This interview is part of our series “#ProgressiveLocalStories”, aiming at raising awareness on the many positive initiatives implemented by progressive cities and regions in Europe in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals. Cities and regions have become laboratories for innovative solutions and, with this series, we want to discover how progressive mayors, councillors and presidents of regions put in place policies to tackle the climate crisis, eradicate social inequalities and build more sustainable communities.
Ms. Mayor, why is Nantes a progressive city? How did you implement a progressive agenda for your city and respond to social and climate challenges?
The first idea is that our cities are creative and imaginative laboratories. In Nantes, just like in other major European cities where these beliefs are shared, we are putting the ecological transition at the service of the many. As a concrete example, I made a commitment so that 50% of social housing units in Nantes become heated with renewable energy as it is good for the climate but also because it is good for those with fewer means.
How, in tangible terms, are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implemented in your city, especially in the field of ecological transition and participatory democracy? How can the climate challenge be addressed without neglecting social inequalities?
They were built collectively and that, I believe, is decisive. I launched a major debate with my team on the energy transition. More than 50 000 people took part in it. Following this debate, we voted unanimously to take 33 major decisions to accelerate the ecological transition, always keeping in mind that it must continue to help the fight against inequality. It is on this path and with this kind of philosophy that we can be attentive to energy poverty in homes, to the fight against food insecurity and to the ecological transition, not only by doing so for the many, but also by letting people and actors do it for themselves.
[Nantes was named European Green Capital in 2013 for its long-standing commitment to promoting sustainable development.]
Does Europe contribute to making Nantes a more sustainable city? How could the EU better help Europe’s cities in the implementation of the SDGs?
I believe that if Europe wants to be closer to its citizens, it needs to show them that it is interested in them. At this level, cities have a major role to play. Nantes was the president of the city network called EuroCities for two years. This experience convinced me that what is known as the urban agenda at European level must be designed with the cities and even upstream with all authorities, and not simply at the end of the process. I believe that looking together at strategic issues is the best solution to find the right answers.
Johanna Roland has been mayor of Nantes (France) since 2014. She belongs to the French Socialist Party.