The European Union needs to maintain a strong regional policy in order to fulfil its international commitments to reduce carbon emissions, the leader of the EU's local and regional politicians said on 22 February.
Karl-Heinz Lambertz , President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), was speaking at a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the European Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy , which, he said, had "exceeded all expectations" and had become a "true European success story". The Covenant of Mayors was created in Europe in 2008 to support any city or region that voluntarily wanted to exceed the EU's emissions-reduction target. It became a global initiative in 2016 when it was merged with the Compact of Mayors.
Speaking in the European Parliament alongside its President, Antonio Tajani, President Lambertz said: "Ten years ago, no one would have guessed that over 9,000 towns and cities would sign up to this bottom-up movement to fight climate change or that it would spread worldwide. But local leaders understand that greening our economies, cleaning our air and ensuring a health sustainable supply of food improves the lives of our citizens. Cities and regions are the answer to the climate and energy challenge and are taking the lead . National governments need to formally recognise this by giving cities and regions a formal seat at the table in the global talks on climate change."
At the event, which was held one day before EU leaders meet to discuss the next EU budget, President Lambertz added: "If Europe is to continue to be a global climate champion, if we are to make Europe green again, it must ensure local and regional leaders have the right funding. That means ensuring that EU cohesion policy – which currently commits more than 25% of its budget to climate action – remains strong and effective. Cohesion policy funds local climate and energy action plans, invests in energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable public transport in our regions and cities. Undermining cohesion policy would have grave repercussions on our ability to create green jobs, reduce our carbon emissions and move towards a low-carbon economy."
He urged supporters of climate action to advocate for the EU's cohesion policy to be strong, more effective, visible and available for every region and city in the EU after 2020. The Committee – the EU's assembly of 350 local and regional leaders – has submitted extensive recommendations on how to improve the policy. Together with the leading European associations of regions and cities, it also launched the #CohesionAlliance , a coalition of those who believe that EU cohesion policy must continue to be a pillar of the EU's future. This was also President Lambertz's main message in a letter sent to Donald Tusk , President of the European Council, on 21 February, in which he further called for the EU budget to be "increased to 1.3% of gross national income of the EU27".
Notes to editors:
Speakers at the ceremony to mark the ten years of the European Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy included mayors from across Europe and three European commissioners, Vice-PresidentMaroš Šefčovič, CommissionerMiguel Arias Cañete, and Commissioner Carlos Moedas. The European Commission funds the European Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.
In addition to President Lambertz, three CoR members spoke: Fernando López Miras (ES/EPP), President of the Region of Murcia; Juan Espadas Cejas (ES/PES), Mayor of Seville; and Andrea Turčanová (SK/EPP), Mayor of Prešov. The CoR, a political patron of the Covenant of Mayors, contributed to the debate on the movement's globalisation with recommendations in 2015. The rapporteur was Kata Tüttő (HU/PES). The CoR organised one of four workshops during the day, on "The future outlook for the Covenant of Mayors: going beyond climate and energy?" The workshop was chaired by Cor Lamers (NL/EPP), Mayor of Schiedam and chairman of the CoR's Commission for the Environment, Climate Change and Energy.
In Europe, signatories to the Covenant of Mayors have reduced their emissions by about 23% relative to 1990 levels. This compares with the EU's overall objective of a 20% reduction by 2020.
The EU has an objective of spending at least 20% of its budget on climate action. European Commission figures from 2017 indicate that more than 25% of funding from the cohesion policy has been directed to climate-related projects since 2014. Of €73 billion spent by that point since 2014, €22bn was invested in protection of the environment, €16.5bn in climate-change adaptation and risk-prevention projects, €15.5bn in transport and energy networks, and €11bn in actions – such as energy efficiency – to support a low-carbon economy. The contribution of European cohesion funds to delivering on the climate-policy objectives agreed in Paris in 2015 was the subject of a European Parliament study in 2017 .
Photos are available via Flickr .
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