Mannheim2020 – a local movement to take the sustainable transformation of Europe forward

July 23, 2020

Bird's-eye view of the Watertower of Mannheim

IMAGE: Gundolf Frost / Best Blue Mode GmbH


The world is facing major environmental, economic and social challenges that require a substantial transformation across all aspects of society. These challenges are only heightened and made more prominent by unpredictable crises, like the current coronavirus pandemic, which is already leading to grave hardship.


By now, societal awareness and a sense of urgency for action on some of the most critical and complex challenges, namely climate change, loss of biodiversity and global resource depletion, are widespread.


However, implementation of the transformation we need has been sluggish – hampered at the global level by zero-sum politics and vested interest economics. Simply put, our current, exclusively growth-based system is not fit for a sustainable future. Our behaviour is contradictory: we want to overcome these challenges, but only few seem willing to go against established routines. We need courageous leaders, who take responsibility to overcome this contradiction.



IMAGE: Stadt Mannheim

The vast majority of the world’s population live in urban areas, with 75 percent of global CO2 emissions attributable to cities. As such, local leaders must assume their crucial role in meeting global goals, while offering a home to their citizens.


But the responsibility for collective health and well-being lies not just with local leaders. Rather, it lies with decision-makers at all levels of government and with European institutions, business, academia, the research community and with citizens. We have to change systems, value chains, habits, processes and ourselves.



The 8th European Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns was held in Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain


From 30 September - 2 October, 2020, all those that can make change happen will gather in Mannheim (Germany) for the 9th European Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns, known as Mannheim2020.


The conference is organised by ICLEI Europe and the City of Mannheim, in partnership with the European Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Investment Bank, JPI Urban Europe, the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of the Environment, Climate Protection and the Energy Sector (Germany), and the City of Aalborg (Denmark).


Taking place over three days, Mannheim2020 will bring together over 800 participants and 100 speakers, including mayors, local government practitioners, civil society, all other urban stakeholders, business, national governments and European institutions, to help transform Europe for a secure and sustainable future.




IMAGE: Fernando Fath / Stadtmarketing Mannheim GmbH

The conference will investigate taking transformation forward through plenary and sub-plenary sessions, breakout sessions, an exhibition and innovation market, and guided study tours. The programme follows a series of plenary sessions in which speakers will debate exactly what form transformation must take. How can we reconcile economic growth with environmental and social justice? What is the social and environmental impact of digitalisation as it applies to transformation? What sacrifices will today’s youth be willing (or forced) to make by the time we reach the year 2040 and beyond?


Conference speakers range from a polar explorer, journalist and filmmaker, to high-level European Commission representatives, European Mayors, researchers, and more. Against the backdrop of these diverse voices, Mannheim2020 will also mark the launch of our local response to the EU Green Deal, which acknowledges and asserts the critical role of local players in ensuring Europe reaches its climate ambitions.



IMAGE: Hyp Yerlikaya / Stadtmarketing Mannheim GmbH

In line with the theme of urban transformation, the 2020 Transformative Action Award ceremony will take place as part of the Mannheim2020 conference. The prestigious award, which is now in its fourth year, is given to a city, region or civil society organisation that uses the 15 pathways outlined in the Basque Declaration to implement a transformative action that brings about the socio-cultural, socio-economic, and technological transformation of their community. The actions taken are local or regional contributions to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.


In addition to joining previous winners Lousada (Portugal), Ghent (Belgium) and Nilüfer (Turkey) as recognised leaders of sustainable urban transformation in Europe, the winner of the 2020 award will receive 10,000 EUR to help initiate further transformative actions in their city or region.


The 2020 Transformative Action Award is currently accepting applications, and any local or regional authority, or civil society organisation located in an EU Member State, EEA country or EU candidate or accession country that has endorsed the Basque Declaration is welcome to apply. For more information about the award and how to apply, visit:



To learn more about the Mannheim2020 conference, to keep up to date with all of the latest announcements, or to join the transformational movement, visit the conference website:




Note: We understand that due to the global COVID-19 pandemic it is currently difficult to make travel decisions. To accommodate your early registration, we are holding off on collecting participation fees until the situation can be better assessed.




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