In the presence of the European Parliament President and the Danish Prime Minister, Mayors and Presidents of regions from all EU Member States today adopted the “Copenhagen Declaration” committing to making cities greener, more socially inclusive and more economically competitive. This Declaration expresses the political will of European cities and regions to make sustainable urban development a key focus at the Rio+20 Earth Summit to take place on 20-22 June later this year. Cities and regions also called upon the European Union to share its best practices, such as the Covenant of Mayors and the European Green Capitals, at a global level.
At the closing session of the European Summit of Regions and Cities that took place in Copenhagen on 22-23 March, Committee of the Regions (CoR) President Mercedes Bresso emphasized the main message conveyed by the Summit: «The future of Europe hinges on our towns and cities. In the face of climate change and overconsumption of natural resources, our towns and cities are in the front line for driving sustainable development. They must do this through policies on housing, renewable energy production, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption, better waste management, and cleaner public transport. As vital tiers in the democratic process, cities also have a pivotal role to play in bridging the gap between the EU and its citizens. They thus hold the key to a European genuine "renaissance"».
Also addressing the Summit, the European Parliament’s President, Martin Schulz, insisted on the fact that cities have to be innovation centres that are also able to satisfy the basic needs of its citizens: “Cities are systems of innovation. They are in constant transformation and need to satisfy people's basic needs, such as housing, living, schools, clean water, hospitals and safe and reliable transport. This is why equal, open and free access to public services is the cornerstone of the European social model. We need to urgently put in a place a European framework for public services that aims at creating legal certainty while guaranteeing local autonomy and security, especially in these times of economic crisis”.
In her closing remarks, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark and President-in-office of the EU Council, was eager to refer to sustainable development as a means to overcome the economic crisis: “In this context of crisis, can Europe really afford the transition towards a green economy? For the people queuing up at job centres, sustainable development may seem a fairly remote goal. But it would be a big mistake to leave it at that. No, Europe cannot afford not to discuss green growth. And the input of Europe’s cities and regions is essential if the transition towards the green economy is to become a practical reality in our daily lives. Cities and regions are in the front line of sustainable development”.
To demonstrate their commitment to urban sustainable development, CoR members adopted the "Copenhagen Declaration" that sets out clear goals for European cities: striving for climate-neutrality, social inclusiveness, higher investment in human capital, education and health, physical infrastructure and new technologies, as well as better integration into their surroundings. Mayors and Presidents of regions called upon the EU to ensure adequate financial support for a cross-cutting urban policy and for European policies to give greater priority to territorial cooperation between European cities. The Declaration also points out the need to strengthen the role of cities and regions in piloting European policies, such as integrated strategies for sustainable regional development and a carbon-free economy.
As part of the preparation for the Rio+20 Earth Summit, where the CoR will form part of an EU Delegation, European regions and cities ask that urban policy and the European social model be upheld and championed within the context of the global strategy for sustainable development..
Note to the editors:
Under the title “The European urban fabric in the 21st century”, the Fifth European Summit of Regions and cities was organised by the CoR in partnership with the City of Copenhagen and the Capital Region of Denmark. The Summit brought together over 300 mayors and presidents of regions from the 27 EU Member States with leading architects, urban planners and researchers in urban development with a view to ensuring that sustainable urban development features more prominently on the European and world agendas.
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. To date, more than 3000 mayors, local authorities and regions have signed the Covenant since its launch in 2008.
The European Green Capital Award recognises local efforts to improve the environment, the economy and the quality of life of growing urban populations. The Award is given each year to a city, not necessarily a capital, which is leading the way in environmentally friendly urban living and which can act as a role-model for other cities. For 2012 the title has been awarded to Vitoria-Gasteiz. It will pass to Nantes in 2013.
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