Download publication

Policy Contribution

Going local: empowering cities to lead EU decarbonisation

Decarbonisation and digitalisation are reshaping the European energy system, which will become more decentralised and interconnected with other sectors. Cities have the opportunity to be the key drivers of decarbonisation, but this will require the implementation of a new bottom-up governance system. This paper outlines a four-step mechanism in order to achieve decarbonisation at city level.

By: and Date: November 30, 2016 Topic: Energy & Climate

Four trends are reshaping the European energy system: decarbonisation, digitalisation and, as a result of the two, decentralisation and convergence.

Based on strong public policies, decarbonisation is reshuffling the European energy mix, while innovation in digital technologies is enabling disruptive change in the way energy systems are operated. This enables the European energy system to become more decentralised with increasing interaction between services (electricity, heat, transport, data) that used to be largely separate.

In this new context, cities are the key arenas of decarbonisation. However, European Union (EU) energy and climate governance is based on top-down policies that are not complemented by a solid bottom-up system that ensures consistency of EU, national and local measures and incentivises decarbonisation at city level.

This Policy Contribution proposes better integration of top-down energy and climate policy mechanisms with new bottom-up incentives that aim to promote decarbonisation at city level. This mechanism can be set up in four steps.

  • Step 1: understand a city’s carbon footprint and create a baseline scenario. A participating city should start by carrying out an emissions inventory that would quantify the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from energy consumption on its territory during a specific year. This should identify the principal sources of emissions and therefore enable prioritisation of reduction measures.
  • Step 2: understand a city’s carbon handprint and create a reference scenario. With an emissions inventory in place, each city can identify the areas of its economy with the greatest decarbonisation potential, and can prioritise its decarbonisation policies accordingly.
  • Step 3: create a city Climate Plan. The baseline and reference scenarios would form the basis of comprehensive city Climate Plans. To ensure consistency of national and municipal policies, Climate Plans could be developed as a sub-component of member state National Energy and Climate Plans.
  • Step 4: track progress and allocate financial support. City progress reports on decarbonisation should be used by the EU to determine the eligibility of local governments for EU grants. Grants would be key to the success of this scheme. If EU money is given to a city to implement a project listed in its Climate Plan, it should be paid in in biennial tranches, conditional on positive progress reports.

A grant-based system would give the EU some control over the effective implementation of cities’ decarbonisation projects. EU countries could use city progress reports to provide fiscal incentives to cities that implement in practice their Climate Plans. This premium system would make economic sense for member states considering that the better cities perform in terms of decarbonisation, the easier it will be to achieve national decarbonisation targets.

View comments
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Getting better all the time: The benefits of learning for decarbonisation

The technological development will dramatically impact decarbonisation cost. In this blog post, the author suggests that national decarbonisation strategies should put a special emphasis on the benefits of learning.

By: Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Date: April 16, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Spitzenkandidaten series: Frans Timmermans

The sixth event in the The Road to Europe - Brussels Briefing Live: Spitzenkandidaten series. The series features the lead candidates for the European Elections of six parties and is jointly organised by Bruegel and the Financial Times in March and April 2019.

Speakers: Mehreen Khan, André Sapir and Frans Timmermans Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: April 11, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Spitzenkandidaten series: Manfred Weber

The fifth event in the The Road to Europe - Brussels Briefing Live: Spitzenkandidaten series. The series features the lead candidates for the European Elections of six parties and is jointly organised by Bruegel and the Financial Times in March and April 2019.

Speakers: Anne-Sylvaine Chassany, Manfred Weber and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: April 9, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Upcoming Event

May
15
12:30

How do national energy policies fit into EU decarbonisation plans?

Through considering several different national perspectives, we discuss how to reconcile the EU Climate Strategy targets with national energy and climate policies.

Speakers: Maciej Burny, Carole Mathieu, Christian von Hirschhausen and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Spitzenkandidaten series: Jan Zahradil

The fourth event in the The Road to Europe - Brussels Briefing Live: Spitzenkandidaten series. The series features the lead candidates for the European Elections of six parties and is jointly organised by Bruegel and the Financial Times in March and April 2019.

Speakers: Jim Brunsden, Maria Demertzis and Jan Zahradil Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: April 4, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Spitzenkandidaten series: Luis Garicano

The third event in the The Road to Europe - Brussels Briefing Live: Spitzenkandidaten series. The series features the lead candidates for the European Elections of six parties and is jointly organised by Bruegel and the Financial Times in March and April 2019.

Speakers: Luis Garicano, Mehreen Khan and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: April 3, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Spitzenkandidaten series: Bas Eickhout

The second event in the The Road to Europe - Brussels Briefing Live: Spitzenkandidaten series. The series features the lead candidates for the European Elections of six parties and is jointly organised by Bruegel and the Financial Times in March and April 2019.

Speakers: Bas Eickhout, Guntram B. Wolff and Rochelle Toplensky Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: April 2, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Spitzenkandidaten series: Yanis Varoufakis

The first event in the The Road to Europe - Brussels Briefing Live: Spitzenkandidaten series. The series features the lead candidates for the European Elections of six parties and is jointly organised by Bruegel and the Financial Times in March and April 2019.

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Martin Sandbu and Yanis Varoufakis Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: March 26, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

A new climate strategy for the EU

At a pivotal point in time, three major EU sides come together to discuss the future climate strategy.

Speakers: Silke Karcher, Andrei Marcu, Raffaele Mauro Petriccione, Kathleen Van Brempt and Georg Zachmann Topic: Energy & Climate Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: March 19, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

The geopolitical implications of the global energy transition

Energy has traditionally played an important role in global geopolitics, contributing to the rise of great powers, the formation of alliances and, in many cases, also to the emergence of wars and conflicts. Every international order in modern history has been based on an energy resource. This piece discusses how the ongoing low-carbon energy transformation could reshape global geopolitics in the future.

By: Simone Tagliapietra Topic: Energy & Climate Date: March 7, 2019
Read article More by this author

Opinion

The case for green realism

The transition to a carbon-neutral economy is bound to make us worse off before it makes us better off, and the most vulnerable segments of society will be hit especially hard. Unless we acknowledge and address this reality, support for greening the economy will remain shallow and eventually wane.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: Energy & Climate, Global Economics & Governance Date: March 7, 2019
Read article More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Backstage: The next decade of European energy transition

This episode of 'The Sound of Economics' features Bruegel research fellow Simone Tagliapietra in conversation with Sir Philip Lowe and Alberto Pototschnig about the progress of the European energy transition as we prepare to enter the third decade of the 21st century.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: February 26, 2019
Load more posts