Ida Sulin 10.3.2020

On Sustainability and Local Government  

Ida sulin

The EU Commission aims at making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. In December 2019 the communication and time-line for the European Green Deal was issued, outlining actions in a wide range of fields.

Did you know that local governments - cities and municipalities that is - implement around 70 % of all EU legislation? And that local governments are responsible for 70 % of climate mitigation measures, 90 % of climate adaptation policies and around 65 % of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The implementation of the Green Deal will not start from zero. Today, cities and municipalities promote ecological, economic and social sustainability an integrated part of their every day work. The Finnish cities and municipalities, for instance, base their work on a municipal strategy, including themes linked to inclusion, well-being, finances and the thriving of the area. Actions taken by the cities and municipalities implement the strategy on a daily basis.  

In practice, also the democratic nature of local government promotes sustainability. If inhabitants are not pleased with how the municipality has handled its responsibilities, decision-makers will not be re-elected. This fact has an impact particularly on the efforts to promote social sustainability in the society.

Given the position, knowledge and expertise of local government, it is not enough that local government is heard in EU advances towards the Green Deal and on the Agenda 2030. Neither, in the national context, is it enough for cities or municipalities to be treated as by-standers in the implementation procedure.  

Local government are experts on sustainability and must be given places at the tables where advances in the field of sustainability are planned, both politically and in practice.

For cities and municipalities the future will hold a need for adaptation and for measures to mitigate and prepare for effects of climate changes. Aside of the internal work, local government must step up in order to advance the sharing of best practices and to set aside resources for common solutions.

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Ida Sulin is Chief Legal Counsel at the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities.