The Covenant of Mayors is the mainstream European initiative involving local and regional authorities in the fight against climate change and developing a more sustainable energy future for our cities. It is a voluntary commitment by signatories to meet and exceed the EU 20% CO2 reduction objective through increased energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources. The Covenant of Mayors was launched in 2008 by the European Commission, with the support of the Committee of the Regions and the European Parliament. It provides a bottom-up support for the implementation of the EU Climate and Energy Package, adopted in 2008 by heads of state and government.
The Covenant aims to support the efforts made by local authorities to implement sustainable energy policies, and is open to cities of all size, including those outside the European Union. When local and regional authorities make the commitment to join the Covenant, they engage to establish a Baseline Emission Inventory (BEI) and a Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) and submit them to the European Commission within the year following their adhesion. The consistency of their data is checked by the Joint Research Centre. By November 2011, 3055 cities and towns from all 27 Member States and from other 19 countries have signed the Covenant. Regions play also a key role as territorial coordinators and those often providing funding for investments. For more information visit www.eumayors.eu.
The Committee of the Regions (CoR) has supported the Covenant of Mayors since its inception in 2008, and more than 70 of its members are already signatories. On 5 October 2010, at its Plenary Session, the Committee led the Covenant to a milestones signature with the joining of the 2500th municipality, the 100th region and the 25th capital city, as well as the linking to over 1000 American cities working within the U.S. Mayor Climate Protection Agreement, via a memorandum for cooperation between the CoR and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Along with a pledge for increased political ownership of the initiative, the Committee also proposes to widen the scope and broaden the geographical coverage of the Covenant. Local and regional authorities are committed to helping Europe back on the road to economic recovery through investing in smart energy and moving towards greater resource efficiency. That is why it is so important for the Committee of the Regions that the Covenant of Mayors be expanded beyond energy issues to include the full range of resources. A more resource-efficient lifestyle will boost green employment, increase EU competitiveness, generate financial savings, and create innovationopportunities.
The CoR believes that local and regional authorities have an important role in framing, implementing and evaluating policies related to 20-20-20 objectives, therefore they should be empowered and equipped with resources and given access to funding. The fact that more than 3000 mayors, local authorities and regions have signed up to go beyond EU targets for cutting emissions is a clear sign that the real momentum in this area is at the sub-national level – a momentum that could also benefit resource efficiency.
Activate sustainable energy investments
We, local and regional authorities, stress that improvements in all areas of the Europe 2020 Strategy can be achieved if measures increasing sustainable use and production of energy are widely implemented in European cities and regions. At least one separate specific priority line of the 2014-2020 Structural Funds should be dedicated to sustainable use and production of energy.
Broaden investments from energy to resource efficiency
We believe that the Covenant of Mayors should be opened up to other key areas of the European Commission’s Resource-efficient Europe Flagship initiative, such as biodiversity and land use, waste and water management or air pollution. In particular, and ahead of the European Commission’s Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Waters in 2012, we want to see the Covenant extended to include 20-20-20 targets for integrated water management, set out in the 2011 CoR opinion on sustainable water use:
Cooperate for global sustainable development
As local and regional representatives, we have a wealth of experience in tackling climate change and living sustainably. That is why we want to see concrete measures to help Covenant of Mayors signatories share their experiences with their counterparts worldwide. Real efforts to foster cooperation on resource efficiency at the local and regional level with the EU’s southern and eastern neighbours and with developing countries will be a key element in helping these partners meet the climate change challenge.