EU cities and regions step up debate on climate action ahead of COP26
The official position of the European Committee of the Regions on international climate negotiations will be adopted in a resolution at the next plenary session on 12-14 October 2021
The United Nations climate summit is due to start in Glasgow in less than two months. Six years after signing the Paris Agreement, national governments must provide concrete responses on how they plan to meet their climate goals. As the world goes through unprecedented heat waves, fires and floods, COP26 will highlight the need for a higher climate ambition to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The formal inclusion of local and regional governments and their climate contributions remains a key demand that EU cities and regions will make in Glasgow, in close cooperation with international networks of subnational government actors.
The first meeting of the Committee on the Environment, Climate Change and Energy of the European Committee of the Regions (ENVE) after the summer vacation was an opportunity to discuss the next COP26, the United Nations climate summit. Opening of the debate, Juan Espadas (ES / PSE), Mayor of Seville, President of the ENVE Commission of the CoR and theGreen Deal goes local working group, said: ‘ The world sees Glasgow in November as the last chance to find collective ambition to tackle the climate crisis. So many people and companies are calling on us, local and regional elected representatives, to provide concrete answers for their daily lives and for their future. The European Committee of the Regions will ensure that their voice and that of our territories are heard at COP26. Climate diplomacy can only be effective if it is credible, and this can happen if all actors, including cities and regions, are involved in achieving climate neutrality. ‘
During the climate debate, Jacob Werksman, the EU’s chief negotiator at COP26, summed up the Union’s “three courses of action” for Glasgow. First, on the “politics of ambition,” to persuade other major economies to increase their climate targets and increase climate finance. Second, complement the Paris regulation, in particular the transparency and accountability framework through which countries must report on their climate goals and engage in international carbon markets. Third, the EU must maintain its support for partnerships with non-state actors, including the contribution of cities and regions to implementing climate action and building their resilience to climate change. Mr. Werksman also pointed out that “What happens at local and regional level inspires the design of policies at EU level” , referring in particular to transport and construction policies and to changing citizens’ behavior. The EU’s main negotiator at COP26 concluded by “Reach out to local and regional authorities to join the EU’s efforts to maintain climate momentum.” “
Jytte guteland (SE / S & D), member of the European Parliament and rapporteur on the European climate law, recalled that: “80 countries have yet to update their Nationally Determined Contributions. World leaders must step up and present clear pathways for emissions reductions and concrete proposals such as carbon pricing. It’s time to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and end new coal-fired power plants. ‘
Csaba Borboly (RO / EPP), chairman of Harghita County Council, said: ” For better adaptation to climate change, we must be bold and act now. Local and regional authorities need help to prepare their own climate adaptation strategies to increase the protection and resilience of local communities and natural habitats. I would like to reiterate our call for direct funds for local and regional authorities to implement local Green Deal projects that help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. ‘
Ivan Goulam (HR / Renew Europe), Mayor of the Municipality of Pirovac, declared: “COP26 must meet the expectations of those who wish to capitalize on the resumption of COVID-19 to advance the climate agenda. We need a strong CoR presence in the EU delegation to COP26 to advocate that contributions determined at regional and local level (RLDC) do not lead to double counting of parties’ climate commitments but, at the same time, contrary, to a more precise count. We are ready to showcase the best examples from our communities. The challenge is global but the transition must be local. RLDC is the System proposed by the CoR formally include the climate commitments of subnational governments in the Paris Agreement.
Jakub Chełstowski (PL / ECR), President of the Śląskie region, underlined that “Given the current economic crisis due to the pandemic, EU policies should focus primarily on economic recovery. The EU should chart a realistic path towards climate neutrality, which will not have a negative impact on EU citizens and businesses. The goals of the Paris Agreement can only be achieved if all parties have equally ambitious policies. This would not only help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, but it would also create a level playing field for businesses. ‘
Regarding the legislative agenda of the EU, the ENVE committee appointed four rapporteurs on files falling within the ‘Fit for 55’ package, a set of 12 proposals presented by the European Commission on July 14 to support a net reduction in GHG emissions of at least 55% by 2030 from 1990 levels, with the overarching objective of making the EU neutral in carbon by 2050, as indicated in the European Green Agreement. The newly appointed rapporteurs are:
Peter Kurz (DE / PSE), mayor of Manheim, on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and the Carbon frontier adjustment mechanism.
Csaba Borboly (RO / EPP), Chairman of the Harghita County Council, on a socially fair Green Deal, including the Revision of the Energy Taxation Directive and the Social climate fund.
Andries Gryffroy (BE / EA), member of the Flemish Parliament, on the revision of the renewable energy directive.
Rafal Trzaskowski (PL / PPE), Mayor of Warsaw, on the revision of the energy efficiency directive.
The members decided to postpone until the ENVE committee meeting in November 2021 the appointment of a CoR rapporteur on the LULUCF (land use, land use change and forestry) and Regulation respecting the sharing of efforts.
On the ‘Fit for 55’ package, members held a debate with Stefanie Hiesinger, member of the cabinet of the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, who reaffirmed that cities and regions are key partners for the EU to achieve climate neutrality.
Linda Gaasch (LU / Verts), member of the municipal council of Luxembourg city, said: “Seemingly an ambitious proposal, the ‘Fit for 55′ package does not commit to ending the use of fossil fuels and it protects industry rather than citizens. It does little for social justice. We demand end free allowances and insist on reducing emissions’ by at least ‘55% – we shouldn’t stop at 55%. Cities and regions are ready to step up their game.’
Also during the debate on the “Fit for 55” package,Andries Gryffroy (BE / EA), member of the Flemish Parliament, said : “It is certainly positive to see the EU take the initiative to accelerate the energy transition and lead societal transformation. However, ambition must also reflect the reality on the ground. The CoR called for Green Deal legislation that is balanced, flexible and built from the bottom up. The new legislation must be flexible enough to take into account the different starting points at national, regional and local levels, as well as the differences between urban, rural and peripheral areas and their potential to contribute to climate neutrality. ‘
Members had an exchange of views on two upcoming opinions. First, a “EU action plan: towards zero pollution for air, water and soil”, by reporter Marieke Schouten (NL / Verts), alderman of the municipality of Nieuwegein. Second, the notice ‘Local and regional authorities step up implementation of EU pollinator initiative ‘, a file in the hands of the rapporteur Frida Nilsson (SE / RE), member of the local assembly of the municipality of Lidköping.
Members held a debate on the Conference on the Future of Europe, stressing the need to strengthen the formal role of local and regional governments in institutional governance and EU policymaking. MEPs call for the Green Deal and the EU’s transition to climate neutrality to be at the heart of debates on the future of the EU, highlighting the recent Eurobarometer, which shows that 93% of Europeans consider climate change to be a serious problem.
The “Green Transition: for a sustainable and green recovery” is one of the three main themes of the 19th edition of the European Week of Regions and Cities, which will take place from October 11 to 14, 2021.
The CoR contributes to accelerating the transition to climate neutrality through its flagship initiative Green Deal goes local.
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