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Commissioner Kadri Simson warns green recovery plans will only succeed with cities and regions fully on board  

EU Commissioner for energy debates the way forward of the energy transition and the Green Deal with local leaders calling on Member States to be fully involved in Recovery and Resilience plans

The role of cities and regions in the COVID-19 recovery and the need to make it a key driver to accelerate the green transition have been the focus of a debate with Kadri Simson, EU Commissioner for energy. Members of the Commission for the Environment, Climate Change and Energy of the European Committee of the Regions reiterated the need to involve local and regional authorities in the definition and implementation of priority investments, including the Next Generation EU fund and the EU's Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The Renovation Wave for buildings, biodiversity, circular economy, and climate adaptation were also on the agenda.

The ENVE Commission met for the first time after the summer break with a set of priority files and two ultimate goals. First, to ensure that cities and regions are at the core of the EU's recovery strategy. Second, to guarantee that COVID-19 recovery plans translate into green and sustainable projects in every territory.

The EU commissioner for energy Kadri Simson joined a debate focused on the energy aspects of the EU's recovery, including the role of renewables, energy efficiency and clean transport to move the green recovery forward.

Juan Espadas (ES/PES), Mayor of Seville and ENVE Chair, opened the debate by stressing: "The active role of local and regional governments in building the energy transition strategy is crucial for the EU. We are the political actors who know the best the reality of our territories and the needs of our citizens. We are the ones who can contribute in a practical way to the selection of those investment projects that can better reflect the reality of the strategy defined by the European Commission."

EU Commissioner for energy Kadri Simson declared: "We are working closely with the Committee of the Regions to translate the vision of the European Green Deal into a European reality on the ground. Regions are crucial partners when it comes to implementing our climate and energy policies and finding concrete, practical solutions. The upcoming Renovation Wave initiative, for example, would be impossible without the engagement of our cities and regions, who are the owners of many municipal and residential buildings." Commissioner Simson referred to the Multilevel Energy and Climate Dialogues as a 'good example for further cooperation between regions and the Commission', and suggested 'an exchange on the Renovation Wave as a useful next step' for this CoR initiative.

Enrico Rossi (IT/PES), president of the Tuscany region and CoR rapporteur on the Renovation Wave, intervened during the debate: "The COVID-19 crisis has shown that public authorities must invest more in social housing, hospitals, care homes, schools, and daycare centers, and in urban regeneration, creating more security and better living standards for our cities. The Renovation Wave gives us the opportunity to make our cities and regions greener and more sustainable, generate 4 million jobs and build a climate neutral EU by 2050". The Renovation Wave is a European Commission initiative expected this autumn and intended to support a new phase of renovation in the buildings sector. Buildings are responsible for 40% of CO2 emissions in the EU.

The members of the ENVE commission adopted two draft opinions:

  • ​Bio-diverse cities and regions beyond 2020 at the UN CBD COP 15 and in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. The rapporteur Roby BIWER (LU/PES), Member of Bettembourg Municipal Council, said: "We might find a vaccine for Covid-19, but there is no cure for healing our planet's dramatic biodiversity loss. Restored and preserved ecosystems are essential for our own health and destiny. With a bold 2030 Strategy, the European Union could help local and regional authorities act by giving them appropriate tools and sufficient resources to restore biodiversity and make it the motor of Europe's sustainable recovery". Roby Biwer will represent the CoR at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in May 2021 to defend a coordinated and bold global action that formally recognises the role of cities and regions in protecting and restoring biodiversity. You can read here our latest interview with Roby Biwer, which opinion is to be adopted at the CoR's next plenary session in October 2020.
  • New Circular Economy Action Plan. The rapporteur Tjisse STELPSTRA (NL/ECR), Member of the Council of the Province of Drenthe, said: “We can't afford any more excuses. It is time to accelerate the circular economy and set concrete goals. The COVID-19 makes our vulnerability and dependence on raw materials painfully clear. We do not want to talk about waste anymore; re-use must become the standard! A European Raw Materials Policy is desperately needed for this. Not only to gain insight into material flows, but also to ensure that all regions have fair access to those scarce but indispensable raw materials". The opinion is to be adopted at the October 2020 plenary session. You can read here our latest interview with Tjisse Stelpstra.​

Members discussed the priorities of the German Presidency with Nina Alsen, Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety. 

Members had exchanges of views on the following opinions: 

The ENVE commission appointed Gunārs ANSIŅŠ (LV/RE), deputy mayor of Liepāja, rapporteur of an upcoming opinion on the EU Strategy for Energy System Integration.

Additional information:

Under the title, "How can local and regional authorities use the circular economy as an enabler of a sustainable recovery?", the CoR and the European Commission organised the 16th meeting of the Technical Platform for Cooperation on the Environment on Tuesday 8 September. CoR Members, EU officials and major stakeholders shared insights on the existing tools – and gaps, to push the circular economy forward at the local and regional level. Launched in 2012, The Technical Platform is a forum set up by the Commission for Environment, Climate Change and Energy at the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and DG ENV aimed at fostering dialogue on local and regional problems and solutions in the application of EU environment law. The next meeting of the Technical Platform will take place on 22 October 2020 during the European Week of Regions and Cities and the launch of the Green City Accord.

Take part in the CoR's Green Deal Going Local: call for best practices. The deadline is 21 of September.

Click here to register to the European Week of Regions and Cities 2020.

David Crous

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