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Local leaders urge EU to do more to protect citizens from all-time-high energy prices  
​​​Local and regional leaders from across the EU have joined with Members of the European Parliament in calling for more concrete actions to protect citizens from the impact of all-time-high energy prices in the EU.

Speaking at her first meeting as chairwoman of the ENVE commission and of the Green Deal Going Local working group of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), the Deputy Mayor of Budapest, Kata Tüttő (HU/PES), stressed that “there is no time to rest on our laurels, as 2022 is a decisive year for the green transition. We must keep our sights high and our commitments firm. From the European Climate Law to the ‘Fit for 55’ package, cities and regions must work together with the EU institutions to achieve the European Green Deal's objectives, but also to tackle new forms of energy and mobility poverty in the transition towards climate neutrality as to make sure no people are left behind.”

In a 2019 CoR opinion , Kata Tüttő already alerted that “energy prices for household consumers cannot be left to market self-regulation.”

Concerns over the socio-economic impact of all-time-high energy prices were widely shared by the participants of the 9th meeting of the Green Deal Going local working group, which focused on the European Commission's Fit for 55 package. CoR members and MEPs converged on the urgent need for greater energy efficiency – which as well as helping to substantially reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions also has a significant impact on citizens’ energy bills.

As owners and managers of large building stock, regional and local authorities have a major role to play in improving energy efficiency, stressed Rafal Trzaskowski (PL/EPP). The Mayor of Warsaw and CoR rapporteur on amending the Energy Efficiency Directive reminded the “ need for an ambitious Energy Efficiency Directive to achieve a climate neutral Europe and fight energy poverty”, stressing that “Energy efficiency in households and public buildings are key to reduce energy bills as prices are skyrocketing.”. The CoR member of the Political Board of the Covenant of Mayors added “We must increase energy efficiency regardless of energy sources”, welcoming the new EU Taxonomy yet calling on the European Commission to grant direct funds as a condition “for cities and regions to successfully implement energy efficiency targets.”

Lord Mayor of Mannheim Peter Kurz (DE/PES) proposed that cities and regions directly manage part of the revenues from the Emission Trading System (ETS). The CoR rapporteur on ETS2 and the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) added: “The CBAM and ETS2 are crucial elements of the ‘Fit for 55’ package. CO2 pricing has proven to be an effective political instrument on the alternative-free path to decarbonisation. But we need to make sure that we compensate its impact so no citizen nor region is left behind.”

Peter Liese (EPP), European Parliament rapporteur on the Emission Trading System (ETS), warned that serval Member States were not sufficiently using EU budget sources and ETS revenues on energy efficiency projects while Pernille Weiss (EPP), EP shadow rapporteur on the Energy Efficiency Directive, stressed the need to reach balanced ambitions and deploy tools that are adaptable to the specificities of every territory, qualifying cities as the “leading role models in the energy transition”.

More direct intervention from Member Sates’ central governments is also crucial for CoR member Mirja Vehkaperä (FI/Renew Europe): “ People are frustrated by rising energy prices and, in particular, increases in electricity transmission charges. In winter, a lot of energy is used for heating and transport. National governments need to take the responsibility to counterbalance such increase in energy prices for citizens”, said the member of Oulu City Council.

The need to reduce GHG emissions and meet the EU's climate targets should not be blamed for energy price increases, stressed Bernd Voss (DE/ The Greens). The member of the Schleswig-Holstein State Parliament said: “The energy price crisis is not caused by the EU's climate ambitions, but by our dependence on fossil fuels and their increasing prices. In the short term, we need targeted support for vulnerable citizens to keep them mobile and their homes warm. Cost-effective energy and EU energy independence will only be achieved by rapidly developing renewable energy production in the EU."

Increasing energy production from renewable sources is key to facing the current energy crisis, argued Andries Gryffroy (BE/EA). The member of the Flemish Parliament and CoR rapporteur on the Renewable Energy Directive revision was clear: "Boosting local renewable energy production is necessary to help the EU achieve net zero emissions but is also a way to reduce the dependency on third countries for the import of fossil fuels and their high and volatile prices. In order to guarantee a sustainable, fair and affordable transition for citizens and business, new legislation should be simple and flexible enough to take into account the specificities of each region, while safeguarding the principle of technologic neutrality."

According to Eurostat, 31 million Europeans live in energy poverty. Tjisse Stelpstra (NL/ECR), regional minister in Drenthe Province, stressed that the climate-neutral transition must be “inclusive, just and not bring additional burdens to EU citizens”, adding, “it is our responsibility to ensure that heating homes, cooking and using electricity remain affordable for all."

The European Commission’s Stefano Grassi, head of cabinet of Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, stressed the leading role the public sector should have in delivering energy efficiency, adding that the EU's €140 billion Social Climate Fund will target support for energy efficiency in both the buildings and transport sectors for the most vulnerable.

Cabinet member of Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans Olivia Gippner stressed that fairness and Member States’ burden sharing are the guiding principle in every ‘Fit for 55’ file. “Cities and regions are needed at all costs,” Gippner said, stressing local and regional authorities are instrumental for enabling frameworks as much as for identifying energy poverty to better target the EU’s new Social Climate Fund.

The Members of the European Parliament that joined the debate also included Mohammed Chahim (S&D), rapporteur on the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism CBAM, and Paolo Borchia (ID), ITRE shadow rapporteur on the Renewable Energy Directive.

Background information:

‘Fit for 55’ is the European Union plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030. The package includes the revision of several Directives along new ones and was proposed in July 2021 by the European Commission. Click here to access the European Parliament legislative train schedule.

In October 2021, the European Commission presented a ‘toolbox’ of both short- and medium-term measures that national governments can roll out to protect consumers against rising energy prices. More info here .

The green transition takes a central place in the 8th Cohesion report presented yesterday. The report recognises the extraordinary challenges that LRAs face with climate change and the need for strategic adaptation and additional investments in infrastructure and human capital with a focus on the territorial impact and challenges. The added value of a placed-based approach is recognised, such as smart specialisation strategies along the model of the Just Transition Mechanism. The CoR reactions are available here .

The CoR rapporteurs on the 'Fit for 55' package are:

  • Peter Kurz (DE/PES), Mayor of Mannheim, rapporteur on Making ETS and CBAM work for EU cities and regions
  • Rafał Trzaskowski (PL/EPP), Mayor of Warsaw, rapporteur on Amending the EED to meet the new 2030 climate targets
  • Andries Gryffroy (BE/EA), Member of the Flemish Parliament, rapporteur on Amending the RED to meet the new 2030 climate targets
  • Csaba Borboly (RO/EPP), President of Harghita County Council, rapporteur on Towards a socially fair implementation of the Green Deal
  • Joan Calabuig Rull (ES/PES), Regional Secretary for the European Union and External Relations of the Government of Valencia, rapporteur on the New EU Forst Strategy for 2030
  • Adrian Ovidiu Teban (RO/EPP), Mayor of Cugir City, rapporteur on Towards zero emission road transport: Deploying alternative fuels infrastructure and strengthening CO2 emission performance standards
  • Åsa Ågren Wikström (SE/EPP), Member of Västerbotten County Council, rapporteur on the Revision of LULUCF and ESR

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