The energy crisis caused by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated the need for the EU to phase out its dependency on oil, gas and coal. In view of the current geopolitical situation and its consequences on energy markets, the European Committee of the Regions – the EU's assembly of elected local and regional leaders – adopted a resolution on REPowerEU, contributing to the European Commission's energy strategy that aims to achieve independence from Russian energy imports by 2030. Current threats to Europe’s energy security and supply are not an alternative to the climate-neutral transition, local leaders stress.
On the current energy crisis, Vasco Alves Cordeiro, First Vice-President of the European Committee of the Regions and Member of the Regional Parliament of Azores, said: “The consequences of the war in Ukraine are currently being felt throughout the European Union. Families and businesses are bearing the brunt of Russia's aggression, not least with rising energy prices. From the European Committee of the Regions, we sent a clear message. It is important to phase out Russian oil, gas and coal imports. This cannot be done leaving people behind or walking back on our climate commitments. The war and the climate crisis force us to rethink our future now. Local and regional authorities play a central role in the energy transition and we call for the new European REPowerEU strategy to support local planning for energy security and investments in renewable energy sources.”
The adopted resolution on REPowerEU welcomes the possibility to intervene in electricity prices to tackle high volatility and mitigate the impact on the most vulnerable and micro and small enterprises. The Committee suggests decoupling gas and electricity as a possible measure to prevent high gas prices from affecting power prices and calls on the Commission to extend the application of the general escape clause of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) at least until the end of 2023. Local leaders warn that the EU’s energy sovereignty will not be achieved until the synchronisation of gas, hydrogen and electricity power grids and interconnections are improved and fully completed throughout the EU. State aid rules should be revised so as to boost key strategic investments in renewable hydrogen and into public Infrastructure for charging electric vehicles.
Complementing the REPowerEU resolution, the Committee have adopted a package of opinions contributing to the ongoing revision of the EU's ‘Fit for 55 energy package’ and the implementation of the European Green Deal at the local and regional level.
On the revision of the Emissions Trading Scheme, the Committee calls on Member States to set a minimum percentage threshold of at least 20% of revenues generated from the auctioning of ETS allowances to be managed directly by local and regional authorities. This is a measure proposed in the opinion of Peter Kurz (DE/PES), Lord Mayor of Mannheim who said “The response to the war in Ukraine cannot question effective instruments of transformation, especially CO2 pricing. On the contrary, this only confirms our long-held conviction that we must exit fossil fuels. We must ensure that the ‘Fit for 55’ package’ works for cities and regions, by involving them both in the revised Emissions Trading Scheme and the creation of the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, and by protecting vulnerable people and territories with the Social Climate Fund”. In the adopted opinion, members reiterate their call for carbon pricing to be extended to all sectors, including transport and building sectors.
On energy efficiency, local and regional leaders have put forward a series of proposals in an opinion by rapporteur Rafal Trzaskowski (PL/EPP). The Mayor of Warsaw said: “The Russian war against Ukraine and the recent cut of gas supply to some EU Member States should mobilise us further to achieve the ambitious climate goals even sooner. The energy efficiency first principle is crucial to the EU’s strategic autonomy. That is why we support the targets of 3% of annual renovation of public sector buildings and at least 1,7% reduction of public sector energy demand. However, we need financial and technical support. I reiterate my call for direct funds to cities and regions to implement Green Deal projects. As the number of vulnerable citizens facing energy and mobility poverty has increased dramatically, we call on the European Commission to facilitate public-private building renovation consortia with industries.”
On renewable energies, cities and regions have adopted the opinion ‘Amending the Renewable Energy Directive to meet the new 2030 climate targets’. Rapporteur Andries Gryffroy (BE/EA) said: “While we welcome the revisions of the new Directive, we still lack further incentives for the setting up of renewable energy communities. We must also keep facilitating permitting, reducing administrative barriers and factors inhibiting grid access in order to incentivise collective self-generation and self-consumption of sources of renewable energies. Renewable energy production at the local level is crucial to secure energy independence and keep our global climate commitments. We need to ramp up investments in renewables and develop more cross border renewable energy projects in order to diversify EU energy supply and achieve an integrated and decarbonised energy system". The member of the Flemish Parliament calls on the European Commission “to swiftly present the EU solar energy strategy it announced and to further encourage the development of clean hydrogen markets.”
Ensuring a fair transition that leaves no one behind is the main purpose of the proposals of Csaba Borboly (RO/EPP), rapporteur on an opinion on a socially fair Green Deal. The president of Harghita County Council said: “We must support the most vulnerable and provide exemptions for households, micro and small enterprises facing energy and mobility poverty. The Social Climate Fund should be part of structural funds and operate under shared management, respecting the principles of partnership and multi-level governance. Cities and regions must be actively engaged in drafting National Social Climate Plans and should directly manage at least 35% of the financial envelope of the Social Climate Fund.”
On 8 March 2022, the European Commission proposed a plan to make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels well before 2030, starting with gas, in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. REPowerEU will seek to diversify gas supplies, speed up the rollout of renewable gases and replace gas in heating and power generation, which could reduce demand for Russian gas by two thirds before the end of the year. The plan includes a series of measures to respond to rising energy prices in Europe and to replenish gas stocks for next winter. Europe has been facing increased energy prices for several months, but now uncertainty on supply is exacerbating the problem.
Through Green Deal Going Local, the European Committee of the Regions is committed to support cities’ and regions in the EU’s transition towards climate-neutrality. Green Deal Going Local is a flagship initiative of the European Committee of the Regions that aims at placing cities and regions at the heart of the EU’s climate-neutral transition. It includes several calls to action such as Trees for Life, a survey to collect the views of cities and regions on the challenges and opportunities of implementing the European Green Deal locally and a call for all local and regional authorities to share their climate commitments.
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