On 13 June, NetZeroCities and the European Commission hosted the Let’s Go! Climate Neutral and Smart Cities Mission Kick-off, an event that brought together the 112 cities selected to participate in the Mission for 100 climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030, the European Commission ‘Climate Neutral and Smart Cities’ Mission team and the NetZeroCities consortium with the aim of facilitating contacts and experience sharing between cities, and introducing them to the services provided by NetZeroCities, the Mission Platform.

The spotlight event, organised at BluePoint in Brussels, kicked off with a video presenting the 112 Cities Mission and the challenge ahead, followed by a short video message from Frans Timmermans, Vice President of the European Commission, who congratulated the selected cities for leading the way on climate action and highlighted the importance of the Cities Mission for the just transition and the European Green Deal. “Cities are at the heart of our fight against the climate crisis. Greening urban spaces, tackling air pollution, reducing energy consumption in buildings, advancing clean transport…there are so many ways in which cities are the hubs of the changes and innovation we need for this transition”, said Timmermans.

The event was the first time representatives from the selected cities met each other in person to begin working on the ambitious target of reaching climate neutrality by 2030. According to Kirsten Dunlop, CEO of EIT Climate-KIC, a lot of imagination and collective effort will be needed to lead systemic change and change the way we do things at all levels. “The mission is not just about the ‘what’, but also the ‘how’. It’s about solid, thoughtful collaboration”, emphasised Dunlop.

Thomas Osdoba, NetZeroCities Programme Director at EIT Climate-KIC, and Matthew Baldwin, Deputy Director-General in the Directorate-General for Energy, presented the Mission City Journey. They both stressed the need for cities to learn from each other and to be open to new ways of tackling challenges. They also encouraged selected cities to benefit from the experience, knowledge and expertise brought by the 33 organisations that are part of NetZeroCities and reminded cities that were not selected to join the Cities Mission that they are also part of the climate neutrality journey as all EU cities are expected to follow suit by 2050.

The kick off event was also the occasion to introduce attendees to the recently appointed Climate Neutral and Smart Cities Mission Manager, Patrick Child. Child will replace Matthew Baldwin who is stepping down from the Cities Mission to work as Deputy-Director General for Energy to implement REPowerEU: a plan to rapidly reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels and fast forward the green transition.

NetZeroCities Climate City Contracts, that will include an overall plan for climate neutrality across sectors, were also presented to attendees by Marina Littek from ICLEI Europe and Olga Kordas from Viable Cities. The Climate City Contract will be a live document that will contain three interlinked elements: commitments, actions and investment. Selected cities will work with NetZeroCities, citizens and stakeholders to cocreate these Climate City Contracts that will constitute a political commitment to the EU, national governments, regional authorities and citizens.

The kick-off event was also the occasion for NetZeroCities to announce the launch for Pilot Cities that will open on 5 September. In the upcoming weeks a Pilot Cities Guidebook will be released to support cities in preparing proposals for submission to the call. Call Guidelines will also be published on the NZC website, on the Mission Portal and on the EU Funding and Tenders Portal. Selected pilot cities will be announced in February 2023.

In the afternoon, the event featured the ‘Mission City Lounge Session’ that consisted of  facilitated table discussions and activities to encourage interaction between cities, allowing them to have “radically honest” conversations around topics such as co-benefits, working with citizens and overcoming internal challenges. 

The event also provided many networking opportunities between different cities, Cities Mission representatives and NetZeroCities partners, and gave them the opportunity to exchange on Mission-critical concepts and ideas. Seven information stations were set up for participants to be able to discuss and ask questions about different topics, such as: the Climate City Contract, acting and financing the Mission, the City Advisors’ role, systemic change for climate-neutral cities, measuring, evaluating and applying what matters the most for climate-neutrality, using the Mission platform, and the NetZeroCities Pilot Cities programme.

Attendees also benefited from presentations on other initiatives linked to the Mission, such as the International Branch Mission Innovation, presented by Rosalinde Van Der Vlies, Director – Clean Planet, European Commission;  the New European Bauhaus, presented by Xavier Troussard, Head of the New European Bauhaus Unit at the Joint Research Centre, and REPowerEU, presented by Matthew Baldwin, Deputy Director-General in the Directorate-General for Energy.

Event pictures are available here. If you were not able to attend, you can watch the recording on NZC YouTube channel: part 1 & part 2.

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