The objective of this opinion is to put forward the concerns and priorities of local and regional authorities and of the CoR regarding the Commission's action plan on sustainable finance and the legislative proposals seeking to implement it. Finance will need to be at the heart of the solution if the EU is to achieve its ambitious objectives with regards to sustainable development - a key priority for local and regional authorities, many of whose competences and roles are concerned. The development of solutions to push the financial markets and their participants in the direction of sustainable development can have a tremendous impact and it is thus essential for the CoR to make the voice of cities and regions heard.
In addition, while private capital and investment are the main targets of this Action Plan, public capital also plays a major role in encouraging a more sustainable development, in a large part thanks to its ability to invest for the very long term and to act as a catalyst. Local and regional authorities are responsible for more than half of public investment in the EU, and much more in some Member States such as Belgium, Spain, or Germany, and are thus directly concerned . Cities and regions have broad competences and financial responsibilities in the fields of infrastructure, transport and housing, which are crucial to the establishment of a greener, more sustainable economy. In addition, regional and local authorities are significant issuers of green bonds and are thus directly concerned by some of the measures of this Action Plan.
This opinion allowed the CoR to highlight its priorities and the concerns of local and regional authorities regarding sustainable finance, including the fact that the Action Plan and its implementation should be seen in the broader context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a topic on which the CoR is playing a crucial role.
The proposals of the CoR on these legislative proposals were communicated to the co-legislators, for instance the higher priority that should be put on social sustainability. The CoR opinion deplored that the framework proposal in particular was too one-sided in its focus on the environmental elements of sustainability, and that the text should already commit the EU extending the regulation to social sustainability objectives. This point was unfortunately not taken on by the European Parliament in its final legislative resolution adopted in March 2019.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- warmly welcomes the Commission's "Action Plan: Financing Sustainable Growth", and shares its stated objectives and its willingness to enable the financial sector and private investors to fully play their part in achieving the ambitious and common climate and sustainability objectives;
- calls on the Commission to clarify how a balance can be struck between the partly conflicting aims of the Action Plan with simultaneous preservation of financial stability; points out that the promotion of sustainable finance should not be to the detriment of stability on the financial market;
- believes that this Action Plan and its implementation should be seen in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and of the EU's stated willingness to pursue these goals;
- is concerned about the effects of climate change within the EU and world-wide, and points out that local and regional authorities (LRAs) often have primary responsibility for mitigating damage caused by increasingly extreme natural phenomena and for investing in adjustment measures;
- stresses that the consequences of climate-related natural disasters are immediately felt in LRAs and that the latter also benefit from securing the long-term competitiveness of the EU economy and from new, more sustainable investment and job opportunities;
- deplores, however, the one-sided focus on environmental elements of sustainability in the Commission's Action Plan, and specifically in the "framework proposal"; insists that social concerns are as integral to sustainability as environmental ones, and that governance issues are also highly relevant, especially in the particular context of investment.