April 2024

DUT Conference 2024: Key Players to Achieve the Cities Mission 2030 Goals

The European Partnership Driving Urban Transitions (DUT) held its second conference last week, sparking a high interest among academics, business leaders and representatives from funding agencies.

With over 300 in-person participants in Brussels and more than 200 viewers online, the partnership brought together urban leaders and experts to discuss the crucial steps needed to implement urban solutions and support cities in becoming more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive.

The conference also marked the start of a coordinated effort from countries to ramp up 48 research and innovation projects, in cooperation with city authorities. All projects have the potential to contribute to the European Mission of climate-neutral cities, the European Green Deal, and the Urban Agenda for the EU through synthesis of research results and policy recommendations.

Cities participating in DUT projects are part of the 100 Cities Mission

The DUT Partnership is committed to investing approximately 450 million euros by 2028 in transformative research and innovation projects targeting challenges cities face. The partnership builds on co-creation processes where partners, experts and key stakeholders discuss research and innovation priorities for future projects.

At least 36 of the cities participating in DUT projects are among those committed to achieving climate neutrality by 2030, which shows synergies between DUT and the Cities Mission.

“We have created a few formats to support and facilitate exchange and learning between projects, cities, local change-makers and within the programme”

Anna Wang, Chair of the DUT Partnership

During the opening session, Rosalinde Van Der Vlies, Clean Planet Director at the European Commission, highlighted a new communication on clean energy transitions pointing to the important role cities play in the green transition. In addition, Anna Wang, Chair of the DUT Partnership, announced the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) joined the DUT partnership as formal partners as of January 2024.

Johan Kuylenstierna, Director General of Formas, Sweden

DUT contribution to the Green Transition and the Cities Mission

In a panel discussion moderated by Philip Froissard, Head of the Future Urban & Mobility Systems Unit at the European Commission, panellists discussed what were the challenges they faced in implementing the Mission Cities and how DUT can support them in overcoming barriers.

Cities have always had other short-term pressures and working on climate change questions used to be met with scepticism, there were other priorities. With the geopolitical situation and security challenges, scepticism is taking over the positive narrative of opportunities the Green Deal and other initiatives have brought.

When it comes to the municipal level, some of the main challenges are to feel empowered, be pragmatic when deciding actions and handle conflicting perspectives citizens might have. Anna Lisa Boni, Deputy Mayor City of Bologna, pointed out that regulations at the national level often do not enable the implementation of the Cities Mission initiatives at the municipal level.

“The climate city contract makes us look at actions, t commitments, goals, how to finance it and how to quantify the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions”

Anna Lisa Boni, Deputy Mayor City of Bologna

In addition, some brought up the question of who pays the price for the trade-offs in decision-making between people and the environment. Johan Kuylenstierna, Director General of Formas, referred to how some municipalities can perceive themselves as paying the price for the climate transition, such as delivering mineral, water and forestry resources.

In terms of supporting cities involved in the Cities Mission, partnerships like DUT establish long-term relationships that can build an anticipatory aspect as we venture down the road of sustainable urban transitions. Cities especially benefit from the knowledge exchange with researchers from different countries, added Ovidiu Cîmpean, State Secretary in Romania. In addition, Thomas Osdoba, Programme Director NetZeroCities, highlighted the value platforms such as DUT bring to the European missions, by looking ahead and drawing upon collective learning with national governments, research institutions and cities.

Panelists Ovidiu Cîmpean, State Secretary in Romania, Anna Lisa Boni, Deputy Mayor City of Bologna, and Thomas Osdoba, Programme Director NetZeroCities

Key Takeaway

Drawing on insights and challenges discussed at the conference, leaders must make sure to keep the pace on the changes to come, demonstrate the benefits of the European Missions, and how partnerships such as DUT can support cities on that journey.