Differdange, carbon neutral city in 2030?

One hundred cities have been selected to take part in the EU’s Cities Mission, which aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. In Luxembourg, Differdange was selected.

The hundred cities that will be part of the EU’s Carbon Neutral and Smart Cities mission, which aims to make these cities carbon neutral and connected by 2030, were unveiled on Thursday. In Luxembourg, Differdange was elected. The mission will also serve as a testing ground for widespread neutrality by 2050, as envisioned in Europe’s Green Deal.

Last year the Commission launched a call for expressions of interest to cities. No fewer than 377 cities applied to take part in the mission. First, independent experts assessed the applications, which had to present the current situation of the community, the work in progress, as well as its ambitions and plans to achieve carbon neutrality.

Criteria making it possible to ensure geographical balance as well as the diversity of characteristics made it possible in a second stage to select the remaining hundred cities – at least one city per Member State as well as 12 cities from eight associated countries (United Kingdom, Israel , Albania etc.).

“Different cities were chosen: ‘avant-garde’ cities; certain major cities with the potential to achieve a greater carbon neutrality impact; Some cities with innovative ideas on how to implement the digital or smart dimension of the mission, etc. We took cities in the north, in the south, of different sizes… This diversity is essential to pave the way for each city to be carbon neutral by 2050 to be. It wasn’t a question of picking ‘the best’ or the best performers – that’s the objective,” explained a senior EC official.

In fact, capital cities like metropolitan and even a region (Brussels) as well as medium-sized cities were chosen to be part of the mission. The selected European cities bring together 12% of European citizens. “75% of EU citizens live in our urban areas. Globally, urban areas consume more than 65% of the energy generated, which is responsible for more than 70% of CO emissions2. Therefore, it is important that these cities act as ecosystems of experimentation and innovation to help everyone else make the transition to carbon neutrality by 2050,” the senior official added.

“Climate City Contract”

The 100 selected cities must now develop “Climate City Contracts” (CCCs), which contain a comprehensive plan for climate neutrality in all sectors such as energy, buildings, waste management and transport, as well as associated investment plans.

The process will involve citizens, research institutions and the private sector. “These contracts are not legally binding, it’s more about rewarding an ambition. For example, if cities are too industrialized, it may be possible to exclude the industrial area in question from the plan, but the city must create another plan that indicates when that area can achieve carbon neutrality,” another DIES official specified. “However, these contracts will represent a clear and highly visible political commitment to the EU, regional authorities and citizens,” he stressed.

To achieve these ambitions, a platform will offer cities advice and tailored technical support, additional financing solutions and the opportunity to participate in large-scale innovation actions and pilot projects. However, cities that have not been selected can also benefit from support and funding opportunities. The platform is managed by NetZeroCities, a consortium of climate organizations.

“We will not provide direct funds,” said the same official. “It’s about helping to develop a strategy. The mission also provides opportunities for networking, sharing best practices between cities and supporting citizen involvement in the mission.”

Tatyana Salwan

Europe skyline

The so-called “Cities” mission is one of the five missions of the research and innovation program “Horizon Europe” for the years 2021-2027. The other four missions are: climate change adaptation; Cancer ; health of the oceans, seas, coastal and continental waters; soil health and nutrition. The overall program is endowed with 360 million euros for the period 2021-2023.

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