Almost 70% of the European population lives in urban areas, and these areas account for about 80 % of energy use and generate up to 85 % of Union’s GDP. But they are also facing persistent problems such as unemployment, segregation and poverty, as well as severe environmental pressures. Cities have a key role to play in addressing the climate challenge.
Whilst being based on the new EU Territorial Strategy 2030, the EU Member States adopted the “New Leipzig Charter” at the end of 2020 which focuses on the transformative power of Cities for the common good. It calls for cities to have a stronger role in decision making at both national and EU level, to receive adequate financial means to deal with new and essential competencies, and sets a framework for how urban development should take place in Europe across the different layers of governance.
New Leipzig Charter helps to refocus on the linkages between urban governments and other levels of governance in polycentric urban systems. It also provides an urban policy framework to deliver global and European agreements such as the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement, the Urban Agenda and the European Green Deal. It particularly highlights the need for good urban governance which is necessary to help all Cities develop just, green and productive urban systems which represent three fundamental dimensions of European Cities.
Since the strong support of the European Union (EU) and its Member States of the New Urban Agenda (2016) policies in favour of sustainable development of urban areas have become of primary importance. It is increasingly clear that the various challenges that arise in urban areas, whether economic, environmental, climatic, social or demographic, are intertwined and that the success of urban development can only be envisaged through an integrated approach.
Through the implementation of the Urban Agenda, EU focuses on three pillars of policy making and implementation:
- Better legislation,
- Better funding programmes and
- Shared knowledge.
The New Leipzig Chapter as the key strategic document of the EU Urban Agenda from December 2020 sees the future of urban areas as not only “places of densely arranged built structures” but places which “also enable cultural, social, ecological and economic interaction”. This new perspective brings a unique opportunity to rethink urban models in the EU. It is a new approach of the general interest aimed at ensuring the sustainability of societies, economies and ecosystems in the EU.
The New Leipzig Charter aspires not only for harmonized coordination of measures implemented at all three spatial levels of European cities (neighbourhoods, local authorities and functional areas) to ensure coherence and to avoid inefficiency, but also sets out five key principles of the new EU urban strategy:
- Urban policy for the common good;
- Integrated approach;
- Participation and co-creation (“public participation is central to the successful delivery of a high quality built environment”);
- Multi-level governance; and
- Place-based approach.
The key topics of the EU Urban Agenda are as follows:
- Socio-cultural development. The aim is to meet human needs and meet a goal of social equity, by promoting the participation of all social groups in issues of health, housing, consumption, education, employment, culture and heritage, and inclusion of migrants, refugees and poorer parts of population in cities. Social cohesion and solidarity should be promoted between territories and between generations.
- Employment & Economic Commission plans to promote growth and economic efficiency in cities through sustainable and responsible production and consumption patterns. This should be fuelled in cities by introduction of circular economies, promotion of digital transition, ensuring urban mobility and accessibility and through creation of jobs and improvement of skills of its citizens.
- Environmentally Friendly Urban Planning & Development. According to the Commission, cities should preserve, improve and enhance its environment and natural resources over the long term, by maintaining major ecological balances, reducing risks and preventing environmental impacts in the cities by improving the air quality, promoting energy transitions and sustainable land-use and by making the cities more climate-adaptable and resilient.
- Institutions & Management of Cities. All the measures and strategies have to be done under a multi-level governance and should possess the characteristics of democracy, transparency and social equity. Public procurement has to be innovative and responsible.
The key 14 voluntary urban Thematic Partnerships under the EU Urban Agenda so far are as follows:
- Inclusion of Migrants and Refugees (2017)
- Air Quality (2017)
- Housing (2018)
- Urban Poverty (2018)
- Circular Economy (2018)
- Digital Transition (2018)
- Urban Mobility (2018)
- Jobs and Skills in the Local Economy (2018)
- Energy Transition (2019)
- Climate Adaptation (2018)
- Innovative and Responsible Public Procurement (2018)
- Sustainable Use of Land and Nature-Based Solutions (2018)
- Security in Public Spaces Action Plan (2020)
- Culture / Cultural Heritage (2020)
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