The COVID-19 pandemic clearly showed that municipalities are at the forefront of tackling crises. That's why we need resilient municipalities and regions to lead on the recovery and prepare for future shocks, while continuing to shape a sustainable future for all!
At the Greening from the Ground Up Conference on 7-8 May, mayors and local councillors got together to discuss how we can achieve this together. They touched on the topics of making space for youth and children, the role of digital technologies, climate-friendly solutions, prioritising openness and inclusivity, the future of mobility, and ensuring safety and wellbeing for all. We are proud to have more than 16,000 Green local councillors – now connected through the Local Councillors Network – and 300 Green mayors working to provide well-being and a more just and sustainable future to citizens in municipalities and regions throughout Europe.
Day 1: Exchanging best practices to build future-proof cities
The European Greens, the host party Verdes Equo and the City of Valencia welcomed participants and spoke of the unique moment we find ourselves in as we face a pandemic and war on the continent in the 21st century. Inés Sabanés, Deputy of Más País-Verdes Equo in the Spanish Parliament, explains how the city is an experimental space through which we can find solutions towards resilience and sustainability to sustain wellbeing and the planet. Monica Oltra, Vice president of Valencian Government, emphasises the need to move towards feminist, inclusive, sustainable, and intergenerational cities.
📣 This morning, @MichalBerg, @isabanes, Juan Ponce, and @monicaoltra opened the #GreeningFromTheGroundUp Conference and spoke of the need for resilient cities to create a more inclusive, feminist, and sustainable future for all. pic.twitter.com/KaEXX5FyB1— European Greens (@europeangreens) May 7, 2022
For Olena Pelykh and Olga Drobna from the Ukrainian local councillors delegation, enhancing our resilience means working together as Greens to fight Russian aggression and secure our sovereignty. In their address on the war in Ukraine, they explain their shock at the 'new reality' they faced once the first explosives rang and the whole country caught fire: "The reality where innocent people were dying, cities destroyed, families were broken, lives were ruined. Russia set out to destroy our independence and break our spirit." Greens from across Europe responded with a standing ovation and exchanged embraces.
🇺🇦 @PelyhElena and Olga Drobna from the delegation of Ukrainian local councillors spoke on the war:— European Greens (@europeangreens) May 7, 2022
“Only together can we restore peace in Europe!”
💚 Greens from across Europe responded with a standing ovation and exchanged embraces. pic.twitter.com/Mw8JgOCxSo
Greens got together to exchange their best practices and experiences in our parallel sessions Cities for Climate, Affordable Cities, Smart Cities, Youth Friendly Cities, Moving Cities, Open and Inclusive Cities and Access to EU (European Union) Funding for Cities. The importance of involving civil society in political decision-making and educating the public on current issues was a common thread throughout the sessions.
📣 Today at the #GreeningFromTheGroundUp Conference in Valencia, we held parallel sessions on the energy transition, youth, the cost-of-living crisis, and digital technologies!— European Greens (@europeangreens) May 7, 2022
Here are some highlights 👇
📣 In our afternoon parallel sessions at the #GreeningFromTheGroundUp Conference in Valencia, we tackled the topics of diversity and inclusivity, EU funds, and mobility!— European Greens (@europeangreens) May 7, 2022
Check out our highlights in this thread 🧵
Green Cities Plenary
Responding to today's multitude of challenges, such as extreme weather, pandemics, changing mobility, or refugee crises, is vital. The last two years have shown how important resilience is in prepare cities and communities for the challenges we face now and will continue to face in the future. In the Green Cities Plenary, Joan Ribó, Mayor of Valencia, and Evelyne Huytebroeck, European Greens Committee Member, reflected on how Valencia has changed from the point of view of sustainability and green policies, and what the next challenges are to become the European Green Capital. Joan Ribó touched on the importance of civil society, participatory democracy, and rethinking the economic logic through which we build cities.
Other mayors from across Europe also sent their interventions. The Deputy Mayor of Helsinki, Mayor of Innsbruck and Mayor of Barcelona emphasised the challenges of creating trust in city government through social justice, enacting sustainable transport, and making cities fit for climate. Maria Pastor, Verdes Equo Madrid Co-spokeswoman, also presented the characteristics of governments of Green cities and how they are building resilience.
🌱 At the Green Cities Plenary, @joanribo had a dialogue with @EHuytebroeck reflecting on the challenges and successes of building a resilient city!— European Greens (@europeangreens) May 7, 2022
🏡 He explained the changes that the city of Valencia has undergone under his Green mayorship. #GreeningFromTheGroundUp pic.twitter.com/obhKhCPksk
Networking and Exhibition
Participants presented successful Green projects that they have implemented in their municipalities on stage to spark innovative ideas and share experiences which can be replicated in other regions by Green local councillors, such as urban prototyping and using digital platforms to reach out to citizens and volunteers. The Green Party of England and Wales also celebrated their phenomenal win in the UK local elections and explained how they organise by building networks of councillors, Greens in opposition and Greens in power to build on each other's strategies.
🏴🏴 Congratulations to @TheGreenParty, who achieved phenomenal results in the local elections of England and Wales!— European Greens (@europeangreens) May 6, 2022
They have so far:
🏘 Reached 500 councillors
👏 Gained 80 (+45) council seats
✊ Become the 2nd largest party on several councilshttps://t.co/8bcRYtK3iB
Day 2: Our commitment to building a better future for all!
On our last day in Valencia, Greens joined a variety of city tours led by local architects or biologists in cooperation with Verdes Equo that showed the Green successes of Valencia. At the closing ceremony, the Greens from across Europe signed a pledge based on our resolution 'Building resilient green municipalities and regions of the future' which sets forth our commitment to building resilient municipalities and regions. Among others, it calls for ensuring that cities, towns, and villages become less prone to the impacts of the climate crisis, contribute to a sustainable and healthy environment, and fight against poverty, and that local administrations support the strengthening of citizen participation in public life.
How Greens are leading progressive change at the municipal and regional level
Thousands of local councillors and mayors are delivering green innovation and solutions to create a better future for all – tackling mobility, biodiversity, energy savings and production, food systems, social cohesion, inclusivity and more. Regions and municipalities are also at the forefront of citizen engagement and thus a cornerstone of democracy in the EU.
Throughout the Greening from the Ground Up Conference, Green mayors and local councillors emphasised the importance of rethinking cities and communities to enhance the wellbeing of people and the planet. Colette Finn, Local Councillor of Cork City South-West in Ireland, spoke of securing a more car-free future to win more space and quality of life in a post-pandemic future "One of the impetuses for creating more cycle routes was because nurses petitioned for a safer route to work. As restrictions lifted, they had to compete with cars again." Papi Robles, Member of the Valencian Parliament and Spokesperson of the Compromís coalition, spoke of the importance of creating inclusive cities, emphasising the need "to make the LGBT movement visible, to let it occupy public spaces, and work closely with the community." Luka Rakcevic, Local councillor in Podgorica, Montenegro, insisted on youth participation in political decision-making: "Without young people participating, we cannot achieve anything." These are just some examples of the forward-thinking best practices and solutions that Greens are applying in municipalities and regions across Europe!
Vula Tsetsi, European Greens Committee Member, speaking to the mayors and local councillors at the event, highlighted the renewed importance of local and regional politics:
"Things are changing because a lot of European decisions have an impact on the local and regional level and all the crises of today have a direct impact on more than 70% of the European population which are in urban areas. (...) You as elected people are our best ambassadors to show that changes are possible. Quality of life is possible. Sustainable development is possible. Sustainable transport is possible. Breathing an air which is clean is possible. And it is possible to fight inequalities."
Greens are most present at the local level and are committed to driving changes to ensure a more sustainable and resilient Europe!