Representatives of more than sixty cities from Europe and around the Mediterranean coast gathered in Bornova, a district of Izmir, Turkey, to take part in the annual conference of Energy Cities, the European association of local authorities in energy transition.
Held on 1-3 June 2016, the meeting was an opportunity for scaling up further cooperation and action plans on how to implement at the local and regional level the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate, adopted last year.
The choice of Bornova as the 2016 venue of the conference is “a signal of an important political phase. We, as a European network, show that we are staying and working together for a common goal,” stated in his opening speech Eckart Würzner, mayor of Heidelberg, Germany, and president of Energy Cities.
His colleague heading the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality, Aziz Kocaoglu, emphasised the importance of making local authorities responsible for reducing pollution in their towns. “We understand that we need to take some action, but the international community should also act,” he stated, pointing to the most dangerous effect of global warming, which is the displacement of people due to natural disasters or starvation.
During the proceedings, participants shared ideas on how energy systems can be decentralised and how water supply systems can be transferred to a public service scheme, thus cutting household bills. Paris was among the cities that presented its remunicipalisation experience, in line with a growing trend in Europe.
Moreover, some innovative financing schemes to implement green action plans in municipalities were presented. One of them was “Infinite Solutions”: within this project the city of Stuttgart is setting up a public financial engineering service to support owners of residential buildings who wish to refurbish their homes to high energy efficiency standards.
Climate mitigation and adaptation were also important topics during the conference - France, Germany and Belgium were being affected by devastating floods as the meeting took place - with a focus on how prepared cities were to respond to natural disasters.
Lastly, delegates ran bazaars… This didn’t involve walking along the streets of Izmir, but rather attending workshops called bazaars, with small groups discussing various issues about “new urban governance”. Citizen engagement in sustainable urban strategies and “energy democracy” in cities, were also among the hot topics discussed.
The next annual Energy Cities conference will take place in Stuttgart, Germany, on 26-28 April 2017.
By Sorina Buzatu
14 June 2016