European mayors: what is the role of cities in the fight against climate change?

What is the role of cities in the fight against climate change? How can cities affect the improvement of their citizens’ quality of life? How is the Green Deal «localised» throughout European cities? How can cities accelerate a sustainable and inclusive transformation?

These are just some of the questions that European mayors tried to answer during Mayors Alliance panel session at COP26, UN’s climate change conference which takes place in Glasgow until November 12.

The panel was attended by mayor of Zagreb Tomislav Tomašević, mayor of Budapest Gergely Karácsony, president of Lyon Metropole Bruno Bernard and deputy mayor of Oslo Sirin Hellvin Stav.

During the introduction, deputy mayor of Oslo Sirin Hellvin Stav emphasized: “People are at the centre of the climate issue. We have to make it easy for our citizens to be part of the solution».

Mayor of Zagreb Tomislav Tomašević presented the current situation in the capital of Croatia and pointed out  the development of photovoltaic solar panels installation which will be offered to all the citizens.

Another way of fighting the climate change in Zagreb is their very affordable and decarbonizing public transport which is even completely free of charge for the most vulnerable citizens.

«Our target is to have all the buses with zero emissions by 2035», stated mayor Tomašević.

Talking about obstacles, mayor Tomašević said: «There is a big challenge for Zagreb in terms of cars. The city has 800,000 inhabitants and 400,000 registered vehicles.»

He explained that his policy is to be a role model for citizens and that he cycles to work: «I rode the bike on my first day at job (as mayor) and that became major news. A lot of people said it is just PR, and that it won’t last long. But I’m still doing it. I’m sending a message: this is the behaviour I would to see from others.»

President of Lyon Metropole Bruno Bernard referred to social justice as one of the most important part in fighting the climate crisis: for example, the city has invested in their tram network which now reaches the poorer areas of the city as well. 50,000 most vulnerable citizens do not have to pay the public transport in the city. He stated: «We have to convince the population that it is better to leave the car and go around by foot, on bikes or use the public transport.»

«There is no fight against climate crisis without cities», declared mayor of Budapest Budapest Gergely Karácsony. The mayor added they are securing social and fair climate transition so that nobody gets left behind.

«Housing costs have increased dramatically in the last couple of years», said mayor Karácsony.

Now, their goal is to link the social justice and climate action and to offer the opportunity for people who had to move from Budapest to outskirts and other cities to be able to return to the capital and to pay lower costs.

Furthermore, deputy mayor of Oslo Sirin Hellvin Stav explained that healthy and plant based food also affects on climate change and is very important in the process of reaching cities’ goals. Mayor of Lyon strongly agrees and supports «0-kilometres food system», meaning the produced food should be for local area and not for export.