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COP25: Cities and regions show unity to boost climate action  

Markku Markkula

The European Committee of the Regions reinforces its alliances with global networks of local and regional governments in Madrid while cities and regions worldwide commit to keep delivering
climate action ahead of COP26 in Glasgow

 

COP25 did not reach an agreement on the rules for the full implementation of the Paris agreement. Regional indicators within the Paris rulebook and the call for multilevel collaboration did not make it to the final decision either. Nevertheless, Madrid demonstrated that cities and regions worldwide are firmly committed to higher climate ambition and action. The delegation of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) strongly defended the pivotal role cities and regions play in tackling global warming and the need to formalise their role in global climate governance. Glasgow is to host COP26 in December 2020 with expectations focusing on higher climate commitments and multilevel action. Click here to access the CoR's COP25 photo album.

The 25th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) failed to reach an agreement on the pending aspects of the Paris rulebook - the set of procedures, rules and reporting mechanisms to put the Paris agreement into practice as of 2020. Global carbon markets and emissions trading mechanisms, finance support for climate adaptation in developing countries and higher climate commitments prevented COP25 negotiators to reach an agreement in Madrid.

The European Committee of the Regions attended COP25 with a delegation led by First Vice-President Markku Markkula and the following members: Jean-Noël Verfaillie (RE/FR), CoR's ENVE 2nd Vice-Chair and Member of the Nord Departmental Council, Benedetta Brighenti (PES/IT), Member of Castelnuovo Rangone Municipal Council, Andries Gryffroy (EA/BE), Member of the Flemish Parliament and First Vice-President of the Senate and Tjisse Stelpstra (ECR/NL), Member of the Executive Council of the Province of Drenthe.

In addition, several CoR members attended COP25 on behalf of their constituencies. These include Ximo Puig (PES/ES), President of the Valencia Region and President of the Spanish delegation at the CoR, Raffaele Cattaneo (EPP/IT), Minister for Environment and Climate Change of Lombardy, Francisco Igea Arisqueta (RE/ES), Vice-President of the Government of Castile and León, Manuel Cardenete Flores (RE/ES), Deputy Minister for Tourism, Regeneration, Justice and Local Administration of the Government of Andalusia, Virginia Marco Cárcel (ES/PES), Director-General for European Affairs of the Government of Castile-La Mancha, Mikel Irujo Amezaga (EA/ES), Director-General for External Action of the Government of Navarre, Sirpa Hertell (EPP/FI), City councillor of Espoo and Witold Stępień (EPP/PL), Member of the Łódzkie Regional Assembly.

 Two participants of the CoR's programme 'Young Elected Politicians United 4 Climate' were present at COP25: Henrick Wickstrom (RE/FI), Councillor and Chairman of the Municipal board of the City of Inkoo and Maximilian Reinhardt (RE/DE), Councillor at the City of Sindelfingen in charge of European Affairs.

CoR members delivered keynote speeches in over 20 events and took part in more than 15 bilateral meetings. Members attended high-level briefings on the state of the negotiations with the European Commission, Finland's EU Presidency and MEPs. The CoR's key political messages at COP25 are summarised here.

 This is a summary of activities of CoR members at COP25.

Saturday 7 December

The activities of the CoR delegation at COP25 started Saturday 7th with the intervention of Raffaele Cattaneo (IT/EPP), Regional Minister for Environment and Climate Change of Lombardy and Tjisse Stelpstra (NL/ECR), Member of the Executive Council of the Province of Drenthe at the General Assembly of the Under2coalition.

The Under2 Coalition is a global community of state and regional governments committed to ambitious climate action in line with the Paris Agreement. The coalition brings together more than 220 governments who represent over 1.3 billion people and 43% of the global economy. A recent report confirms regional climate action exceeds that of national governments. The CoR committed to strengthen cooperation with this decisive climate leadership global network of regional governments and its secretariat, The Climate Group.

The Navarra region took the floor as an active member of the Under2 Coalition, represented by Regional Minister for Environment and Rural Affairs, Itziar Gómez and the CoR member Mikel Irujo (ES/EA).

First VP Markku Markkula participated in the EU pavilion at the events 'Accelerating transition: How cities and regions make a difference', in cooperation with ICLEI, and 'From data to policy: unlocking the power of indexes for Sustainable Development and Climate Action', event co-organised by the Joint Research Centre (JRC).   

Sunday 8 December

First VP Markku Markkula and Raffaele Cattaneo (IT/EPP) took part in the session 'Regional leadership in the Climate Emergency. Nature-based solutions for adaptation and the water challenge'. Raffaele Cattaneo (IT/EPP) also took the floor at the General Assembly of Regions4.

CoR members attended the COP25 welcome reception hosted by Mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, in the Cecilio Rodriguez Pavilion at the Retiro Park.

Monday 9 December

With the presence of the CoR delegation at COP25, the European Union hosted the 'Global Covenant of Mayors Day: National Determined Contributions (NDCs) to climate emergency: Time for Multilevel Action Day.'

Benedetta Brighenti (PES/IT) provided the concluding remarks with the presence of new EU Commissioner for energy, Kadri Simson.  “2020 will be a turning point for the Covenant as it has to drive cities and regions towards the EU's 2030 targets. The Covenant must be able to respond to upcoming challenges and is pivotal to achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal", said Benedetta Brighenti, rapporteur of the CoR opinion on the Covenant of Mayors post 2020.

First Vice-President of the Belgian Senate and CoR member Andries Gryffroy (EA/BE) took the floor at the session 'Global trends in climate legislation and litigation: Enhancing resilience and adaptation'.

CoR Member Tjisse Stelpstra (ECR/NL) was a panellist at the German Pavilion on 'Smart urban transitions: innovative and efficient mobility solutions.' The Regional Minister and Vice Governor for the province of Drenthe said: "We must transform our modes of transport as it accounts for 23% of total EU emissions and creates high external costs such as pollution, accidents, noise and congestion. We need to develop Mobility-as-a-Service approaches from a user-centric perspective and modernise power grids, electricity storage and the management of public infrastructure in order to deploy innovative fuel cell and battery technologies. We will not succeed in decarbonising transport without efficient cooperation between all levels of government."

Tuesday 10 December

The EU pavilion gathered a wide range of representatives of local and regional governments, industry associations, NGOs, private companies and officials from the EU and UNFCCC for the 'EU Energy Day @ COP25'. Topics included: the transformation of the energy system towards 100% renewables, accelerating innovation to achieve the European Green Deal, ensuring a just transition for all regions and citizens, creating local conditions to improve the energy performance of buildings, and the role of the EU's Copernicus programme in Europe's decarbonisation.

First VP Markku Markkula delivered a keynote speech stressing that “Capacity-building for public and private decision makers is essential. Urban planning, renovation of old buildings and intelligent energy grids must all be priority areas for knowledge-based collaboration."

The Chile Pavilion hosted the event: 'Roadmap towards COP26: From Chile to UK' where VP Markkula declared: “How can we move on to achieve the climate goals? It is a learning process. It is about bench learning, bench marking and bench acting." The focus was on 'consolidating city and subnational contributions to raising climate ambition.'

A delegation of nine CoR members attended Executive Vice-President (EVP) Frans Timmermans' briefing on the state of the negotiations at COP25 together with the European Parliament's delegation, led by MEP Bas Eickhout (NL/Greens&EFA), members of several national parliaments and of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). EVP Timmermans said, “a no deal is better than a bad deal", referring to negotiation outcomes on global carbon markets and emissions trading mechanisms that could undermine decarbonisation efforts.  

Tjisse Stelpstra (NL/ECR) had a bilateral meeting with MEP Bas Eickhout (NL/Greens&EFA) on multilevel governance and a hydrogen project in the province of Drenthe.

Raffaele Cattaneo (IT/EPP) was one of the panellists in the Italian Pavilions' side event 'We are Action – Young People Leading the Way.'

Andries Gryffroy participated in a Parliamentary Meeting organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Spanish Congress of Deputies to promote exchanges for parliamentary action on climate change.

Benedetta Brighenti (PES/IT) participated at the PES Open Dialogue on Climate Action and had a bilateral meeting with the Italian Ministry to exchange on the Covenant of Mayors initiative.

Wednesday 11 December

The full CoR delegation to COP25 - including Ximo Puig (ES/PES), President of the Valencia region and of the Spanish delegation at the CoR, met with Dimitris Zevgolis, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to COP25, who gave an update on the state of play of the negotiations.

The communication on the European Green Deal was also on the table. Members shared their will to engage the European Committee of the Regions on the numerous legislative works ahead, recalled cities and regions are already more ambitious than national governments and reiterated their commitment to deploy all efforts to deliver the climate neutral transition locally. Read here the press release.

A press point with VP Markkula and President Puig took place at the EU Pavilion after the meeting.

Markku Markkula said: “The European Union needs to keep leading the fight against global warming. The communication on the Green Deal comes very timely as we are entering the final phase of the negotiations for the full implementation of the Paris agreement. The CoR reiterates its commitments to fully contribute to the objectives of the Green Deal yet ensuring cities and regions are fully on board, leaving no one behind."

Demonstrating CoR' members commitment to foster climate action on the ground, President Ximo Puig said: “The energy consumed by the regional administration, including office buildings, public schools and hospitals will come from 100% green and renewable energy sources at the end of my mandate."

Raffaele Cattaneo (IT/EPP) spoke at the Italian Pavilion during the high-level event 'CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) Italy report: a dive into the cases of climate leadership and trends by Italian business and local governments.'

Andries Gryffroy (BE/EA) was a guest speaker at The Netherlands' Inter-parliamentary event: 'Spice up the European Green Deal with Benelux Parliament' at the Benelux Pavilion.

Thursday 12 December

Jean-Noël Verfaillie (FR/RE) took the floor at the French Pavilion to discuss the 'implementation of territorial actors' adaptation strategies'. The CoR's ENVE 2nd Vice-Chair and Member of the Nord Departmental Council, said: "We need to develop new financial mechanisms such as green bonds to implement climate adaptation projects in our cities. To deliver on the objectives of the Paris agreement and the European Green Deal, we must empower administrative capacity for local governments to develop project proposals and ensure the 'bankability' of potential investments. I support the call of the European Committee of the Regions to establish a single set of guidelines to coordinate all EU-funded capacity-building measures and to revise EU co-financing levels as local and regional authorities lack the financial capacity to raise sufficient own funds."

Andries Gryffroy (BE/EA) took part in a debate on climate adaptation legislation and policy making at the UNFCCC Resilience Lab. “Global warming is hitting our territories already and we have no choice but to develop effective policies to adapt to climate change. National governments must empower local and regional governments as to green our cities and develop nature-based solutions in order to minimise climate risks and related losses and damage", said Gryffroy. The VP of the Flemish Senate also took part in the 'Electricity Security in Support of Mitigation and Adaptation Efforts' at the French pavilion.

Sirpa Hertell (FI/EPP) delivered a keynote speech at the UK Pavilion at an event orgnaised by The Grantham Institute – an initiative of The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment.

Friday 13 December

COP25 latest day started with prospects of talks being delayed over the weekend. In line with the call of the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) constituency to the United Nations, the non-state actor gathering local and regional governments worldwide, the European Committee of the Regions requested the European Commission and Finland's EU Presidency to give support to the inclusion of 'multilevel collaboration' in the final COP25 decision.

As negotiations were stocked on carbon markets and final assistance for climate adaptation to developing economies, texts were brought to a minimum common denominator. That prevailed any reference to multilevel collaboration, an even less, regional indicators within the Paris rulebook, to be integrated in the final decisions.

Madrid has nevertheless demonstrated that cities and regions worldwide are firmly committed to higher ambition and to keep delivering climate action locally.

On the road to COP26 in Glasgow, the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) Constituency calls for increased climate ambition and action by national governments, including the full engagement of local and regional governments in the preparation of updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Background

Under Chile's presidency, the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place in Madrid from 2 to 15 December 2019.

Click here to access the CoR's COP25 portal.

Click here to discover how CoR members are delivering climate action on the ground.

The CoR reacted to the Communication on the Green Deal from COP25. More information click here.

Read here the press release on the Green Deal resolution adopted by the European Committee of the Regions at the plenary session on 5 December 2019. One of the flagship proposals of the CoR is the launch of a forum of cities and regions, the European Commission and Member States to follow up on the implementation of the Green Deal.

Editorial by CoR President Karl-Heinz Lambertz: "We must act now, together" Local and regional leaders set out vision to deliver European Green Deal.  

Contact: david.crous@cor.europa.eu / +32 (0) 470 88 10 37