How prepared are the municipalities for the European Green Deal
How prepared are the municipalities for the European Green Deal

How prepared are the municipalities for the European Green Deal

Report evaluates public officers, employed and elected, in European countries, including Greece
Valia Politi

Achieving net-zero in cities does not only include the building stock, but also the services and infrastructure related to the urban environment, which are often provided by municipalities. But are the employees of the Greek municipalities prepared to make the necessary changes, in order to make our cities more sustainable and to achieve the goals of the European Green Deal? How do they assess themselves and in what areas do they believe that help is needed?

A survey was conducted by “EGD4Cities - European Green Dealfor Cities”, a project co-financed by the European Union under Erasmus +. EGD4Cities aims to empower local authorities to create long-term Sustainable Development plans, by introducing skills related to the transition to a cyclical and greener economy.

To achieve this goal, seven partners from six European countries, including Greece, conducted a survey, involving mainly local authorities’ staff and representatives, as well as NGO members, who are called upon to act as a driving force towards change and a spokesperson of citizens. The main objective of the resulting report is to determine the level of knowledge and understanding of the participants, in matters related to the European Green Deal.

Ultimately, the goal is to develop a common document that can be used by local authorities to strengthen their role in helping actions related to climate change. In addition, the methodology used is expected to promote useful data sources, guidelines and standards, as well as good practices, which can be applied in various local communities.

In Greece, the participants were mainly public officers and politicians, with significant experience, as the majority (52%) have held the same position for 6 to more than 10 years, while another significant percentage of 26% is in their job for at least 3 years.

Greece gathered the largest percentage among the participating countries, in terms of a good level of knowledge, regarding the UN Sustainable Development Goals or the environmental and climate goals. Specifically, 57% of Greek respondents consider that they have a high level of knowledge on the aforementioned issues, while an additional 17% classify their knowledge at a very high level.

The percentage claiming to have heard about the European Green Deal or the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is also high (87%), while the highest percentage is recorded by our country in the number of respondents who stated that they know what the Just Transition Fund is (Greece: 74%, Poland: 72%, Bulgaria: 50%, Cyprus: 45%, Italy: 35%, Ireland: 30%).

Regarding the level of progress of each municipality in the priorities of the European Green Deal, respondents said that their local governments are developing policies for sustainability or that these policies are in progress, while the municipalities with completed policies seem to be few. At the same time, local governments largely state that they simply focus on national legislation and recommendations (88%) to develop sustainable development plans and strategies, which may signal a lack of compliance with non-mandatory European policies.

Regarding the communication with citizens, the Greek local authorities state that they are trying to make them actively aware of the sustainable policies and actions related to the Green Deal, while at the same time they are collecting feedback. However, improvement is needed in the efforts to involve businesses and other stakeholders in relevant actions and policies.

In general, public officers of the Greek municipalities state that they are quite aware of the European efforts to achieve a green transition in cities, while the support they need is, according to the respondents’ opinion, primarily financial (95%), followed by the need for capacity building (75%) access to information sources (55%) and administrative support (55%). However, 96% of respondents also stated that they need special training, mainly in relation to Green Sectoral Skills (88%) and communication or marketing skills to engage citizens (52%)

Finally, in the list of the three biggest obstacles faced by local authorities in achieving the goals of the Green Deal, answers vary considerably, with lack of financial capacity (18%), burdensome bureaucracy (17%) and lack of citizens’ support and involvement (13%) being slightly ahead of other factors.

Given that the research focused on people working in local services related to the European Green Deal, it seems that public officers directly involved with these issues have a satisfactory level of information and knowledge, but do not consider that their entire municipality is properly trained or has the necessary knowledge, resources and skills to meet the demands of transitioning to more sustainable cities and societies.

In general, the survey showed that few Local Authorities seem to have taken full action on the European Green Agreement. Most municipalities seem to be trying to adopt as much of the aspects as possible, but the fact remains that they are far from implementing real actions towards sustainability.