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Greater climate ambition and direct access to EU funds: local leaders want the Green Deal to go local  

Ahead of a crucial EU Summit, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has put forward a series of proposals to deliver the Green Deal locally. In an opinion by rapporteur Andries Gryffroy (BE/EA), a member of the Flemish Parliament, cities and regions demand to be at the core of Green Deal initiatives, calling for direct access to EU funds and a European Regional Scoreboard to assess their climate actions and impact. These are some of the key proposals contained in the opinion 'The impact of climate change on regions: an assessment of the European Green Deal'. While agreement on the long-term EU budget, the recovery package and the 2030 target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is still pending, local leaders warn further delays will jeopardise the COVID-19 economic recovery, severely affecting local and regional communities across the EU. 

Climate action and the European Green Deal, the EU's growth strategy to reach climate neutrality by 2050, remain on top of the EU's political agenda. During its December 2020 plenary session, the European Committee of the Regions adopted a crucial opinion on the Green Deal, which includes recommendations in three areas: governance, funding and monitoring mechanisms.

Rapporteur Andries Gryffroy (BE/EA), member of the Flemish Parliament, said: "the Green Deal will be successful only if it supports a bottom-up approach. We call for closer cooperation with the European Commission and Member States to ensure regions and cities are put at its core. Numerous regions and cities have already adopted energy transition plans and local green deals. Yet, these are rarely reflected in national plans and strategies. We propose that subnational governments be fully involved in the definition and implementation of national plans and be granted more and easier access to funding. We stand ready to work with the European Commission and its Joint Research Centre to set up a Regional European Scoreboard, to monitor and track progress in the implementation of climate and Green Deal related legislation, policies and financing at local and regional levels."

On governance, the Committee regrets that climate contributions by local and regional authorities are seldom reflected in national plans drawn up in the EU capitals. Cities and regions request to participate in a structured manner in the design and implementation of COVID-19 national recovery plans and Green Deal investments, proposing mandatory consultations and multilevel dialogues be extended to all Green Deal areas, including energy and climate, transport, biodiversity, and the greening of urban areas. 

On financing, members warn about a centralised management of EU funds. The CoR opinion on the Green Deal calls for cities and regions to have direct access to EU resources, as local and regional authorities are the ones undertaking most of climate mitigation and adaptation measures and are best placed to know the realities on the ground.

The current proposals on the EU budget dedicate 30% to climate action. The COVID-19 recovery package, Next Generation EU, includes at least 37% of climate-related spending.

On monitoring, members recall that mechanisms and indicators are necessary to accurately assess the impact of climate change at the local and regional level, as well as to determine cities' and regions' achievements in reducing greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions and their contribution to the fight against climate change.

The Committee proposes launching a European Regional Scoreboard to provide evidence of the progress in implementing the Green Deal and recovery plans locally. Indicators are needed in order to have a baseline of each region in terms of its climate transition, as well as to better identify their specificities, challenges and needs, and to assess the impact of climate actions.

Ahead of an EU summit this week, which aims to reach an agreement on upgrading the EU's 2030 GHG emissions target – and not least an agreement on the EU's long-term budget and recovery package - members held a debate with Svenja Schulze, German Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.  Opening the debate, the president of the European Committee of the Regions, Apostolos Tzitzikostas recalled that 'EU Member States must agree to cut carbon emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and approve the EU's long-term budget and recovery plans without delay. Funds need to be operational by the first half of 2021. Otherwise, it will be too late to for the EU to help protect local communities and preserve our economies".

Background information

As much as 70% of climate change mitigation and up to 90% of climate change adaptation measures are taken by local and regional authorities, which are also responsible for more than 65% of climate and environment-related public investment in the EU.

Read our latest interview with rapporteur Andries Gryffroy (BE/EA) here.

On 13 October 2020, the European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) committed to a new phase of cooperation to accelerate the delivery of the Green Deal in Europe's regions and cities. During a debate with Frans Timmermans, the European Commission's Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal called on local and regional governments to take ownership and shape the Green Deal in areas falling under their competencies. Read our press release here.  

Green Deal Going Local (GDGL) is a new initiative by the European Committee of the Regions, which aims to place cities and regions at the core of the European Green Deal and ensuring that both the EU's sustainable growth strategy and the COVID-19 recovery plans translate into direct funding for cities and regions and tangible projects for every territory. Green Deal Going Local was launched on 15 June 2020 with the creation of a specific Working Group composed of 13 members. Read the press release here.

Discover 200 Green Deal best practices in our online map.

Further information:

The photos of the 141st plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions are available in the CoR Flickr gallery.


David Crous
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