The European Union (EU) and its Member States have been supporting the implementation of the New Urban Agenda since 2016, which shares the vision of the Urban Agenda for the EU. The European Union has also reinforced its involvement to make SDG 11 and the urban dimensions of the 2030 Agenda a priority for the EU Response to sustainable development.
On 28 April 2022, in the occasion of the UN High Level Meeting on the implementation of the UN New Urban Agenda, the EU and its Member States renewed the three voluntary commitments made in 2016 during the Habitat III conference and announced three new voluntary commitments.
They declared their tangible actions to support sustainable urban development, in particular delivering on a the Urban Agenda for the EU, promoting the use of the Degree of Urbanisation, extending the International Urban and Regional Cooperation Programme (IURC), enhancing support to external cooperation and international partnerships, supporting the Horizon Europe Mission on Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities as well as introducing the New European Bauhaus to start a global conversion on this cultural movement inspiring green transformation.
The EU Cohesion Policy and its development cooperation policy are also major instruments to support this ambition. Many additional initiatives and resources also contribute further to the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
Three voluntary commitments renewed in the context of the UN High Level Meeting on the implementation of the UN New Urban Agenda include:
1. Delivering on a renewed Urban Agenda for the EU
to continue fostering multi-level governance and improving the urban dimension of EU policies
The Urban Agenda for the EU is an integrated and coordinated approach to deal with the urban dimension of EU and national policies and legislation. It focuses on concrete priority themes within dedicated partnerships in the effort to improve the quality of life in urban areas. Based on the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, the Urban Agenda for the EU focuses on the three pillars of EU policy-making and implementation: better regulation, better funding and better knowledge. A report reviewing the contributions of the Urban Agenda for the EU to the New Urban Agenda was published in 2021.
In 2021, the European Commission has updated the brochure “Urban Agenda for the EU - Multi-level governance in action”, initially developed and published in 2019, to present the most recent UAEU developments to celebrate five years of cooperation and achievements under this initiative.
In the framework of renewing the Urban Agenda for the EU and materialising the start of its new phase, the Ljubljana Agreement and its Multiannual Working Programme was adopted on 26 November 2021. This document provides concrete steps to renew the Urban Agenda for the EU with a common goal to make it more impactful and efficient.
The Multiannual Working Programme complements the political declaration and displays the operational parameters, work method, and steps for the implementation of the next phase of this multi-level governance and multi-stakeholder initiative.
2. Promoting the use of the Degree of Urbanisation
proposed together with partners, as a new global method for aggregating subnational urban data
It is supported with tools, comprising notably a Methodological manual, to encourage its use for wider comparability, better measuring and reporting on the implementation of SDGs at local level.
The Degree of urbanisation (DEGURBA) is a classification that indicates the character of an area. Statistics by degree of urbanisation provide an analytical and descriptive lens on urban and rural areas. Data by degree of urbanisation is presently available for the following statistical domains: labour market, education, living conditions, welfare and tourism.
3. Extending the International Urban and Regional Cooperation Programme (IURC)
which supports cooperation between cities and regions globally, for them to work on sustainable solutions to common urban challenges, notably for the green and digital transition.
The programme has been renewed in 2021 and is extended to include new counties, whose cities and regions will participate in pairings or clusters working on themes related to SDGs, and designing actions plans.
During the UN High Level Meeting on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, the EU and its Member States announced three new voluntary commitments that focus on:
1. Enhancing support to external cooperation and international partnerships
Within the framework of the Global Gateway and the external dimension of the European Green Deal, the EU will significantly scale up its engagement on, and support to, integrated sustainable urban development in EU partner countries, including enhancing access to finance through the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD+).
The EU will seek to work in concert with EU Member States for greater coordination, scale and impacts within the Team Europe Initiatives.
2. Supporting the European Mission on Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities
with 100 European cities to act as hubs of experimentation and innovation for green, digital and inclusive transformations. In turn, these cities will serve as models and inspiration for cities worldwide through initiatives such as the Global Covenant of Mayors.
The Cities Mission will involve local authorities, citizens, businesses, investors as well as regional and national authorities to deliver 100 climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030 as well as ensure that these cities act as experimentation and innovation hubs to enable all European cities to follow suit by 2050.
As foreseen in its implementation plan, the Cities Mission takes a cross-sectoral and demand-led approach, creating synergies between existing initiatives and basing its activities on the actual needs of cities.
3. Introducing the New European Bauhaus
to start a global conversion on this cultural movement inspiring green transformation.
This initiative aims at designing sustainable spaces for all and improving citizens’ lives through an innovative and human-centered way. The New European Bauhaus initiative connects the European Green Deal to our daily lives and living spaces. By creating bridges between different backgrounds, cutting across disciplines and building on participation at all levels, the New European Bauhaus inspires a movement to facilitate and steer the transformation of our societies along three values: sustainability, aesthetics, inclusion.
The New European Bauhaus brings citizens, experts, businesses, and institutions together to reimagine sustainable living in Europe and beyond. In addition to creating a platform for experimentation and connection, the initiative supports positive change also by providing access to EU funding for variety of projects.
The European Commission is working together with cities to ensure a good quality of life. The European Commission helps cities to grow sustainably through sharing of knowledge, funding, and other urban policies and initiatives. More information is available here.
This framework will particularly support countries most in need to overcome their long-term developmental challenges and will contribute to achieving the international commitments and objectives that the Union has agreed to. It plans to dedicate of 30% of its funds to step up efforts on climate change. The President of the European Commission subsequently pledged additional 4 billion EUR for climate change during her second State of the Union 2021 address.
Within the framework of the Global Gateway and the external dimension of the European Green Deal, the EU will significantly scale up its engagement on and support to integrated sustainable urban development in EU partner countries. The EU will seek to work in concert with EU Member States for greater coordination, scale and impacts within the Team Europe Initiatives.
Enhancing access to finance for investments in urban and peri-urban areas constitutes a major instrument to move towards sustainable urban development. The EU will through its Investment Facilities and the new guarantee schemes, the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus (EFSD+), support partner countries in mobilising additional finance, including for sustainable urban development, with a dedicated investment window targeting investments in cities. It will cover Sub-Saharan Africa, the EU neighbourhood, enlargement countries, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.
In the 2021-2027 period, Cohesion Policy continues investing strongly in sustainable urban development. A minimum of 8% of the European Regional Development Fund means that this share of the fund in each Member State must be directed to priorities and projects selected by cities based on their integrated development strategies. A new policy objective ‘A Europe closer to citizens’ has been introduced to the main Cohesion Policy framework. It will support tailor-made investment strategies at territorial level, in cities and local communities, to address their diverse challenges such as green transition, and tapping into local development potentials. The support will be implemented through integrated development strategies prepared at a relevant level, and local authorities or territorial bodies must be involved in the selection of operations to guarantee a participative process.
The European Urban Initiative has been set up to support sustainable urban development in the EU with a budget of EUR 450 million from the ERDF. It will finance innovative actions to experiment and develop transferable and scalable solutions to urban challenges including green transition. The initiative will aim to improve capacities of cities in the design and implementation of sustainable urban development strategies, policies and practices in an integrated and participative way. It will promote knowledge sharing and capitalisation for the benefit of urban policy makers and practitioners at all levels.
Adopted on 30 November 2020 by EU Member States, the New Leipzig Charter provides a key policy framework document for sustainable urban development in Europe. The Charter highlights that cities need to establish integrated and sustainable urban development strategies and ensure their implementation for the city as a whole, from its functional areas to its neighbourhoods.
The document is strongly aligned with the Cohesion Policy and its framework for sustainable urban development. EU Member States agreed to implement the Charter in their national or regional urban policies.
The New Leipzig Charter was adopted on the basis of the 2007 Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities which helped establish the concept of integrated urban development at EU level and was influential in the development of subsequent EU initiatives such as the Urban Agenda for the EU.
In times when cities and communities are looking for digital solutions to tackle a growing range of interconnected challenges, this network boosts these efforts where digital solutions help to create places where people enjoy living and working. More information is available here.
The EU's innovating cities initiative promotes an integrated vision of innovative urban planning and design that involves citizens as 'city makers' who innovate and participate in governance and policymaking. Cities are nodes that bring together global networks of skills, knowledge, capital, public and private value. This makes cities critical to innovation. More information can be found here.
Driving Urban Transitions to a Sustainable Future (DUT) is the new programme of JPI Urban Europe starting in 2022to tackle urban challenges. Through research and innovation, we enable local authorities and municipalities, businesses, and citizens to translate global strategies into local action. We develop the skills and tools to make urban change happen and boost the urgently needed urban transformations towards a sustainable future with enhanced quality of life in cities. More information is available here.
The Commission adopted the Communication on the New Urban Mobility Framework in December 2021. The Communication sets out European guidance on how cities can cut emissions and improve mobility, including via Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans. The main focus is on public transport, walking and cycling. The proposal prioritises zero-emission solutions for urban fleets, including taxis and ride-hailing services, the last mile of urban deliveries, and the construction and modernisation of multimodal hubs, as well as new digital solutions and services. It maps out the funding options for local and regional authorities to implement these priorities. More information is available here.
The proposal for a revised TEN-T Regulation reinforces urban nodes on the TEN-T network. It proposes to increase the number of urban nodes to 424 and sets out requirements for them to develop Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans, collect and submit data to the Commission on urban mobility indicators and promote multimodal mobility for passengers and freight. More information is available here.
The URBAN2030-II Project aims at fostering the achievement of SDGs in European cities and regions. It focuses on providing methodological support and inspiration for the design and implementation of Sustainable Development Goals Voluntary Local Reviews. It builds on the knowledge and experience gained in the URBAN2030 project (2018-2020) developed with the support of the European Commission Directorate General for Regional and Urban Policy.
The EU’s biodiversity strategy for 2030 is a comprehensive, ambitious and long-term plan to protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems that aims to put Europe's biodiversity on a path to recovery by 2030. A key part of the strategy is to promote healthy and vibrant urban ecosystems. This strategy aims to stop the loss of green urban space including tree canopy cover, and then steadily increase them. It also calls upon all cities and towns over 20,000 in habitants to develop ambitious urban greening plans – to ensure that green infrastructure and nature-based solutions are systematically integrated into urban planning process.
The EU Research and Innovation policy agenda on Nature-Based Solutions and Re-Naturing Cities also aims to support the position the EU as leader in ‘Innovating with nature’ for more sustainable and resilient societies.
The European Climate Pact (europa.eu) is a movement of people united around a common cause, each taking steps in their own worlds to build a more sustainable Europe.
Launched by the European Commission, the Pact is part of the European Green Deal and is helping the EU to meet its goal to become climate-neutral by 2050. Everyone has a place in the Pact. You can get involved whether you are just starting out on your climate action journey or already working to make a difference in your world. You can take part as an individual or as an organisation – for example, a city, a community or an association.
There are various ways to get involved. From simple steps like eating more vegetables or biking more to ‘greening your money’ or switching to green energy on Count Us In. Pact now has over 800 of Climate Pact Ambassadors who come from all walks of life - from students to mayors, raising awareness and implementing projects in their communities or across Europe. Organisations can pledge to get on the path to climate neutrality. Pact Knowledge Hub includes tools to engage citizens in climate action, scientific facts or ‘serious games’ like the Peer Parliaments.
The Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies (KCTP) is an initiative of the European Commission supporting evidence-based policy making at EU, national, and local level. The KCTP aims to be the point of reference for Commission services, Member States and local authorities on territorial and regional knowledge and data. It allows for analytical and networking activities, accompanied by a repository of relevant research and new initiatives.
The Urban Data Platform Plus is a key component of the KCTP, it provides access to information on the status and trends of cities and regions, to EU supported urban and territorial development strategies and to the local dimension of Sustainable Development Goals.
The Community of Practice on Cities (CoP-CITIES) is the platform to exchange information and interact with key stakeholders. Each year a plenary session is organised accompanied by various dedicated events. Members of the CoP-CITIES are kept informed on current research activities, events and publications by a bi-monthly newsletter.
The City Science Initiative aims to strengthen the ways in which science and research can help address the urban challenges and to develop a structured approach to evidence-informed policy-making at cities' level.
The European Handbook for SDG Voluntary Local Reviews offers to policy makers, researchers and practitioners an inspirational framework to set up Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs). VLRs are a fundamental instrument to monitor progresses and sustain the transformative and inclusive action of local actors towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in general, and competitive sustainability in particular.
The Handbook provides key examples of official and experimental indicators useful to set up an effective SDG local monitoring system specifically targeted for European cities. Per each Goal, the Handbook highlights examples of harmonised and locally collected indicators so that local actors can both benchmark themselves with other cities and monitor their own specific needs and challenges.
The full version of the European Handbook for SDG Voluntary Local Reviews is available here.
The EU’s work for sustainable urban development on the global level include as well additional activities:
The Union for Mediterranean Urban Agenda is supporting regional cooperation on sustainable urban development between the EU and countries from the Southern and Eastern shores of the Mediterranean. More information can be found here regarding the Actions plans adopted by the Union for the Mediterranean Member States and on-going cooperation work.
The World Urban Forum (WUF) is recognised worldwide as the foremost global arena for interaction among key high-level policy makers, local government leaders, NGOs and stakeholders to discuss global urbanisation challenges and solutions.
The European Union and its Member States have been an active partner of this process. During the 11th session of the World Urban Forum, as part of a dedicated building block of the European Track, the series of 14 events was organised or co-organised by the European Commission. They highlighted the EU approach towards integrated sustainable urban development through various dimensions. They complemented other European track sessions and thematic areas by showcasing key priorities for supporting cities and urban development actors in taking forwards the green, digital and just transition in urban areas, while using common sustainability principles and requirements for integrated development.