Conference History

Conference Series

Over the last 30 years the ESCT has been a cornerstone of sustainable urban development in Europe, vitally important to advancing the local sustainability agenda. The four main milestones reached in the conferences in 1994, 2004, 2016 and 2020 show the series' leading role, and forward thinking approach often year's ahead of its time.

So far European Sustainable Cities & Towns Conferences have been held in Aalborg, Denmark (1994, 2004), Lisbon, Portugal (1996), Hannover, Germany (2000), Seville, Spain (2007), Dunkirk, France (2010), Geneva, Switzerland (2013), the Basque Country, Spain (2016) and Mannheim, Germany (2020).

Local Sustainability Milestones

The Aalborg Charter (1994)

Inspired by the Rio Earth Summit’s Local Agenda 21, the Charter was developed to contribute to the EU’s Environmental Action Programme, ‘Towards Sustainability’.

More than 3,000 local authorities from over 40 countries signed the Charter, making it the largest European movement of its type, and the start of the European Sustainable Cities and Towns Campaign.

Read the Aalborg Charter

The Aalborg Commitments (2004)

The Commitments present a framework for the local level that lays out how to embed sustainability across municipality sectors.

They introduce qualitative objectives that are organised into 10 integrated themes. This structured approach allows decision makers to adapt them to their own local conditions. Over 700 cities and towns have signed the Commitments.

Read the Aalborg Commitments

The Basque Declaration (2016)

The Declaration aims to support and accelerate the socio-cultural, socio-economic and technological transformation needed for a sustainable future.

It outlines clear pathways to create productive, sustainable and resilient cities for a liveable and inclusive Europe. Cities and Towns can take inspiration to develop and create their own local transformative actions.

Read the Basque Declaration

The Mannheim Message (2020)

Responding to the EU Green Deal, the Message introduced the now widely spread concept of Local Green Deals to the European stage. A key tool to facilitate the transformation to a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable Europe.

It also directly addresses local and European leaders, calling for core systemic changes and key policy shifts cities need to suceed in their ambitious goals.

Read the Mannheim Message

Past Conferences

Aalborg 1994

In 1994, the City of Aalborg together with ICLEI and a number of other local government networks took up the challenge of spreading the local sustainable development message across Europe in the period following the Rio Earth Summit.

Lisbon 1996

The City of Lisbon hosted the second conference, which attracted over 1,000 participants. Building on the Aalborg Charter presented at the first conference, the Lisbon Action Plan was launched in 1996.

Hannover 2000

This millennial edition of the conference took place in Hannover, Germany with over 1,300 participants, 250 mayors or their representatives present, and dozens of workshops. Municipalities emphasised their right to assume a central role in the development of a rapidly urbanising Europe.

Aalborg 2004

Ten years after the first conference, the campaign returned to Aalborg. The main outcome of the conference was the Aalborg Commitments, a local government sustainability “toolbox” encompassing 10 shared sustainability pledges.

Seville 2007

The City of Seville hosted the fifth conference in the series, where over 1500 delegates from European local governments committed to act immediately and implement advanced policies for local sustainable development, enthusiastically promoting the Aalborg Commitments.

Dunkirk 2010

The sixth conference took place in 2010 in Dunkirk, France. Dunkirk 2010 explored how sustainable development can help local governments to face the current economic, social and climate challenges and how it can be further implemented in the current context of crisis.

Geneva 2013

In 2013, the City of Geneva hosted the seventh conference in the series, emphasising the opportunities for strengthening local economies and communities through sustainable investments. The conference also saw the launch of the Sustainable Cities online platform.

Basque Country 2016

Under the title ‘Transformative action: the potential for Europe’, the eighth edition of the conference explored the need for action by local governments to change unsustainable pathways and shape Europe’s future.

Mannheim 2020

The ninth conference demonstrated the urgent need for local governments to assume responsibility for urban transformation and lead the way in guiding Europe towards a secure and sustainable future.

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