17 November 2022

The Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) Mayors Forum gathered Mayors, high-level political representatives and City Leaders, in Barcelona as part of the Smart City Expo World Congress, on 15-16 November.

The first day of this event aimed to refocus the political direction and assess the progress of the cities’ Local Green Deals, as integrated, multi-level, cross-disciplinary action plans to orchestrate the green and digital transition. Mayors shared ideas on how to bring the cities’ vision into tangible action.

Valentina Superti, Director of Tourism & Proximity at DG GROW, European Commission, set the scene for cities and local economies as brokers of the green and digital transition: European policies and regulations, Local Green Deals and Local Skills Partnerships are crucial to make cities a true engine of change, while the European Commission has launched a variety of initiatives to help cities fulfil these ambitions. She also invited Mayors to bring support to Ukraine for the upcoming winter months through Ukraine Support Activities, developed by the European Commission.

Cities and local players were called upon to collaborate and move towards sustainability, digitalisation and resilience during the volatile times seen across the world by Laia Bonet, Deputy Mayor of Barcelona.

“Cities should better pursue innovation rather than simply replicating best practices.” This was the key message from Prof. Carlo Ratti, Director at MIT Senseable City Laboratory and ICC advisory board member. In his interesting insights, Professor Ratti shared the award-winning Helsinki’s Hot Heart project that used a creative Net Zero Carbon approach for the heating of Helsinki. He also highlighted the value of data for making informed decisions about city management, as well as the increasing importance of sharing mobility.

Fireside chat: how to bring the cities’ vision into tangible action.

Local Green Deals is not only a way to host collaboration between many key stakeholders, citizens and entrepreneurs but it is also a step towards being a Climate Neutral City according to Marja Ruigrok, Vice-Mayor of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area.

After looking for inspiration from its Dutch neighbours, Mechelen has signed the Flemish Green Deal for Shared Mobility with the aim to accelerate shared mobility. Not only has the city seen an increase in bike use, but it also now has 230 shared cars and expecting to reach the target of 2000 shared cars by 2030, a fact that Alexander Vandersmissen the Mayor of the City of Mechelen proudly shared.

Whilst the “permacrisis” has forced cities to confront difficult situations, it has also allowed them to act quicker. Filipe Araújo, Vice Mayor of Porto shared that some of the city’s key achievements, such as the impressive reduction of energy consumption, would not have happened without the current energy crisis.  

After teaming up with the city of Athens in 2015, Vari Voula Vouliagmeni developed a Local Green Deal which has been closely followed by the cities until today. Grigoris Konstantellos, Mayor of Vari Voula Vouliagmeni, stressed that the collaboration with citizens, local businesses and stakeholders was a must.

While citizens’ consultations are often the very first step used to develop any new project in a city, city Mayors need to be grounded in reality and make brave, forward looking decisions, observed Ivica Puljak, Mayor of the City of Split, while discussing Split’s bike paths and waste management systems.

“Should every city have a Local Green Deal?”

Several roundtable discussions tackled this crucial question. Cities shared their experiences and suggestions on how to develop Local Green Deals together with their local businesses to address key societal challenges.

Mayors and political representatives unanimously affirmed that “every city should want to have a Local Green Deal”. However, in order to be effective, this should be designed and implemented together with citizens, civil society, local businesses and industry, knowledge institutes and utilities, and receive adequate financial and human resources.

According to the cities, Local Green Deals should be:

  • Realistic by setting measurable goals and monitoring these
  • Citizen-centric by offering citizens a range of concrete choices and encouraging their cooperation and engagement
  • Co-created and governed by a range of different stakeholders such as local businesses, industry, knowledge institutes, and public utilities throughout the process
  • Tailor-made by adjusting to each city’s specific needs and context
  • Accessible by making the political ambition and vision clear to citizens and communicate this well publicly
  • Technology-powered, by integrating technological solutions to address the big city challenges

What are your suggestions on how ICC and the European Commission can support your cities?”

Different roundtables discussed ways the ICC initiative and the European Commission can be more helpful for the cities. The cities spotted the development of partnerships with local businesses, other stakeholders and other cities and programmes as an area where they need targeted advice and support. This take takes time, and cities reported the lack of capacity and human resources.

A second topic that could be improved is related to the sharing of information. The cities suggested developing a tool to share best practices from the other cities in the initiative but also for the European Commission to share their methodology on the shift from pilot to implementation, for instance. These contents could be gathered in an application including translation in all the cities languages.

The final subject discussed during this roundtable session concerned the financing aspect of the initiative. The cities felt the European Commission could be of more help in getting access to funding from the private sector.

The ICC cities’ achievements were presented by Nikos Maroulis, ICC Project Director at Technopolis Group Belgium. In a nutshell:

  • 136 concrete strategies were developed across Europe with action plans to aim at the transformation in four different areas: greening, innovation, industry, and digital transformation.
  • 42 ICC cities develop Local Green Deals,
  • 336 actions planned by 120 core cities
  • 560 local and international events showcasing the cities’ engagement in ICC.

It was confirmed that the second phase of the initiative, which is due to start in December 2022, will also be dedicated to strengthening the existing network of cities as well as further expand it with the integration of new cities and new ideas.

“The ICC cities are at the forefront of innovation and transformation. You are not only an engine of innovation, but you are determined to be the embodiment of that innovation.” - Valentina Superti praised the cities in her concluding remarks, reflecting about the cities’ impressive projects and highlighting the alignment between the cities’ visions and the policy-objectives of the European Commission.

Day 1 Group Photo


You can find the slides presented during day 1 of the ICC Conference here.