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We support the mission of climate-neutral and smart cities

A photo from a meeting of CapaCITIES project participants

The CapaCITIES project supports cooperation at the national, regional, and local levels

What can be done to support cities in their strive towards climate neutrality? This is the main aim of the project CapaCITIES. The initiative brings together over 60 entities from 25 partner countries and 6 supporting countries. In Poland it is led by the Institute of Environmental Protection – National Research Institute and the Faculty of Geodesy and Cartography of the Warsaw University of Technology.

Cities cover only 4% of the area of the European Union but as many as ¾ of the citizens live there; cities generate over 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions. These are very negative and dangerous figures. Changing them is a huge challenge, especially in the context of the Green Deal – the plan of transforming the EU into a modern energy-efficient and competitive economy. The main tasks are the achievement, in 2050, of zero net emissions of greenhouse gases, separating economic growth from the use of resources and not leaving anyone or any region behind.

European cities may greatly contribute to the achievement of the Green Deal goals and sustainable development, at the same time guaranteeing citizens fresh air, safe transport, less congestion and noise. MissionCities engages local authorities, citizens, companies, investors, as well as regional and national authorities to have 100 climate-neutral and smart cities in 2030. They will be forerunners of transformation and innovation centres – so that all European cities can follow their footsteps until 2050.

Cooperation is crucial

The two-year-long project CapaCITIES, financed by the EU within the programme Horizon Europe supports the construction of the platform of dialogue for climate transformation of Polish cities, bringing together key participants of the transformation process, i.e. national and regional authorities and cities. Achievement of climate neutrality requires cooperation, coordination and innovation at many levels of management.

– We want to support the development of a model of multilevel and intersectoral cooperation for completion of goals of smart and climate-neutral cities – says Katarzyna Rędzińska, PhD – leader of the CapaCITIES project at the Warsaw University of Technology. – In practical terms, this means creating conditions for decisive people to meet and discuss in order to develop solutions that include missions and actions towards climate neutrality in development policy at the national, regional and local level, including financing methods and legal regulations so that obstacles cities have been facing can be eliminated.

What about Polish cities?

Achievement of climate neutrality until 2030 is a challenge which was voluntarily taken up by five Polish cities qualified to complete #MissionCities. These are Warsaw, Kraków, Wrocław, Łódź and Rzeszów. The scale of the challenge and problems are proved by analyses conducted by the Institute for Environmental Protection – National Research Institute. They have shown that due to extreme phenomena Poland annually loses 6 billion PLN and within almost two decades extreme weather conditions resulted in direct losses of circa 115 billion PLN in total.

Representatives of Polish mission cities met in December 2023 at the National City Forum. They talked about their actions towards climate neutrality, limitations and good practices, including the need for cooperation. Then the first workshop was held, bringing together representatives of all levels of management. Its subject was to determine the possibilities of using the presently available instruments at the local and regional level. Cities had the opportunity to directly present their needs to representatives of national and regional authorities and to discuss them. The workshop was moderated by Katarzyna Rędzińska, PhD.

One of the most important elements of the project is real (not just declared) engagement of people and institutions that are completing the project and which the project covers. Within the project, there are already working groups of cities, regions, branches and experts. So far there were 11 meetings in working groups in various configurations and the twelfth meeting was the one at the National City Forum.

– The meeting initiated the Polish platform of dialogue for climate neutrality and started regular monthly meetings of representatives of all management levels – explains Katarzyna Rędzińska, PhD. 

New stage, new challenges

The CapaCITIES project has thus entered the second phase, which consists of increasing national support for cities striving towards climate neutrality. The main aims are development of a cooperation model adapted to Polish conditions and strengthening regional and ministry engagement in completion of #MissionCities goals. A plan was developed for a Polish dialogue platform which will concentrate on building political support and coordination of actions, adapting existing legal and financial instruments, developing new ones and, later on, updating national and regional policies.

The next steps are development of a roadmap for the Polish dialogue platform for climate neutrality and appointment of ambassadors of the mission.

Our University in the project

The Warsaw University of Technology was invited to the consortium by the Institute of Environmental Protection and completes all tasks with the Institute.

– For example we are organising workshop meetings in the formula ”transition lab”, we use here the methods and tools of systemic design – tells us Katarzyna Rędzińska, PhD. – I am responsible for designing and moderating workshops which are part of the meetings.

In addition, as the result of work with the working group of cities, in response to the submitted needs, an interfaculty group of WUT experts was started.

– The group of experts brings together specialists in key sectors for climate neutrality and is aimed at supporting cities, as needed, in the process of developing climate contracts – explains Katarzyna Rędzińska, PhD.

A photo of European Union flag

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe Programme under grant agreement no. 101056927