this interview, Rafał Trzaskowski,
Mayor of Warsaw and candidate to become Poland's president, shares his views as
rapporteur on the European Climate Pact, the European Commission's initiative to
trigger public engagement on the European Green Deal and the path towards
climate-neutrality. A related questionnaire is currently open as part of the CoR study 'Boosting the Capacity of local and regional
authorities to implement the Green Deal: A Toolbox for the Climate Pact'.
As the CoR Rapporteur on the "Climate Pact", can you tell us why this topic is important?
For me it is plain and simple. Without local communities, the ambitious climate-neutrality goal of the European Green Deal will simply not happen. We implement 70% of all EU legislation. We represent one third of public spending and two thirds of public investment in the EU. We implement 90% of climate adaptation measures and are responsible for 70% of climate mitigation actions. It is therefore clear that our role and engagement is crucial. To reach climate-neutrality you need everybody on board: national governments, local and regional authorities (LRAs) and most importantly, citizens. They need to understand why it is worth the effort, clearly perceive the benefits that the climate transition can bring to their health, wellbeing and to their wallet. I see a special role for local authorities in this, as we are the closest to the people and the level of administration that enjoys the highest rate of people's trust. This is why I defend and encourage close cooperation between the European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions as to achieve our common goal of making the EU climate-neutral.
Do you think that the Climate Pact can still be useful in the current context of the health and economic crisis?
I think it is even more relevant today than it was before the COVID-19 outbreak. Once again, the pandemic has proved how vital local governments are, standing on the frontline and directly addressing citizens' needs and fears. In the context of the Green Deal, LRAs need to be equipped with a concrete set of instruments that allow us to deliver a real change on the ground that people can actually see. Otherwise, the idea of climate-neutrality will remain just a promise, and not a very popular one, even more so with an economic crisis ahead of us. As we are now at a crossroads, it is important that we take the right decisions, moving towards a more sustainable economy for the people and with the people at its centre.
You recently launched a broad consultation on the European Climate Pact to complement the one launched by the European Commission. What information are you expecting?
First and foremost, I am seeking insights on how the pandemic has changed local communities' perception of climate policy. For those who treated it as a priority, will it remain so? We need to be aware that the pandemic and the economic disruption it causes is severely affecting local communities. LRAs are already suffering, as Warsaw does, from a huge income gap in their respective budgets. Will they still be ready to invest in a green transition, or what is now a more appropriate term – a green recovery? I want to know what their exact needs are to embark on this route.
The European Commission is currently laying down the basis of this Climate Pact. If you were to give one single piece of advice to the Commission, what would it be?
The pandemic has moved our societies and economy into uncharted waters. I personally believe that the only way forward is to recover using the strength and opportunities given by the European Union. However, I am afraid there are others arguing the opposite. I would thus advise the European Commission to learn the lesson and stay as close to citizens as possible. The European Commission has strong allies among us, local and regional governments. We are willing to help in delivering the goals we share, including the climate-neutrality one. I insist: we are committed to support a green recovery but for this to happen, we need appropriate financial resources to speed up the process. Cities across the EU, like Warsaw, should get direct EU funding, as we know where and how to invest efficiently so that citizens see clear results in their daily lives.
The draft opinion on the European Climate Pact of rapporteur Rafał Trzaskowski, Mayor of Warsaw, is available here in all EU official languages. The text is to be discussed and voted during ENVE's Commission meeting on 8 June. A final vote and adoption are scheduled for the plenary session of October 2020.
Questionnaire currently open. The European Committee of Regions (CoR) considers the Climate Pact an excellent opportunity to ensure a more inclusive and effective approach to the implementation of the European Green Deal. The CoR has launched a study to investigate the specific point of view of cities and regions on the path towards climate-neutrality. The findings of the questionnaire will feed into Rafał Trzaskowski' opinion. The questionnaire is part of the CoR study 'Boosting the Capacity of local and regional authorities to implement the Green Deal: A Toolbox for the Climate Pact' and has the following structure:
- Part 1: discussion on the impacts of the ongoing pandemic and subsequent economic effects on the Green Deal policies at local and regional level
- Part 2: identification of tools and instruments to better support LRAs in implementing the Green Deal
- Part 3: self-assessment of the progress that your authority has made in the transition towards climate neutrality.
The agenda and other documents of the 8 June ENVE commission meeting are downloadable here.
for more information on the European Climate Pact.