Considering the COP27 context, supporting and strengthening the voice of local and regional authorities and their efforts is crucial. LRAs became important actors in climate change discussions, formulating and implementing adaptation policies and setting mitigation goals and targets. Hence the importance of building a momentum on the CoR's involvement in consecutive COPs, by including the external relations dimension.
In the framework of the CIVEX commission remits, all CoR external relations bodies (ARLEM, CORLEAP, WGs/JCCs, P2P and the Forum "Cities and regions for international partnerships") are engaged in the delivery of the global climate goals, as committed in their respective Action Plans and Work Programmes. Hence this opinion showcases their work.
This opinion complements and upgrades the CoR's commitment on the subnational climate diplomacy by widening its institutional sphere and capitalising on the existing bodies. A reinforced voice of EU local and regional authorities partnering up with their external peers would empower the CoR's call for a more structural role for local and regional governments within the global climate agenda that might e.g. lead to requesting observer status in the UNFCCC (from COP 28 on) and underlining the substance of such a request.
The European Commission (EC) provides some feed back on points of the European Committee of the Regions opinion considered essential:
17.The CoR calls on the Commission to address the gaps and limitations and to boost subnational climate diplomacy in the future Conferences.
-The EC remind it's general support to the actions recognising local and regional contributions to the EU’s commitments to the Paris Agreement. The EC underline that the Commission does not have the mandate to act upon the gaps and limitations (technical, financial, structural or political) that can only be addressed at local, regional and national levels. The EC underline that the EU/Global Covenant of Mayors is a relevant platform to play a significant role in boosting subnational climate diplomacy and to further develop such partnerships and promote climate diplomacy between cities and regions. CoR could share their best practices and lessons on the issue of climate diplomacy and could also use the existing EU funds Cohesion Funds, LIFE Programme, Horizon Europe’s Mission on Adaptation and 100 climate neutral cities. CoR could also use EU Covenant’s new Policy Support Facility (PSF) for capacity building and technical assistance including on issues highlighted by the Opinion as developing adaptation policies and implementing adaptation measures. The EC mention also the relevance of several existing instruments : UNEP Climate Platform and the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA), the two main databases of climate initiatives tracking of subnational action ; the second edition of the Multilevel Climate Action Playbook1 whith recommendations for both national and sub-national ; the Local government and municipal authorities (LGMA) UNFCCC constituency, which provide a conduit for exchanges between local and regional authorities and the UNFCCC secretariat as well as logistical support to their constituents during negotiation session.
21. The CoR calls for the inclusion of LRAs in all stages of the preparation and the negotiations of the COP.
-The EC invite the delegation of CoR to also reach out to the EU negotiation team to make their positions known and thus inform the preparation of the negotiations.
22. The CoR calls to align the reconstruction of Ukraine with the commitments undertaken in the Paris Agreement and the objectives of the EU Green Deal.
-The EC agree on this and for this aim, will set up a coordination platform to ensure that investments favour the sustainable reconstruction of the country ; the EC also support the action of the Global Covenant of Mayors for climate and energy related to the support to the cities of Ukraine.
38. The CoR calls for the establishment of a well-designed and multi-level governance framework on climate diplomacy within the EU and outside with a special attention to municipalities and smaller and less developed regions, to ensure just and equal participation in the process.
-The EC underline that the European Climate Law provides for the Commission to facilitate engagement, participation and action at all levels including local notably trough multilevel climate and energy dialogues established by Member States under Article 11 of the Governance Regulation. The EC remind the specific Policy Support Facility under the EU Covenant of Majors focused especially on smaller municipalities in organising national workshops and collaboration with national partners.
42. The CoR calls for the EU to step up its engagement around the world through dedicated partnerships involving local and regional authorities, in the field of energy security, energy transition towards an efficient and renewable model and strategic sufficiency
-The EC remind the new EU external energy strategy launched last 18 May 2022, which reinforces the EU's engagement with partners and strengthens its climate and energy diplomacy. The aim is to increase EU’s energy security, to support Ukraine, the Western Balkans and developing countries impacted by the Russian war on Ukraine and to support the global energy transition. This new strategy recognise the need for hydrogen partnerships to build the global renewable hydrogen market and the capacity of renewable energy to be produce local benefits, including jobs and value chains. In addition, the EC supports the Global Covenant of Mayors for climate and energy and its regional windows across the globe.
46. The CoR stresses the importance of making direct funding available for subnational governments to deliver climate action and climate adaptation at local level.
The EC remind that the EU in particular through its Member States and the European Investment Bank, is the biggest contributor of public climate finance to developing countries (with over €23 billion in 2021). The EU and Member States are also the world's top provider of official development assistance (a total €67 billion in 2020), with climate action being increasingly integrated into the assistance. The EC recognise through it's support in developing countries, that Local governments are in a unique position to identify climate change adaptation responses that best meet local needs. The EC also support initiatives through the Covenant of Mayors and the Local Climate Adaptive Living Facility (LoCAL). Between 2014 and 2022, the EU has contributed €45.5 million to LoCAL, from global and bilateral envelopes, corresponding to 36.25% of the total funds mobilised.
51. The CoR calls for the provision of a toolkit and a platform for self-assessment and self-reporting by LRAs on climate action and international diplomacy.
The EC remind that the Covenant of Mayors supports local actors in reporting and monitoring climate action. With help of practitioners from local and regional authorities, climate and energy experts and notably with methodological support of the Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC). The JRC also provide resources for LRAs to develop their Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans (SECAP) as the SECAP Guidebook2, which is a toolkit supporting LRAs in the process, step-by-step including policies, key actions, good practises, etc. The EC remind also the Cohesion Policy, the European Structural and Investment Funds and the technical assistance which support LRAs on climate action and international diplomacy.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- stresses the importance of subnational governments in achieving climate ambition with a focus on the future implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in fulfilling the provisions of the Paris Agreement in order to achieve the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5˚C;
- urges the national governments when negotiating the terms of global climate goals and define National Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) to truly involve their local and regional governments;
- calls, therefore, on the European Commission to address the gaps and limitations and to boost subnational climate diplomacy between EU cities, regions and the EU's neighbouring and partnering countries ahead of the next Conferences of the Parties;
- stands ready to serve as the main coordinating institution for subnational climate diplomacy in the EU and its neighbouring countries. The CoR is ready to assume greater responsibility at COP meetings, to play a coordinating role, and to represent the positions of regional and local authorities from the EU, in partnership with the Western Balkans and Turkey as well as EU's Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood;
- calls on the European institutions, international financial institutions and all international partners, including LRAs in the EU who will contribute to the rebuilding and reconstruction of Ukrainian cities and towns as well as industrial and energy sites destroyed by the Russian war, to gear reconstruction investment towards the key aspects of the Paris Agreement as well as towards the objectives of the EU's Green Deal;
- points out that all CoR external relations bodies and platforms (ARLEM, CORLEAP, working groups/joint consultative committees, peer-to-peer cooperation and the "Cities and regions for international partnerships" forum) are actively engaged in delivering on global climate goals, to which they have committed in their respective action plans and work programmes.