Ursula von der Leyen has chosen to make the ‘European Green Deal’ her number one priority, with the aim to reach climate-neutrality in 30 years. This crosscutting challenge should federate the European Union (EU), Member States, local authorities and private sector.
Research and innovation (R&I) is a vital enabler of the transition towards climate neutrality. We indeed need to develop and scale-up the new business models, processes, technologies and behaviours of an inclusive and climate-neutral society.
The EU now has a comprehensive energy policy and research and innovation policy. One of its more recent –and promising- component is the EU Research and Innovation Missions (R&I Missions) that aim to provide inspiration and direction to European innovation. One area identified for those missions is ‘climate-neutral and smart cities’.
In this paper, we explore how such an EU R&I Mission could foster the creation of solutions to deliver clean transport, heating, cooling and electricity to those who live in cities. In essence, our research finds that Europe now has many ingredients but lacks a recipe to deliver climate-neutrality in cities. This R&I Mission could be most useful if it succeeds to connect the dots between available technologies, economic incentives, new behaviours, infrastructure and popular support.
The first part of this paper recalls why clean energy innovation for cities is key to fight climate change. The second part presents the state of play in terms of existing city-level initiatives and collaborations, and the existing EU toolkit in urban, R&I and energy policies. Finally, the paper recommends to (1) clearly define what a climate neutral city is, (2) select 100 cities that reflect the diversity of European cities and (3) make this R&I Mission on cities international by design.