Environmental policy below municipal level is pivotal to adapt to the devastating effects of global warming
Large industry plans and global investment strategies to decarbonise the world's economy might well be on the table of big European capitals. Yet, it is in small coastal communities that Mediterranean Storm Gloria hit the most. Sub-municipal communities are at the frontline of climate impact while remaining pivotal to deploy adaptation measures to adjust to global warming. As the Green Deal becomes the EU's top priority, the European Committee of the Regions calls for greater funds and tailored programmes for communities below the municipal level, including islands, sparsely populated communities, villages and districts.
The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has adopted the opinion 'Towards sustainable neighborhoods and small communities - Environment policy below municipal level' by rapporteur Gaetano Armao (IT/EPP), Vice-President and Regional Minister for Economy of the Region of Sicily and Chair of the CoR's Interregional Group on Insular Regions.
Rapporteur Armao declared: "As the EU's assembly of local and regional authorities, it is our duty to channel the voice of sub-municipal communities and to support initiatives that make them more prosperous and sustainable. Whether small islands, urban districts or unpopulated mountain areas, tailored mechanisms must be established as to tackle the specific environmental challenges that communities below the municipal level are currently facing. We must start by simplifying and streamlining eligibility rules to encourage the direct participation of sub-municipal entities in EU environmental programmes."
Members recall that sub-municipal communities have little control over decisions linked to key aspects within the ecological transition such as transport, waste, water management or air quality. They must be taken into consideration in CoR opinions, members agree. The CoR calls on the European Commission to assess the proposal to launch a European Day of Sustainable Villages and Neighbourhoods as to promote and encourage their direct engagement in Europe's path towards climate neutrality.
The CoR asks to deploy measures and mechanisms to maximise the positive impact of EU environmental policies at the sub-municipal level. Members suggest launching specific calls for interest and work programmes as to accelerate the transition towards renewable energies and to empower new participatory schemes and community dynamics to boost sustainable development locally. The EU currently supports development strategies at sub-municipal level through specific initiatives such as LEADER Local Action Groups.
In Europe, there is a large diversity of institutional forms and terms at the sub-municipal level. Hamlets, neighbourhoods, districts, wards, sectors, villages, parishes and boroughs are some of the terms used to define communities below the municipal level. From densely populated urban districts to small islands and mountain villages, sub-municipal communities face particular environmental challenges and often lack the capacities and resources to overcome them.
Members request that all typologies of communities are taken into account in EU environmental policies, a claim in line with the CoR opinion "Towards an 8th Environmental Action programme".
The EU's assembly of local and regional representatives commits to launch a dialogue with the European Commission, including in the framework of the Technical Platform for Cooperation on the Environment, to ensure that small communities below the municipal level are adequately taken into consideration in the implementation of specific EU environmental policies. This could build on existing efforts to provide guidance documents and tools.
The adopted opinion is connected to a study that provides an overview of the environmental role of sub-municipal communities in all Member States.
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