More than 100 cities from all 27 EU Member States – and 12 cities from other countries – are on the road to achieving Climate Neutrality within the next 8 years. Peer to peer exchange and mutual learning between these ambitious cities are two of the most important elements driving the EU Mission for 100 climate-neutral and smart cities. To accelerate this exchange and enable all European cities to become climate-neutral, NetZeroCities has created two City Panels, already at the center of a dynamic test environment that is paving the way for the latest strategies in the movement towards climate neutrality.

Reaching beyond the selected Mission Cities, these cities represent diverse realities, but are united under one ambition – to tackle climate change and work with other cities along the way. City Panelists guide the development of different tools such as the NetZeroCities Online Portal or the Cities Mission Climate City Contract (or “CCC”), as well as innovative approaches to scale up climate action. There are two panels: first, the Practitioner Panel, includes municipal technical and administrative staff whose work relates to climate neutrality. The second Strategic Panel has brought in Mayors, Deputy Mayors, and other local officials responsible for making strategic decisions and guiding the local policy process on climate change mitigation.

More than 100 Panelists Test and Shape Key NetZeroCities Tools and Resources

The application to become a City Panelist launched in February 2022, followed by a kickoff meeting in late March that drew more than 70 participants. The selected City Panel representatives come from 25 countries across Europe, and include cities of all sizes, ranging from populations of less than 100,000 up to 1.5 million inhabitants. Before embarking on a brief summer break, the City Panels have convened a total of seven times, covering significant ground on topics central to the Cities Mission approach, from investment planning to replication of actions that will define cities’ journey toward climate neutrality.

The response to the application and to the early meetings of the panels has demonstrated the appeal of a space dedicated to collective problem-solving and sharing of approaches:

Climate change, in all its scope, has been part of [our city’s] agenda over the last few years. As a member of a City Panel, [our municipality] will have not only the opportunity to share its experience and expertise, but also, and not less important, the opportunity to learn from the know-how of its partners in responding to and resolving issues of a similar nature in an innovative way.

Starting from early on in the design phase, 138 City Panelists are already shaping and testing out NetZeroCities outputs – from governance innovation instruments like the Climate City Contract to the NetZeroCities Platform, where cities will be able to access services and knowledge useful for their transition to climate neutrality. This relationship with, and feedback from the members of the two panels is key to ensuring that all of the tools and resources delivered by NetZeroCities are useful, effective, and attentive to the needs of real communities and enable them to attain the 2030 target.

So far, the City Panels’ input has already clarified the importance of striking a balance between widely useful and locally tailored guidance, leading the way to actions that can address more specific challenges or barriers. This includes new NetZeroCities instruments and approaches being adaptable to existing institutions, structures, and norms; meaningfully tapping into what already guides the work being undertaken in cities. City Panelists from Turku, for example, shared their experiences around investment planning in the context of climate mitigation during a recent City Panel meeting – sparking a conversation about best practices when it comes to finance.

Panel participants also expressed interest in peer-to-peer learning spaces, as well as resources that can be found through refined search functions and useful content curation, in order to help stakeholders to find the information they need among NetZeroCities content. One participant noted:

Working daily on the facilitation and initiation of the climate transition, I fully support the objective of the Cities Mission. For me, the City Practitioner Panel is an opportunity to learn about and learn from the perspective of other cities. I want to make sure that the Mission platform is as effective and needs-based as it can be.

By consulting this wide array of city representatives, representing different areas of expertise and areas of influence, NetZeroCities can better support cities on their path to climate neutrality. All of this feedback has already impacted the approaches of NetZeroCities partners in crafting the tools and instruments that will support European cities along the way. And much like the transition to climate-neutral cities, the process of gathering input is far from over – City Panelists’ feedback is set to continue through further meetings that will pick up again this autumn.

Reach out with any questions about the NetZeroCities City Panels here: