agenda for the city of the future

Climate & Energy

Nothing is more urgent than the climate crisis. And the transition must be firm, fast and just.

These are the results of dozens of conversations, discussions and exchanges of Cities for Change.  Door uiteenlopende deelnemers en organisaties uit Amsterdam en andere steden in Europa.


A fossil-free, energy-democratic city, in which every city-dweller has access to affordable, sustainable energy and heat (and cooling) as a basic service. The power over energy is placed in the hands of citizens, (local) government, energy cooperatives, trade unions, companies, employees and small entrepreneurs: they decide together, in a democratic way. District-specific and on a large scale.

The social-ecological transition prevents energy poverty and is also beneficial for those who cannot afford solar panels. And it is inclusive: the most vulnerable and marginalized city residents participate in decision-making. Moreover, the transition will create good, local and sustainable jobs and lower energy consumption. Watch the conversations during Cities for Change below about what is needed for energy democracy in the city (in Dutch).

'For a long time the idea was ... If those solar panels will only become affordable, everything will be all right.'Anne-Marie Pronk, Climate Sister

'For a long time the idea was ... If those solar panels will only become affordable, everything will be all right.'Anne-Marie Pronk, Climate Sister

'The climate crisis is global, and it is precisely the local solutions and responses that multiply and strengthen the power of systemic change.'Nicolas Haeringer, Associate Director Movement Partnerships, activist FossilFree



  • Thinking and speaking differently: thriving before growth, well-being instead of prosperity. Energy is a basic need in people’s lives, not a commercial commodity.
  • A municipal energy company – from generation to distribution. Clean, efficient, renewable. Generated for and by the city’s residents, in collaboration with local initiatives, and with control and power for citizens.
  • Citizens have influence. The municipality establishes a representative, permanent citizens' council that contributes to an ambitious and fair climate policy. Proceeds remain in the city. With more local ownership and democratic management, the city can re-invest spending and revenue in the local energy infrastructure. This won’t happen when the energy chain is largely in the hands of private parties.
  • A green jobs plan for the longer term. No individual projects, but a long-term process in which the city, together with trade unions and branches, retrains and reskills workers from a polluting industry. In favour of decent and secure jobs.
  • Make it easy. Legislation currently hinders citizens who wish to set up energy cooperatives, and is beneficial to businesses. This should be the other way around. The government provides the legal structures to ensure that the energy infrastructure can be managed democratically, for example in public-civil partnerships.
  • Use what's already there. Amsterdam is the first city in the world to adopt the doughnut strategy and has adopted an Amsterdam Climate Neutral 2050 Roadmap and an Amsterdam Circular Strategy. Policymakers can seamlessly fit energy democracy into this.
  • Combat energy poverty and climate gentrification. The municipality structurally brings together civil servants who are involved in housing, poverty reduction and climate neutrality. And organises direct administrative involvement at a high level, for example a steering committee in the higher echelons of the civil service.
  • Engage in conversation, listen and be inclusive (also in language and in practice). Politicians and civil servants also speak with climate sceptics, residents with concerns about wind turbines and Amsterdammers who are less privileged. Energy is more than a technical fix.
  • The fossil fuel industry is like the tobacco lobby. Something we need to fend off. And something to divest from, for example through pension funds.

Which problems are the recommendations an answer to?

The climate crisis. Loss of biodiversity. Air pollution. In all of these, market forces and inequality are the biggest issues. Currently, energy is still too often in the hands of private companies primarily going for profit, continuing to burn fossil fuels and exhausting the planet, in terms of both raw materials and people.

Cities emit around 70 percent of the world's greenhouse gases and consume 75 percent of all raw materials. Their residents suffer from air pollution and heat stress, and energy poverty is a growing problem among lower income groups.

In addition, affordable sustainable, clean energy is still too often a thing for and by the privileged – so-called climate gentrification. And the crisis hits the most vulnerable first and hardest.

Climate policy is also unevenly distributed. Dutch households contribute half a billion more to climate policy than the business community. And only a quarter of climate funding has benefited households, of which people with higher incomes received as much as 80 percent.

What is already happening in Amsterdam or other cities?

  • The municipality is experimenting with a citizens' council on climate, comprising 100 randomly selected residents from Amsterdam and Weesp. They are asked to come up with additional measures that will achieve the CO₂ target. Amsterdam aims for 55 percent less CO₂ emissions by 2030 compared to 1990, and current measures are falling short.
  • With the Amsterdam Climate Neutral 2050 Roadmap the municipality is strongly committed to a rapid transition to a carbon-free economy. With 'climate justice' as a guiding principle. And the Amsterdam Circular 2020-2025 strategy aims to achieve a fully circular economy by 2050.
  • In 2014, the municipality of Haarlemmermeer set up public energy company Tegenstroom Tegenstroom is a non-profit social enterprise, that works together with local entrepreneurs who generate solar power. Tegenstroom buys up their surplus electricity and distributes it to the local residents. In this way, both energy and financial flows remain within the municipality.
  • After a successful referendum, the city of Hamburg decided, between 2014 and 2016, to bring the electricity grid back under municipal control. It had previously been sold to Vattenfall. Within a year, this had already resulted in a saving of 34.5 million euros. The municipality also set up an Energy Advisory Council with local representatives from social, scientific, industrial and business sectors. These meetings are open to everyone, and residents can ask questions and submit proposals. In 2018, the municipality also removed the gas and heat networks from private hands.
  • The German city of Wolfhagen has been running a municipal energy company, Stadtwerke Wolfhagen, since 2006. The citizen cooperative BEG Wolfhagen owns 25 percent of the company's capital, and its representatives sit on the supervisory board.
  • Barcelona has founded the municipal energy company Barcelona Energia. Users have a say in the company and can exert pressure to prevent shut-offs. The participation council comprising workers and citizen groups may submit proposals about the strategy of the municipal energy company, for example about tariffs, investments, and education. In addition, the city launched special rates to encourage reduced and sustainable energy consumption.
  • The municipality of Cádiz has set up two permanent committees: Energy Transition in Cádiz (MTEC) and the Committee for Combating Energy Poverty (MCPE). MTEC includes specialists, environmental organisations, private individuals, academics, employees of Eléctrica de Cádiz and members of the Som Energía cooperative. The goal is to have Eléctrica de Cádiz supply 100 percent renewable energy. MTEC's proposals must be considered by the city council. The MCPE has designed programs for families in financial difficulties, including discounts, training to understand energy bills and access to energy supplies. Previously unemployed residents have been appointed as energy advisors.
  • What started as a citizens' initiative is now the Plymouth Energy Community (PEC), which works with the council for a fair, affordable, fossil-free energy system for the local population. Funding for sustainable infrastructure is provided through loans from the municipality and community shares that local residents can buy. PEC ensures that part of the money residents pay for their energy bills flows back to the community, and has social programs to combat energy poverty.
  • Scotland, Vienna, Leuven, Barcelona, Berlin, Mississippi, Mannheim and more examples of energy democracy can be found at Energy Democracy.

Continue reading, listening or watching

Climate & energy

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Amsterdam doughnut economy

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