Three Presidencies for Climate – Think European, Act Local

Two cyclists

The European Union plans to be fossil-fuel independent by 2050. To make climate protection successful in Europe, decision-makers at all political levels must grapple with a variety of issues. What does the vision of a climate-neutral EU look like in concrete terms? Which measures make it possible to achieve this goal? How can different political levels effectively support each other and coordinate?

Cities and municipalities are at the forefront here, particularly when it comes to coming up with and taking the necessary action. Many cities have already declared a state of climate emergency in order to create new momentum for the goal of a climate-neutral city. The success of European climate policy now depends on how the EU handles the needs and potential at the local level.

For the trio EU presidency of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia (2020-2021), climate neutrality was high on the agenda, in line with the European Commission’s European Green Deal. The German federal government wanted to support the presidential trio: The project Three Presidencies for Climate: Think European – Act Local (Three4Climate) focussed on climate-neutral cities as well as coordination and cooperation between and across political levels. The goal was not only to anchor EU climate protection in politics, but also implement it locally and learn from that implementation. The project was part of the European Climate Initiative (EUKI) run by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). Closely linked to the political priorities of the trio EU Council presidency, the project offered an exchange platform for decision-makers at the municipal, national and EU levels. The dialogue and meeting formats incorporated schools and local stakeholders in order to offer a platform to those who wanted to share their knowledge and learn from others across national borders. For the first time, the EU Council presidency cooperated at both the national and local levels. EU institutions shared knowledge, ideas and experience with municipalities, schools and local initiatives in order to work towards the common goal.

adelphi was involved in three major components of the project. First, the horizontal exchange, in which adelphi directed activities for six cities with ambitious climate goals in close cooperation with local partner organizations in Germany, Slovenia and Portugal. In a series of meetings, representatives of the cities and selected schools discussed and designed options for linking climate protection with other local and regional development issues. Central to this are three study trips to deepen the discussion about climate protection. Participants learned about local projects and exchanged ideas with colleagues, experts and interest groups. Second, adelphi supported the design and implementation of the vertical dialogue between relevant decision-makers at the EU level and city representatives. The aim was to work out the role of cities in the European Green Deal and contribute local momentum to the conversation at the European level. Finally, adelphi directed the implementation of the final conference in Slovenia. Participants reflected on past issues and activities, strengthened networks, and discussed how to expand and further establish the coordination of local, national and European climate policies between implementation and the strategic framework conditions.