Over 25 experts from 15 institutions attended the first roundtable of LSE Cities’ European Cities Programme on 4th May 2022, chaired by LSE Cities Director Ricky Burdett.
Bloomberg Fellow for Government Innovation Ben Rogers gave a presentation on the recent past, current challenges and possible futures of European cities, as they grapple with climate change, covid recovery, inequalities, migration pressures, polarisation, and other issues.
Dorthe Nielsen (Eurocities), Maarten Hajer (University of Utrecht) and Michael Parkinson (University of Liverpool) were invited to respond to the presentation.
- European cities are facing daunting challenges, such as climate change, rising socio-spatial inequalities, migration and social integration, COVID-19 recovery, and an ageing population. In the discussion, the energy and climate crisis, the digital transition, the provision of affordable housing and sustainable transport, economic resilience and decent jobs emerged as key policy priorities for cities.
- The European continent urbanised early and, critically, before the widespread adoption of the car. European cities have thus inherited a compact form, which puts them at an advantage in tackling the climate transition. European cities are typically mid-sized, numerous and close together, which facilitated the emergence of networks.
. European cities remain highly connected today and play a leading role in global urban networks
- Several contributors flagged the variety of European cities and emphasized the importance of acknowledging the different typologies of cities in urban research and policy.
- The powers and responsibilities of city governments vary across the continent. That said, despite a general consensus, among policy experts, on the case for devolving more powers to cities, European cities have gained relatively few new freedoms, especially in relation to tax. As a general rule, the administrative capacity and financial resources for cities are insufficient to deal with the challenges they are facing.
- Cities increasingly need to engage in partnerships – with the private sector, civil society organisations, residents, philanthropies – to fill their resource gap. However, more research is needed on the extent to which these partnerships can further social and climate goals, and how cities can keep control of their agendas.
- Global challenges call for a complete rethinking of urban life. European cities have long been at the forefront of urban innovation and could lead the way in developing new models or more inclusive and sustainable ways of living. Some large European cities such as Paris, Vienna and Amsterdam show that radical agendas can lead to electoral successes, whereas smaller, less well-known cities have shown great potential for social change. But cities will need support from national governments, international bodies and civil society organisations, including universities, in developing new these new models.
The presentation, which includes a summary of the discussion, is available here