The manifesto


Recruit and train staff in local governments and related public
bodies to meet our climate ambitions

EU cities and municipalities cannot become climate neutral through wishful thinking. The process requires time, technical, financial, and human resources from local and regional governments and their related public bodies. They map renewable sources, plan the transition, and implement projects. These duties are carried out by women and men who work for and with municipalities. They involve local economic actors and civil society groups, assess the needs and context of each neighbourhood, and bring support to residents and local businesses. By mobilising society and providing decarbonisation strategies, local governments can unlock billions in investments and create millions of jobs. 

EU cities and municipalities cannot become climate neutral through wishful thinking

The European Union (EU) is increasingly acknowledging the role of local and regional governments in the transition to climate neutrality. The European Commission has for example suggested that every municipality with more than 50,000 inhabitants should be required to design heating and cooling plans1. For those plans to increase the decarbonisation of buildings and contribute to the EU goal of a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 55% by 2030, subnational governments and their public agencies need more resources2

Local and regional governments and their related public bodies are struggling to recruit the necessary staff as highlighted in the Covenant of Mayors Board’s open letter. They face three main challenges. First, local authorities’ operating budgets are too limited, this prevents them from opening new long-term positions. Second, workforce investments for the climate and energy transition are not exempt from the strict rules governing local government expenses. Third, employment positions with local governments are less attractive than those in other economic sectors (especially in terms of salary)  

1 *Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) recast, article 23.6

2 *The current EED recast proposes in the article 23.6 that “Member States shall support regional and local authorities to the utmost extent possible by any means including financial support and technical support schemes”

The “Human capacity in local governments: a bottleneck of the buildings stock transition3 study conducted by Energy Cities shows that municipalities and their related bodies will need an average of 214,000 additional full-time positions per year for the period 2022-2030 just to decarbonise the building stock. The related costs for municipalities will be around 16 billion EUR per year, which represents 3% of the local governments’ public expenditure in 2019. However, it also represents an increase of around 50% of local governments’ employee related expenditures in the energy and housing sectors. While the study focuses on the decarbonization of buildings, it also shows the broader need to invest in staffing of municipal departments and agencies dealing with climate, energy, environmental, and mobility issues. 

To achieve their climate neutrality goals, the EU and its Member States need strong local public services, especially in the energy field. To keep the planet “liveable”, the latest IPCC report states that the curve of greenhouse gas emissions must be reversed within 3 years. The conclusion is simple: we must act now and give regional and local governments the ability to think, learn, develop, and implement their energy transition plans. European and national governments operate through them when implementing climate transition plans. It is therefore urgent to give municipalities the means, especially human resources, to intensify the process of slashing their territories’ greenhouse gas emissions at the right scale.  

We urge national governments of EU Member States and the European Commission to:

  1. Finance the recruitment of municipal and local public body staff: Member States need to thoroughly assess the local human resources needs in order to achieve an effective decarbonisation plan of the required scale and time. Accordingly, Member States must propose strategies to close the gap; these must include direct financing of long-term job positions in municipalities and related climate and energy public bodies. The European Commission should support these assessment and recruitment efforts by requiring them as part of the National Energy and Climate Plans or EU Green Deal legislations, and blending funding instruments such as ESF+, ERDF, Erasmus and InvestEU to make funds available.  
  1. Make jobs more appealing and support local pooling of expertise: Member states must design proper human resources strategies to improve the attractiveness of jobs with municipalities and local related public bodies and to facilitate solutions such as the pooling of experts between municipalities and with the supra-municipal level (metropolitan, provincial, and regional areas). The EU and its Member States must support the extensive sharing of best practices via the Technical Support Instrument, the Mission Cities and the Covenant of Mayors. 
  1. Provide training and reallocation programmes to upskill municipal and related local public body staff. National governments must develop adapted training programmes for new and reallocated municipal staff. The EU must coordinate these national programmes for local climate and energy staff and participate in the financing of these national programmes via the reviewed Recovery and Resilience and Cohesion Funds. 
  1. Provide a framework enabling local governments to develop their own green budget, investments, and workforce. Budgetary rules at the national and European levels must view calculate staff costs as productive investments rather than expenses, thereby exempting them from debt calculation rules and facilitate the recruitment of new staff. To do so, the Stability and Growth Pact must be reviewed. Additionally, in order to increase the autonomy of cities in managing their climate policy, revenue from EU, national and local climate taxes shall be used to finance local investments, including recruitment of staff. The development of local climate taxes should also be encouraged as well as local ownership of renewable generation units and heat networks including energy communities.  

It is high time municipalities were given the means they need to facilitate their climate and energy transition. The authors and signatories of this manifesto look forward to discussing ways to achieve these objectives with national and European decision makers.


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