EU Mayors' Perspectives on Climate Change

by Ani Hakobyan and Zakaria Gati


On Wednesday, September 12, the Institute of European Studies (IES), along with the Goldman School of Public Policy and the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ISEEES) hosted a panel discussion on recent policy innovations European cities have adopted in response to climate change. Mayors from Heidelberg, Idanha-a-Nova, Oslo, Paris and Warsaw, who were in San Francisco to participate in California Governor Jerry Brown’s Global Climate Summit, discussed the work that their cities are doing to combat climate change and promote sustainability. IES Associate Director Dr. Akasemi Newsome opened the conversation, which was moderated by Sudha Shetty, Assistant Dean of Goldman School of Public Policy. There were 100 people in the audience.

The Deputy Mayor of Paris, Célia Blauel, spoke of the city’s goal to be carbon-neutral by 2050. Blauel, who has been in her role since 2014, also spoke about the importance of citizen mobilization to find solutions to problems such as the serious air pollution that Paris faces. Blauel emphasized the importance of including citizens in major environmental decisions and happily noted that thousands have signed up to volunteer against climate change.

The Mayor of Oslo, Raymond Johansen, who served as State Secretary of Norway from 2000-2001 and again between 2005 and 2009, shared incentives that residents of his city enjoy for driving electric cars, for instance. Johansen also mentioned the strict guidelines the municipality of 700,000 follows to be eco-friendly, including partnering with companies that focus on sustainability.

Eckart Würzner, Mayor of the German city of Heidelberg since 2006, spoke about the need to discuss all environmental issues with residents, the private sector, and the government so that policies can be efficiently created and implemented. Würzner stressed the importance for cities to have eco-friendly buildings. To create interest in this type of activity, the city of Heidelberg offers subsidies to schools and other organizations that cut back on energy spending. For example, the money that would otherwise be spent on energy in schools that make the switch to eco-friendly practices is instead redirected to scholastic needs, such as buying textbooks.

Professor Hanna Gronkiewicz, the Mayor of Warsaw, explained that economic growth in Poland has impacted the model of sustainability for the capital. She emphasized the great transition the city of Warsaw has made since the coal-based economy of 1991 and the end of the USSR. In only twenty years, the issues Warsaw faced have completely changed. She stressed the importance of the first sustainable climate plan introduced in 2011, aimed at the reduction of fossil energy use in transports and construction primarily.

Armindo Palma Jacinto, Mayor of the city of Idanha-a-Nova in eastern Portugal, gave insight on the problems faced by rural regions. The natural patrimony of this city has been listed in the world geoparque and biosphere by the UNESCO. However, the city is heavily impacted by climate change, desertification, and wildfires. In addition, in recent decades, the city’s population has plummeted. Idanha-a-Nova has implemented a sustainability policy to stop emigrations and incentivize rural innovation and economic development.

The event concluded with a lively Q&A on the role of the EU and national governments in supporting climate policy innovations. City leaders also discussed the potential for policy learning and sharing with cities in California.