The Green Dimension Session - The EUKN-OECD Week of National Urban Policies

30 June, 2021


In this thematic session, the panellists from Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands presented their national urban policies related to the green dimension of the NLC. The panel also discussed the following questions:

  • What can we learn from spontaneous urban actions/coping strategies implemented during the COVID-19 crisis to accelerate our fight against the climate crisis (longer term)?
  • Has the pandemic affected how climate action and ‘green’ concerns are approached/advanced by your country’s NUP or equivalent instruments? In what way?
  • What is missing in the current NUPs? And how could future-looking strategies look like?
  • How can we make sure NUPs support local capacities/capacity-building?
  • How can we reconcile the ‘green’ and ‘just’ dimension of cities? Can you share any good practice from your country’s NUP?
  • In your NUPs’ experience, are these areas mutually reinforcing/compatible or can one undermine the other? Can we observe any dilemmas? How do you approach them?
  • How can we downsize the doughnut economic model to respect planetary boundaries, while ensuring cities are ‘productive’?

Key take-aways:

1. National government as a connector and overseer: the role of national governments should be to synchronise and create connections and interfaces – thematically between different dimensions (social and economic), horizontally between different ministries and vertically between national and local level governmental institutions.

2. The importance of activating and involving the local level: co-creation, capacity-building and responding to the needs of local stakeholders is key to implementing transition. Communities can be activated through collective, creative actions.

3. Cities should go back to being manufacturing hubs for circularity: to become more genuinely circular, cities should transition towards being not only centres of consumption, but also of production.

4. We need to improve green data: for example, we need data on the benefits of trees for cities to inform policies for urban forestry. Platforms for data visualisation and interpretation are vital – data collection alone is not enough, as municipalities need to be able to interpret and use it.

5. Cooperation between cities (national and international) for knowledge exchange and guidance can be extremely helpful. National governments should facilitate this.

6. Green urban policy guidelines should be place-based (adaptable to context).

7. Regulatory barriers need to be removed, when outdated and blocking change, for example for local energy production.

8. We need to build a lobby for climate change: not everyone (the public and policymakers alike) is aware of the urgency of the climate crisis and the power of the individual (personally and professionally) to bring about change. We need a language to explain and understand how climate change affects people and their families. And we need to build and spread knowledge about the intersection between urban policy and climate policy: the awareness of the link between covid and environmental issues is not as obvious to everyone as it could be, for example.

9. We need to focus on climate change mitigation, not just adaptation: we don’t just need to prepare for more heat, for example, we need to actually stop using fossil fuels for energy production.

10. We need to move beyond an economic growth mindset: NUPs should provide a framework for cities to move towards diverse, degrowth-focused, genuinely circular economies in which the wellbeing of people and the planet is prioritised, and reproductive/creative “labour” is valued just as much as productive labour.

Read more about the EUKN-OECD Week of National Urban Policies here