Inspired by stories from cities and towns across Europe, the conference aims to transform Europe for the protection of our planet and the life of future generations.


About the conference

For the last 25 years, the European Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns has offered cities and urban stakeholders, as well as regions a platform for inspiration, action and the commitment to take sustainability to the next level. The conferences call for the acceleration of bottom-up action and change, to ultimately push and accelerate the ambition of global frameworks for sustainability and climate change. Held every three years, the conference is the multi-level interface between the European Union and sustainability action at local level.

Bringing to the forefront ongoing trends, challenges and opportunities, the conference aims to shape the future beyond the status quo. Over the years the conference series has resulted in thought leading political documents that move frameworks and agendas as well as provide guidance and tools for cities driving sustainability for the benefit of their citizens. Following the ground-breaking Aalborg Charter (1994) and the Aalborg Commitments (2004), the 2016 conference led to the Basque Declaration calling for a socio-cultural, socio-economic and technological transformation in Europe. The conference series also closely aligns with other relevant processes for integrated urban planning and development, particularly the Leipzig Charter and, since 2015, the Urban Agenda based on the Pact of Amsterdam.


Find out more about the past conferences

 'The need for accelerated transformation causes anxieties. These mainly concern people’s economic and social security and living culture. We urgently need to discuss and act upon necessary changes in our society in order to support cohesion and acceptance of change. The chances for this are better from a local and community perspective than from a global, European or national level.'

Wolfgang Teubner, Regional Director, ICLEI Europe

'Public and private collaboration is not the only tool for innovation. A citizen perspective is needed.'

Janet Sanz, Deputy Mayor for Environment, Urban Planning and Mobility, City of Barcelona, Vice President of Environment Area, Barcelona Metropolitan Area

What’s happening in 2020?

The world is facing major environmental, economic and social challenges that require a substantial transformation in all aspects of society. By now, societal awareness and a sense of urgency for action on climate change, loss of biodiversity and global resource depletion are widespread. However, implementation of the transformation we need has been sluggish – hampered at 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 leadership, who take responsibility to overcome this contradiction.

The vast majority of the world’s population live in urban areas, with 75% of global CO2 emission attributable to cities. As such, local and regional leaders must assume their crucial roles 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. It lies with decision makers at all levels of government. It lies with the European institutions, business, academia, the research community and last but not least with citizens . We have to change systems, value chains, habits, processes and ourselves.

In 2020, all those that can make change happen will gather at the Mannheim2020 conference. Become part of the transformation and join mayors, local government practitioners, civil society and all other urban stakeholders, business, national governments and European institutions, and help us transform Europe for a secure and sustainable future.

On the agenda

  • What is the change we need and what can cities do to make this happen?
  • How can a European Green Deal become a true opportunity for change?
  • What is the social and environmental impact of digitalisation and what is its public value?
  • What is the perspective for a sustainable economy we need?
  • How local and how global are the perspectives for a new economic model?
  • Who is responsible? And who pays the bill?
  • How can integrated urban development and management respond to the challenge?
  • What do our citizens want and what can they do themselves?
  • How can we step up citizen mobilisation for positive transformation?
  • How can this become the transformation that we all want?
  • How can we scale up local action to the national and European levels?
  • How do we go mainstream?
  • Who else do we need to make this happen?

Work with us!

Are you inspired? Then contact us and take advantage of our co-operation opportunities.