Asian and EU cities kick-off their collaboration under the ICP-AGIR programme.

On the 10th of February 2022, the cities of Singapore, Milan, Taichung, Prato, Taoyuan, Braga, Incheon, Berlin, Gwangju and Athens officially kicked off their collaboration to exchange knowledge within the field of circular economy, energy transitions and air quality under the ICP-AGIR programme.

The online event gathered 45 participants who listened to the EU delegation, the mayors and senior directors of the cities deliver welcoming speeches and offer city background to the collaboration. The project team presented insights to the timeline of the project, the setup of the networking and knowledge exchanges, as well as the expected outcome for the city co-operations. Breakout rooms then followed, where each paired cities had a chance to meet one another and discuss best practices and/or challenges identified by the cities.

The kick-off started with welcoming remarks by the EU delegations, Mr. Filip Grzeorzewski (Head of European Economic and Trade Office in Taipei), Ms. Maria Castillo-Fernandez (Head of EU Delegation Republic of Korea) and Ms. Iwona Piorko (Head of EU Delegation to Singapore). The EU delegates thanked their colleagues from the Director General of Regions for organizing this programme and expressed the importance of establishing meaningful cross-boarder co-operations for transformative action, furthermore, pushing for green and climate agendas in both Asia and the EU cities.

The meeting then progressed to welcoming remarks from cities.

Executive Director from Singapore’s centre for livable cities, Mr. Hugh Lim, prepared a video recording, expressing their enthusiasm to be a part of the ICP-AGIR programme and their pairing with Milan city. Singapore announced the launch of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, and looked forward to exchanging best practices on the themes of circular economy and agri-food policy pacts in light of their net-zero emissions goal.

Ms. Anna Scavuzzo, Vice Mayor of Milan, in charge of coordination of Milan Food Policy, followed suit, in a video recording, by thanking the Director General of Regions for selecting Milan under the theme of circular economy. They indicated their belief in the programme being a strategic and fundamental tool to further enhance collaborations and synergies between cities, and reaffirm their commitment to the 2030 agenda.

Ms. Shiow-Yen Lu, Mayor of Taichung City, also participated via video recording, thanking the European Commission in recognition of Taichung City Government’s achievements within circular economy. The main points of interest for Taichung is that of air quality, circular economy, offshore wind power and renewable energy. They hope to exchange relevant policies and experiences with EU cities such as Prato.

Mayor of the Municipality of Prato, Mr. Matteo Biffoni, shared in a video the great traditions in innovation, especially within their textile industry. The concept of ‘circular economy’ had been applied to their supply chains to avoid/reduce landfill waste. They are honored to be partnered with the city of Taichung, with which they aim to carry on profitable exchanges and synergies on the theme of circular economy, energy transition and air quality.

Mr. Cheng Wen-Tsan, Mayor of Taoyuan city, attended the meeting live and thanked the authorities for hosting the event. They were honoured to have been paired with Braga in Portugal and are keen on sharing their experiences in circular economy, energy transition and air quality. To achieve their sustainability goals, Taoyuan has released their voluntary local review in terms of the SDG implementation and are a part of the Carbon Disclosure Project. They look forward to sharing their experiences with Braga city.

Mr. Ricardo Rio, Mayor of Braga, shared a video that Braga is proud to be one the first cities in Portugal to commit themselves to the sustainability goals and have been acknowledged by the Carbon Disclosure Project as one of the cities in the forefront of adaptation to climate change. He expressed his great pleasure to be paired with Taoyuan city, on a subject that is important for their development model such as circular economy, energy transition and air quality.

Mr. Kiun Na, Director of International Cooperation Division, Incheon Metropolitan City, joined the meeting live and voiced the importance for intercity cooperation through which cities share best practices to tackle global challenges. He thereby expressed his appreciation to all the cities involved in the ICP-AGIR programme and looks forward to collaborating and addressing urban issues within the themes of sustainability and smart cities solutions.

Ms. Petra Kahlfeldt, Berlin’s Senate Building Director, thanked the European Commission for this initiative and articulated their delight in their pairing with Incheon. Driven by the ambition to manage the transformation of their city, so they can respond to the global challenges and improve the quality of life for their inhabitants, Berlin is enthusiastic about joining cities on a global scale. They can therefore learn from each other and jointly find a solution to the common challenges on circular economy, energy transition and air quality.

Mr. Won-Tae Yun, President of International Climate and Environment Centre of Gwangju, talked of the relevance of new approaches to undertaking climate change and reducing cities production on green house gas emissions. In the pursuit of policies that support carbon neutrality and creating the best cities in the world, it is imperative we exchange best practices. Gwangju was excited to meeting their colleagues in Athens to share these best practices.

The director of the Regional Development Fund of Attica, Mr. Sotirios Nikolaropoulos, stated he was glad to be a part of the programme that will contribute to the improvement of quality of the life in participating territories, by promoting sustainability and integrating urban development through innovative policies and programmes. Co-operations with Gwangju is of high interest to Athens, and sharing of knowledge within climate change adaptation. Which concludes the remarks from the paired cities.

Next in the agenda, was the content and explanation of the project.

Mr. Ramon-Alejo Lopez-Sanchez, from the Director General Region, presented briefly about the ICP-AGIR programme and expectations. He starts by greeting colleagues in Europe and Asia, and welcoming them to the Asian kick-off meeting. From the European Commission DG Regio, the importance of this project lies in the three cooperation themes that are identified as circular economy, energy transitions and air quality. There bilateral co-operations are of strategic importance to the green transition and active for green and inclusive recovery. A sustainable future means to not only take care of the climate and energy goals, but also to build a circular and inclusive resilient economy. This is a tremendous task that requires a change in paradigm, it is therefore encouraging to see these cities become front runners and turning these ambitions objectives into reality. This is the make or break in the fight against the climate crisis, it is therefore of the outmost importance to mobilise actors on the ground and involve international city partnerships.  We have a lot of knowledge and experience to offer one another. The main objective of the ICP-AGIR is to act as a vehicle for bringing cities together to work on sustainable solutions, on urban and territorial challenges as together we can get more done. This project will put special attention on knowledge capitalization and knowledge transfer from each pairings and stakeholders, to make this knowledge more accessible for all participants. Between the European cities and Asian cities we have a lot of experience and knowledge that can be shared. He concludes by thanking all the participants in ICP-AGIR and wishes them great success in their work.

Mr. Raul Daussa, the project manager of ICP-AGIR, thanks Mr. Lopez-Sanchez, and explains the project timeline and how this project will be executed. The journey started in October 2021 and will finish in March 2023. In October to December 2021 there was the selection of fourteen different cities in Europe, Asia, South Africa and Canada. From January – February 2022 was the set up of the online platform, and an explanation of the technical level cooperation action plans and best practices documents. A part of the knowledge exchange will include thematic cluster webinars involving the whole ICP-AGIR community on the topics of inclusion of migrants and refugees, circular economy and energy transition, and air quality. These thematic cluster webinars will take place once a month. Between June – November 2022 we are expecting to have study visits to the Asian cities and the European cities, along with online pairing and cluster meetings. December – March 2023 there will be the completion and dissemination of the project by which we would have captured the best practices and share it with different initiatives in Europe. The result of the project will be the action plans of these fourteen cooperation, and perhaps some partnership agreements would be established by the different cities involved. March 2023 there will be a closing conference that will take place in Asia where the action and cooperation plans will be presented.

Mr. Raul Daussa engaging in closing remarks for the content section of the meeting and the cities were separated into paired cities breakout rooms. The paired cities were as follows: Singapore and Milan, Taichung and Prato, Taoyuan and Braga, Incheon and Berlin, Gwangju and Athens.

In the breakout rooms, the cities got to meet one another, discuss initial topics of interest, best practices and identify city challenges.

Last but not least, once the breakout room session were complete to establish initial formal contact between the paired cities, there was the final kick-off closing remarks performed by Mr. Raul Daussa thanking the cities for their time and enthusiastically wishing them good luck on their intercity co-operations.