Urban transformation: the mission to achieve healthy and climate-neutral cities


The closing session of the ‘Dialogues for the day after’ held in Soria from the 5th to the 7th July 2021 corresponded to the conversation on the need to transform cities, and included institutional representatives from Madrid, Seville, Barcelona, Valencia and Soria.

Beyond the environmental challenge, different measures aimed at recovering a healthy, walkable and accessible habitability, that provokes encounters and promotes the cohesion of cities, in line with the policies promoted by Europe, were addressed.

The European mission ‘100 climate-neutral cities by 2030’

The approach of the European mission, explained Julio Lumbreras, professor at the UPM and member of the board of the European mission of cities, has much to learn from the approach that has been taken to get out of the pandemic: an ambitious goal, for a limited time and with a deep collaboration between different actors.

The citiES 2030 project, incubated within the cities’ transformation community of El Día Después, was the example that illustrated the progress of this initiative towards climate neutrality, in which multi-stakeholder collaboration, private initiative space, financing and citizen participation are the fundamental levers to activate these tractor projects.

Valencia and citizen participation

The mission in Valencia has been linked to the city strategy, with the aim of rethinking and transforming the current model towards a sustainable, creative, prosperous and Mediterranean city, as shared by Jordi Peris, general coordinator of urban strategies and sustainable agenda of Valencia’s city council. It is not about achieving livable cities, it is about achieving desirable cities.

To this end, multi-stakeholder and plural working groups that are currently addressing the energy transition have been created, but whose work dynamics will also be transferred to issues such as agriculture and the renaturalization of the city, building a shared vision of the city.

It is not about achieving livable cities. It is about achieving desirable cities.

Jordi Peris

Seville and housing regeneration

Esperanza Caro, general director of sustainable development, financing and external action of the Seville’s city council, stressed the need to implement transformative projects that overcome regulatory barriers, that articulate public and private financing, and that facilitate the exchange of learning and scaling.

For this reason, a public-private financing platform has been created for the regeneration of neighborhoods and social housing that generates local employment and that allows the recovery of public space.

In the public space, we need to make our cities easier and more comfortable. The recovery of public space, as has happened during the pandemic and that makes us rethink in a different city.

Esperanza Caro

The 2030 agenda has provided us with a method that serves to focus and summarize in indicators the issues that are really important: Health, energy transition and social inclusion.

Laia Núñez

Barcelona and the energy transition

With the presentation of MES Barcelona, Laia Núñez, advisor to the deputy mayor for the Agenda 2030 of Barcelona’s city council, shared with the attendees how the city has implemented a pioneering mechanism to facilitate citizens’ access to the generation and consumption of clean energy.

By facilitating public-private investment, procedures, and with municipal support, the citizen does not have to make any initial investment and will begin to benefit from the savings as soon as the installation is amortized.

Madrid and the Deep Demonstration

The Deep Demonstration has been a strategic project for the city of Madrid that has made it possible to work in various areas: renaturalization of cities, regulatory sandboxes (testing ground for new business models that are not yet protected by current regulations, supervised by regulatory institutions), sustainable mobility, energy rehabilitation and recovery of neighborhoods and housing. All of this has generated a city project that has contributed to the city’s Climate Neutrality Roadmap, as Santiago Saura, councilor delegate of the internationalization and cooperation area of Madrid’s city council, commented.

In the context of this project, an analysis was made of the necessary investments and the economic return of 14 levers of change in the city of Madrid, which showed that the return on investment would be 30%.

We created the climate group, a cross-cutting team within the city council, to work with universities and companies and lead the climate transformation in the city.

Santiago Saura

Soria, the perspective of the small city

Carlos Martínez, mayor of Soria, emphasized the need to work hand in hand with large cities, so that, from cooperation, investment and public policies are put on the table to break down boundaries between large cities and small and medium-sized ones. 

Unemployment in Madrid, Valencia and Seville depends on generating opportunities in the small and medium-sized cities close to them.

Carlos Martínez

The pandemic crisis has shown that the concentration of resources and population model in large cities is unsustainable, and that it is essential to look beyond GDP in order to bring about a true sustainable urban transformation.

The moderator was Valentín Alfaya, director of sustainability at Ferrovial and president of the Spanish Green Growth Group, who pointed out that most of the impacts are concentrated in the cities. When we look at distributed greenhouse gas emissions, if we look at where they are consumed, in Spain, 78% are consumed in urban and peri-urban environments, in housing (especially air conditioning and maintenance) and in urban mobility.

The battle for sustainability will be won or lost in the cities.

Valentín Alfaya

Therefore, the battle for sustainability will be won or lost in cities.

The representatives of the different cities closed the dialogue by highlighting the usefulness of the space generated within the cities’ transformation community, one of the four that constitute El Día Después, a place to share the challenges, knowledge, learning and shared projects necessary for the urgent and essential urban transformation that will help us achieve climate neutrality in 2030.

Summary of the dialogue “Urban transformation: the mission to achieve healthy and climate neutral cities”

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