After months of intensive preparations, one of the Horizon Europe Missions - the EU Mission on Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities - is ready for launch. The Mission aims to achieve 100 climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030 and to ensure that these cities act as experimentation and innovation hubs to put all European cities in a position to become climate-neutral by 2050. 

Hailed as a “milestone” by Deputy Mission Manager, Rosalinde Van der Vlies, Director Clean Planet, DG RTD, European Commission, the Mission kicked off with an informative session on October 1. “We have reached a milestone today,” said Rosalinde Van der Vlies, Deputy Mission Manager, Director Clean Planet, DG RTD, European Commission. 

Plans to establish the Mission began with one question: where do we want to be in 2030? Having such a clear and common destination helped to shape the Mission and engage a wide range of citizens and stakeholders.  The Mission prides its bottom-up approach, meaning it will diligently listen to the needs of individual cities when shaping the Mission and will continue to engage with them throughout the implementation stage.  

Essentially, the Mission is where policy meets people - a way to implement the European Green Deal at a local level. Tackling issues at a local level will make the transition to tackling them at a national level smoother, and a successful Mission will validate that the overarching goals of the European Green Deal are both realistic and feasible. 

“If we [the Mission] can deliver in 8 years, I hope the whole of Europe can in the following 20 years.,” said Professor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Chair of the Mission Board for the Cities Mission. 

Integrated within the Mission is the NetZeroCities project, which brings together tools, resources, expertise, and capabilities for cities to access through one platform. Each participating city will formulate a climate neutral contract through the platform using a multi-level government collaboration tool that will allow broad access to the city’s objectives and plans. The platform will be fully operational by September 2022.   

The Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) city of Leuven (Belgium) was highlighted as “a standout” city for its climate city plan, Leuven 2030, that includes involvement from local citizens and economic actors in addition to national authorities. This has led to an innovative, holistic governance which ensures the entire city embraces its climate neutrality plan.  

Cities who are interested in participating in the Mission will have between November 2021 and January 2022 to apply for the first call, and 30 cities will be selected in March 2022. Other calls will follow next year.  

There are different criteria for the project based on ambition, preparedness, existing and planned commitment to climate neutrality and commitment to involving citizens and stakeholders. Different levels of preparedness are welcome, not exclusively cities who are already close to being climate neutral: “We are looking for an inclusive process, we’re looking for diversity and for geographical balance,” said Matthew Baldwin, Mission Manager, Deputy Director-General of DG MOVE, European Commission. 

All the board is seeking is transparency in each city’s ambition, commitment and preparedness. Cities will be assessed by independent experts, and the European Commission will validate the list and issue an announcement of the first 30 cities. 

The Mission’s has a collaborative vision, it was clearly expressed throughout the session, with Mr. Baldwin emphasising that the Mission does not seek to duplicate nor replicate other initiatives but to work together with them. Such vision aligns with the ICC’s, therefore ICC cities are encouraged to support this initiative and find opportunities to connect dots and share knowledge. This is great opportunity for collaboration and greater learning from other cities specifically on achieving climate neutrality. 

Further information is expected shortly following the Commission’s adoption of a Communication on EU Missions. The following available materials are currently available: 

You can follow the progress of the Mission online with the following hashtags #EUmissions #MissionCities #HorizonEU.