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The sixth EMA Porto 2021 Forum took place on November 12, 2021, under the theme “How to boost climate-neutral metropolitan areas: Green, smart and resilient”, at the Porto Customs Congress Centre.
The EMA (European Metropolitan Authorities) is a network where political representatives from major European cities discuss the biggest challenges of European metropolitan governance.
The aim of the annual Forum is to define the basis for collaboration between the main European metropolises, as well as their relations with national governments and European institutions.
The opening of the forum counted with the speeches of Rui Moreira, Mayor of Porto, Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues, President of the Porto Metropolitan Area, Ernest Maragall i Mira, Vice-President for International Relations and Cooperation of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, and Alexandra Leitão, Minister for Modernization of the State and Public Administration.
The guest keynote speaker was Elisa Ferreira, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms who addressed the theme on how to boost climate-neutral metropolitan areas: green, smart and resilient. For the European Commissioner, “metropolitan areas are so vital in their countries that they can make a difference and set environmental agendas. “
Considering that 75 % of the European population lives in cities and cities are the ones producing 70 % of the Union’s greenhouse gases, it is essential to understand that any green transformation can only occur with the participation of cities, since they are the ones who receive and implement the investments.
Access here European Commissioner Elisa Ferreira’s full speech.
The forum featured three panel discussions, moderated by journalists from national newspapers, with the participation of political representatives from several European cities/metropolitan areas.
The first panel, under the theme The New Metropolitan Agenda: (Re)Think, (Re)Design, (Re)Act, was moderated by the journalist João Paulo Lourenço from Jornal de Notícias, having as speakers: Alison Gilliland, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Juha Eskelinen, Regional Deputy Mayor of the Helsinki-Uusimaa Region, Jean-Claude Dardelet, Deputy Mayor for International Relations of the Metropolis of Toulouse, Juraj Droba, President of the Bratislava Region and member of the European Committee of the Regions and Thijs Kroese, Member of the Board of the Amsterdam Metropolitan Region.
The main ideas of this debate focused on the fact that metropolitan areas welcome most of the EU’s population, the main economic, labour, cultural and key actors in identifying solutions to the new challenges and their impact on the lives of millions of citizens and visitors.
The Covid-19 pandemic was also addressed. It confronted politicians with new challenges, exposing some contradictions and vulnerabilities in traditional models, but soon opened up great opportunities for (re)thinking and (re)designing our cities and restoring the economy.
Finally, it was also highlighted that metropolitan areas can change the game for a new sustainable, smart, resilient and green recovery: urban public space, tourism and social life are pieces to transform and imagine our metropolitan areas of the future. The key issue is simply whether we should “go back to normal” or use this moment to set the new metropolitan agenda.
The second panel of discussion discussed the theme Green and smart mobility: there is no turning back.
Transport is one of the sectors most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. MaaS (Mobility as a Service), urban logistics and green deliveries, tourism, new mobility services, shared mobility, city information platforms, e-governance and other emerging solutions are increasingly present in our lives.
Is it possible to find a way out of the crisis and boost sustainable mobility for cities? What political responses can we provide? Is digital transformation the way to restore trust in the system? Is access to digital infrastructure inclusive or will it exacerbate persistent inequalities?
These were some of the issues that moderator Abel Coentrão from the Público newspaper discussed with the participants of this panel, namely Frederico Rosa, Vice-President of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, Roger Ryberg, Mayor of Viken County (Oslo), Héléne Dromain, Deputy President in charge of International cooperation, European affairs and tourism of the Lyon Metropolis and Omar Al-Rawi, Member of the the Vienna Provincial Parliament and City Council.
The last panel debated the theme Resilience and Resilient Metropolises: the financial challenge, moderated by Luísa Pinto from the Público nespaper, and counting with the participation of Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues, President of the Porto Metropolitan Area, Ernest Maragall i Mira, Deputy-president for International Cooperation in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, Michał Olszewski, First Deputy Mayor of Warsaw, and Pascal Smet, State Secretary of the Brussels-Capital Region for International Relations and Urbanism, and Regional Vice-president for Europe in the Metropolis.
The promotion of climate-friendly cities is largely linked to the ability to adapt to changing economic conditions and rebuild trust. The new multi-annual financial package and the funds of the Recovery and Resilience Plan open up great opportunities for this adaptation while challenging current financial and business models. These were the topics addressed.
While providing a boost to the economy, EU funds are only one part of the solution and the main persistent challenges remain: How to solve the financial deficit at a metropolitan level? What financial model should be adopted by metropolitan areas? How to engage citizens as part of this model? Is funding the real change in the game? These were some of the questions we tried to answer.
During the forum, a political declaration was signed by the political representatives of the metropolitan areas, the main points of which were:
Metropolitan Areas have made significant headway in confronting the climate crisis through ambitious action and are COMMITTED to increase this leadership with specific measures as it has been demonstrated in the COP26 debates in Glasgow.
EMA network ASSUMES the main agreements of the COP26 and each metropolitan area will work to develop programmes and projects aligned with these agreements in the framework of their competencies.
Metropolitan Areas cooperating in the EMA network ARE READY to Boost Climate Neutrality, expressing the strong commitment for being active partners in the execution and achievement of such results.
Metropolitan Areas are COMMITTED to the implementation of integrated and innovative approaches to meet the needs of our citizens, sharing and experimenting the best solutions by being closer to local challenges.
Metropolitan Areas are called on to TAKE ACTION in a number of areas linked with digital transition, ecological transition, economic recovery and social cohesion. Thus, their level of responsibility should be empowered by the financial capacity to act. The European Financial Framework for 2021-2027 and the Next Generation EU Package support a stronger link between the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the commitments laid down in the European Green Deal and economic recovery.
European Metropolitan Authorities ARE READY to implement mature metropolitan projects using the funds from the Recovery and Resilient Facility and React EU, in line with the digital and energy transition, ensuring the involvement of municipalities, regions, academia, as well as economic and social stakeholders.
EMA calls the central administrations and the European Commission for a GREATER INVOLVEMENT of Metropolitan Areas in the implementation of the national Recovery and Resilient Plans, as well as in the preparation and implementation of future Cohesion Policy programmes.
EMA urges Member States, the European Union and the United Nations to guarantee shelter and reception, and articulate a shared civilian network between cities and Metropolitan Areas to Afghanistan, allowing channelling resources and providing human, logistical and economic support to any democratic initiative existing within the country, besides preventing information isolation and oblivion that Afghanistan can experience.
During the forum participants were also able to listen to the speech of Manuel Pizarro, Member of the European Parliament, on the theme “Cities, metropolitan areas and the dual transition in Europe”.
The final notes of the EMA 2021 Forum were given by the President of the Northern Regional Coordination and Development Commission, António Cunha, who also highlighted the “intrinsic capacity” and the “profile” of the North region as the main drivers for achieving the objective of carbon neutrality.
“Just transition depends on a strong involvement of the municipalities, because mayors are more able to understand the risk that we all are taking, as well as to interpret that risk referring to their territory, so that no one is left behind,” said the Minister of Environment and Climate Action, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, while closing the forum.
For the Minister for the Environment and Climate Action there will only be a just transition with the involvement of local authorities, since they are the ones who know the reality of their territories best and better understand the risks we are taking.
In this forum was also announced by Kazimierz Karolczak, Chairman of the Board of GZM Metropolis, that the EMA 2022 Forum will be held in Poland, inviting all politicians to attend it.