Senhores Presidentes Rui Moreira e Eduardo Vítor Rodrigues,

Senhor Ministro,

Senhores Membros do Parlamento Europeu,

Senhores Presidentes de Câmara e Membros das Áreas Metropolitanas,

Caros amigos,

Senhoras e Senhores,

É com grande prazer que me associo a este evento promovido pelas autoridades metropolitanas europeias, e organizado numa cidade que me diz tanto e da qual sou originária.

Teria tido o maior gosto em estar junto de vós, mas um contratempo de natureza pessoal não mo permitiu.

No entanto, não queria deixar de partilhar algumas reflexões sobre o importante tema que vos reúne hoje.

E permitam-me que passe agora para o inglês, uma vez que temos participantes de vários países.

Ladies and gentlemen, another event with a great impact in our lives is taking place some 2500 kilometres from here, the COP26 in Glasgow.

However, some of the stakeholders, which will be decisive to win the fight against climate change, are gathered here.

Cities and metropolitan areas are in the frontline of climate change and are key allies in this endeavour.

I am glad that this was recently recognised by the Gulbenkian Foundation, which has attributed its newly created Prize for Humanity to the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy for their engagement in combating climate change.

The role of cities is central.

The figures show it very clearly.

Cities in Europe, account for around 75% of the population and 70% of the greenhouse gas emissions.

So simply by weight of numbers, we must tackle emissions in cities, and especially in the largest cities.

But the influence of cities goes beyond weight of numbers.

Cities play a key role as leaders and examples.

And this is especially true of metropolitan areas.

Your scale and your strengths, make you fit to be the pacesetters of the green transition, leading the pack, as beacons and examples.

The conference today shows that you take this role very seriously.

Cities also play a critical role in the green transition as service centres, to their neighbouring regions and beyond.

Modern life is marked, by complex and integrated systems.

When one part changes, for good or for bad, this has knock-on effects, on all the other systems.

We saw this during Covid.

We will see this, in the green transition.

These complex integrated systems include energy networks, transport and mobility, land use, construction and renovation, the circular economy, education and healthcare, production and consumption, and many more.

In the green transition, all these systems must ideally change simultaneously.

But where do these systems meet?

Where do they interface?

In urban areas, and especially metropolitan areas, which act as service centres to the surrounding area.

To lead successful and effective transitions, we must start by transforming cities.

This is the challenge.

How can we support you?

I see 4 major opportunities.

First, the opportunity to use the post-pandemic recovery funds to improve the resilience of metropolitan areas.

The Recovery and Resilience Facility is a once-in-a-generation opportunity of investment, not just in the recovery, but in a fair, green and sustainable recovery.

Regional and local authorities should be involved in the preparation of the National Plans and in their implementation.

Many of the key reforms and investments under these plans will be implemented in urban areas.

As metropolitan areas, you have a certain weight.

I urge you to use it, sharing your expertise, and bringing your influence to bear, for the benefit of your cities, as well as of surrounding areas.

The second key opportunity is the new cohesion programmes.

In the 2021 programmes, we expect an investment of over 100 billion euros in the green transition, much of which will naturally be invested in cities.

To this general opportunity, we must add the specific opportunity of earmarking for integrated development strategies, amounting to around 17 billion euros.

What do we expect?

We expect you to factor in your role as service centres to the broader area, for example, as the hub of green mobility networks, or of circular economy systems and recycling networks.

In this role as service centres, you need to consider the wider functional urban areas, neighbouring municipalities, and develop urban-rural linkages as appropriate and take them into account when planning investments.

We also ask you to use cohesion policy for innovative projects, for example, investing in smart mobility, in smart energy networks or in eco-districts based on the deep renovation of buildings and the integration of renewable heating solutions, across an entire district.

You can also innovate around the zero-waste concept.

There are already examples, where strong re-use and separate waste collection have led to new repair and recycling businesses, encouraged at the city level.

These city-wide schemes, of green urban planning, bring me to the third key opportunity, the New European Bauhaus.

This is a project of hope in the midst of the difficult recovery ahead of us.

Let us be honest, for some citizens the prospect of the European Green deal may seem to be detached from everyday life.

The New European Bauhaus flips the script.

It is tangible and immediate, and it focusses on the benefits and the opportunities of a greener lifestyle.

By using innovative design thinking, we will rethink our buildings rethink our local areas, rethink our events, in fact, rethink our lives, in a way which makes them, not just more sustainable, but more beautiful, and more inclusive.

Hence the slogan of the New European Bauhaus: beautiful, sustainable, together.

This requires tangible transformations.

Not just of buildings, but of places and the use of spaces, of businesses and products; it calls for a specific mind-set and culture.

Because we want to disseminate good practices, we will be financing pilot projects, across Europe.

We are looking for the “architects of the future”.

Those who will design and engineer sustainable spaces which are beautiful, affordable and promote quality of life.

As metropolitan areas, you have the planning departments, the architectural and engineering knowhow.

We need your expertise for our community of practice.

But we will be at your side in developing those capacities and know how.

In September, we launched dedicated calls for technical assistance.

The assistance will support local authorities, in finding tailored solutions for their projects.

As this process evolves, you should act as leaders, examples, and sources of experience.

And this brings me to the fourth opportunity at hand for metropolitan areas: the tools for experiment and for exchange of experience.

The European Urban Initiative will invest 450 million euros in innovative actions.

The goal is to experiment with these innovations, developing solutions which can be scaled up and transferred elsewhere.

The initiative will also improve city capacity in the design and implementation of sustainable urban strategies, policies and practices.

And in shaping these in a participative way.

In addition, it will promote knowledge sharing for the benefit of urban policy makers and practitioners at all levels.

This of course links to the Urban Agenda.

Since Member States initiated it in 2016, this Agenda has promoted the role of cities in national and EU policies.

The Agenda has always had a particular focus on the green and digital transition.

The Commission remains fully committed to this multilevel governance cooperation process.

We are expecting Member States to renew their commitment to this process in the Ljubljana Agreement, at the end of this month.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will conclude with the reminder, that, in an emergency, you need someone you can count on.

Someone with weight.

Someone with expertise.

Someone acknowledged by others as a leader and good example.

The climate is that emergency.

And I believe that Europe’s cities and metropolitan areas can be those leaders and those good examples.

You have technical and administrative capacity.

You have scale and financing.

You are fit to be the pacesetters of the green transition,  mindful of the surrounding areas, conscious of their needs and potential.

The green and smart solutions to the many different systems of modern life, must be found at the hub and interface of those systems: in your cities!

Europe is providing means and opportunities.

From the recovery and resilience facility to the new cohesion programmes, to the New European Bauhaus, and various opportunities to experiment and to exchange, including the European Urban Initiative and the Urban Agenda.

In all these contexts, I urge you.

Share your expertise.

Innovate and build.

Be good examples, to Europe and beyond.

I wish you very fruitful discussions today.