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Tackling pollution and the energy crisis amongst EU local leaders 2023 key priorities  

Reducing harmful pollution in urban water, protecting citizens from asbestos and improving air quality were three of the main topics discussed at the meeting of the ENVE Commission of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) on 14 February. The priorities of the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the results of the United Nations convention on biodiversity – COP15 – were also on the discussion table, along with the priorities of the ENVE commission for 2023.

Opening the meeting, Rafał ​​​Trz​askowski (PL/EPP), Mayor of Warsaw and Chair of the ENVE commission and of the Green Deal Going Local working group, said: "2022 was a difficult year for all Europeans. We were confronted with soaring energy prices. We had to protect many EU citizens and business who could not afford energy bills. We provided humanitarian support to Ukrainians seeking refuge from the war. And we continued suffering from climate change as we experienced the hottest summer ever recorded in Europe. Despite this, EU local and regional authorities have put emergency measures in place to reduce energy consumption, boost energy efficiency in buildings and public transport, and invest in renewables. We also worked on urban greening and in improving biodiversity and the quality of our air, water and soils. And we have achieved this even lacking adequate financial and technical support. This shows our collective ambition and will to take action also for the year to come." Mayor Trzaskowski also called on the European Commission to provide direct funds for local and regional authorities to implement ambitious Green Deal projects on the ground.

The ENVE commission appointed Rafał ​​​Trz​askowski (PL/EPP) as CoR rapporteur on COP28, the next United Nations climate conference – UNFCCC, which is to take place in the United Arab Emirates from 30 November to 12 December. Joško Klisović (HR/PES), President of the Assembly of the City of Zagreb, has been appointed CoR rapporteur of the opinion 'Towards a multilevel Green Deal governance: the revision of the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action Regulation'.

The 2023 priorities of the ENVE commission include continuous support to deliver on the EU's Zero Pollution Ambition and on the finalisation of the concrete instruments to speed up the energy transition and face the energy crisis, as enshrined in the Fit for 55 package and in REPowerEU. The mid- and long-term perspectives of the European Green Deal – in terms of the overall framework, governance and implementation mechanisms – will also be in the spotlight in 2023. The ENVE commission will continue working to ensure the presence of cities and regions at the United Nations climate and biodiversity summits as well as pushing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, building on its strong engagement with the Covenant of Mayors and other relevant initiatives.

Members had an exchange of views on the 'Revision of the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive', a draft opinion led by rapporteur Åsa Ågren Wikström (SE/EPP), Member of Västerbotten County Council. While over 90% of urban wastewater is in line with EU standards, there is still pollution to be addressed. The CoR is therefore contributing to update the EU’s Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, adopted in 1991. Urban wastewater is one of the main sources of water pollution if it is not properly collected and treated. Of the toxic pollutants found in wastewater, 92% come from the pharmaceutical and cosmetics sectors.

Frida Nilsson (SE/Renew) , Member of Linköping Municipality, and Roby Biwer (LU/PES), member of the Bettembourg city council, presented the main achievements of the CoR's participation at the United Nations Convention on biodiversity - COP15 in Montreal, stressing that the Committee is explicitly mentioned in the final COP15 decision as a key partner in supporting the implementation of the Plan of Action on subnational governments to the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. Synergising climate and biodiversity agendas is a paramount challenge for the CoR.

Hanna Zdanowska (PL/EPP) presented the main points of her draft opinion on 'Amending the Directive on Asbestos' which is to be adopted a the CoR plenary session on 15-16 March. Asbestos is a highly dangerous, cancer-causing substance that is still present in many buildings and is responsible for many avoidable deaths in the EU.

Members debated the priorities of the Swedish Presidency on energy security and the climate transition with Arvid Palmkvist, from the Permanent Representation of Sweden to the EU and Sara Nelen, Deputy Head of Cabinet of the European Commission's Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans.

The upcoming opinion by Andries Gryffroy (BE/EA), member of the Flemish parliament, on 'Fostering the potential and synergies of EU Green Deal initiatives for regions and cities' was the subject of an exchange of views. The working document of the opinion was presented by Marie-Antoinette Maupertuis (FR/EA) , Member of the Regional Corsican Assembly.

Members had an exchange of views on the CoR opinion on the 'Revision of the EU Ambient Air Quality Legislation' by rapporteur Una POWER (IE/Greens) , Councillor for Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

The meeting included a presentation of the Partnerships for Regional Innovation and of the Green Deal Going Local Handbook on climate adaptation , an interactive toolkit that provides information on financial aid and technical instruments to deploy climate adaptation measures based on different geographical areas and regional specificities.

The next meeting of the ENVE commission will take place in Brussels on 10 May 2023.

Background:

During its plenary session on 8-9 February 2023, the CoR adopted an urgent resolution on 'Cities and regions responding to the energy crisis: towards a real European Energy Union'. The resolution builds on the CoR's work on the 'Fit for 55' package and REPowerEU and lays out three main elements to fight the energy crisis: ambition, implementation and social cohesion. In this regard, the ENVE commission will be following up on the key proposals in the text, including the establishment of dedicated One Stop Shop for REPowerEU, reinforcement of the legislative framework to fight energy poverty, and the REPowerEU chapters in national Recovery and Resilience Plans.

Zero Pollution Going Local. The 'One Health' approach must be at the forefront of the EU's Zero Pollution Ambition.

European Commission Urban wastewater website.

Green Deal Going Local.

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