasgow City Region pioneering forest economy innovation to drive climate acti...

Scotland’s largest city region is actively tackling climate change...

Glasgow City Region pioneering forest economy innovation to drive climate action
In The News
Forging sustainable timber construction in Europe

EIT Climate-KIC and Built by Nature, announce an initiative...

Forging sustainable timber construction in Europe
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC launches new Circularity Thinking training programme

EIT Climate-KIC is launching Circularity Thinking courses to tackle...

EIT Climate-KIC launches new Circularity Thinking training programme
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC announces four winners of EIT Community Booster

EIT Climate-KIC selected four cleantech start-ups to be part...

EIT Climate-KIC announces four winners of EIT Community Booster
In The News
Science reveals last paths to stop irreversible planetary damage

Climate change is going to get worse, but curbing global warming is...

Science reveals last paths to stop irreversible planetary damage
In The News
EIT Community presents New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards winners

Supported by the EIT Community, the New European Bauhaus...

EIT Community presents New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards winners
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC joins forces with the Government of Ireland to stimulate clima...

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Marine of...

EIT Climate-KIC joins forces with the Government of Ireland to stimulate climate innovation in the agri-food sector
In The News
Climate Lab: EIT Climate-KIC co-initiates hotspot for Vienna’s climate ambit...

Climate Lab in Vienna will give climate actors an...

Climate Lab: EIT Climate-KIC co-initiates hotspot for Vienna’s climate ambitions
In The News
Seven takeaways from the latest IPCC report

On 28 February, the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6)...

Seven takeaways from the latest IPCC report
In The News
EIT launches new Global Outreach website

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

EIT launches new Global Outreach website
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC and Amazon launch call for sustainable start-ups

Working on transformative, systemic innovation to accelerate a net-zero...

EIT Climate-KIC and Amazon launch call for sustainable start-ups
In The News
Votes open for the 2021 New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards – Audience Awar...

Do you want to support innovative solutions that integrate...

Votes open for the 2021 New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards – Audience Award
In The News
Brill Power’s new innovation radically increases battery life and storag...

Brill Power, supported by EIT Climate-KIC, has launched the...

Brill Power’s new innovation radically increases battery life and storage capacity
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop gives TEDx Talk

EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop delivered a talk,...

EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop gives TEDx Talk
In The News
Putting theory into practice: EIT Climate-KIC Pioneer innovating the Greek mar...

To tackle complex climate challenges, we need a broader...

Putting theory into practice: EIT Climate-KIC Pioneer innovating the Greek maritime sector
In The News
EIT launches call for proposals to boost innovation in Higher Education Instit...

Unlocking the potential of higher education institutions for innovation...

EIT launches call for proposals to boost innovation in Higher Education Institutions
In The News
The Dolomites forging climate resilience

The Italian Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are...

The Dolomites forging climate resilience
In The News
People-powered resilience: Andalusia announces new climate action plan

The region’s climate action plan has been announced, with...

People-powered resilience: Andalusia announces new climate action plan
In The News
Built by Nature: new initiative to accelerate the transition to sustainable co...

The built environment accounts for close to 40 per...

Built by Nature: new initiative to accelerate the transition to sustainable construction in cities
In The News
The State of California and EIT Climate-KIC advance partnership for climate in...

Glasgow, 8 November – The California Governor’s Office of...

The State of California and EIT Climate-KIC advance partnership for climate innovation