IMAGE: Stadtmarketing Mannheim GmbH / Achim Mende

The lasting impact of Mannheim2020

January 6, 2021


By Adrienne Kotler

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability

Between 30 September and 2 October, more than 1500 participants, spanning 39 countries in Europe, plus an additional 50 countries outside of Europe, met online for Mannheim2020: the 9th European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns, in order to take transformation forward.


The dynamic and virtual nature of the conference enabled it to reach new, vaster geographies and bring together experts from across the continent, all to ensure that transformative change continues to be pushed forward, even in the face of global uncertainty. This was the first online edition of the flagship European conference series, and the event has already proven to be impactful.




The Mannheim Message


The most striking result of the event was the launch of the Mannheim Message, the local response to the EU Green Deal. It calls for five core systemic changes and nine key policy shifts needed to bring about transformation for a resilient, inclusive, and sustainable Europe. Further, it demands that local authorities be key partners in the development of Local Green Deals and the European Green Deal, which are seen as key tools to facilitate this transformation.


Until now, local and regional governments have been seen as functional implementation partners for the EU Green Deal. The Mannheim Message articulates the necessity for their inclusion rather as partners in the process beyond implementation alone, such as while the European Commission continues to develop the policy.


The Mannheim Message was formally presented to the European Commission (EC) at Mannheim2020. In response, Diederik Samsom, the Head of Cabinet of EU Vice-President Frans Timmermans, referred to this process as a continuing dialogue and exchange with the EC. “We want to make a strong connection between what we do in Brussels – making policy, disseminating money, adapting regulations – and what cities are doing on the ground,” said Samsom. “I think the Mannheim Message takes us forward and I believe we need inspiration from what is being done at the local level.”




Not only did Mannheim2020 secure commitment from the European Commission to engage local governments as key partners, but it also mobilised a critical mass of local and regional authorities committed to this work. This is vital, as the Mannheim Message includes the pledge to implement Local Green Deals, designed in cooperation with citizens and key stakeholders, to accelerate the transformation of our societies. The Mannheim Message was finalised in a Mayors’ Meeting before the Mannheim2020 conference and, during the conference itself, Mayors spanning Europe expressed their support

of the Message and its demands.


“The Mannheim Message strengthens [the point] that local governments are key actors for the European Green Deal, and explains how we are co-creating Europe’s future. To achieve these goals, joint work needs to be done, not only following a top-down approach, but also a bottom-up one. We should use the momentum to involve regions, cities and towns,” said Dr. Peter Kurz, Mayor of ICLEI Member Mannheim (Germany).


Via continual exchange, the Mannheim Message will become the “Mannheim Process” and, through this dialogue, local leaders and their communities will shape the European and local Green Deals together. Cooperation is the key to accelerating the transformation of our societies to being carbon neutral, sustainable and inclusive.


A growing number of cities and organisations have already endorsed the Message, including the European Committee of the Regions, our strong ally.




Other conference impacts


Six plenary sessions brought cities together with other stakeholders who are critical to implementing transformative change, such as the European Investment Bank, European Committee of the Regions, journalists, researchers, young leaders, and more. Bringing together these voices proved insightful and important to catalyse the change we need, and fostered challenging debate on how to take transformation forward. Through these discourses, leaders across governing levels publicly agreed to take action.






Public commitments and policy investigations are crucial components of enacting transformative change. However, local leaders and governments must also be empowered to take on concrete projects that take transformation forward. Solution and Toolbox Sessions provided an opportunity to test different sustainability solutions, and to get inspired to replicate successes across cities.




During each session, the conference put a spotlight on the cities and local leaders who are driving and inspiring change. This culminated in the announcement of the ICLEI Member Katowice (Poland) as the 2020 Transformative Action Award winner. Accepting the accolade, and a cheque for 10,000 EUR to kick-start further environmental projects in his city, Deputy Mayor Mariusz Skiba acknowledged how critical locals are to successful climate action, saying “our residents are the best city ambassadors.”


Just as local action can only be successful with the active engagement of residents, a conference of this scale is impactful thanks to its speakers, participants, and partners. Based on participants’ and speakers’ high levels of interaction, the positive reception of the event, the declarations and commitments it launched, and the overwhelming support the Mannheim Message has received from the European Commission, cities and experts, it seems certain that Mannheim2020 has successfully pushed transformation forward.





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