There is currently a wide range of EU initiatives that provide opportunities for cities and regions to accelerate the green transition and facilitate the implementation of the European Green Deal. A new opinion adopted at the European Committee of the Regions' plenary session on 6 July suggests that their impact on the ground could be increased by improving synergies and coordination between the initiatives, embedding them into the national frameworks while providing more targeted support to local and regional authorities.
Promoting stronger synergies, pooling efforts and preventing overlaps between different Green Deal initiatives, following a more user-centric, flexible and needs-driven approach, limiting reporting requirements and taking into account local and regional authorities' different needs and national contexts are among the key recommendations of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR).
While the need to accelerate the energy and climate transition has never been greater, rapporteur Andries Gryffroy (BE/EA), Member of the Flemish Parliament, points out the need for a simpler framework, because the proliferation of new initiatives and commitments, often leading to duplication, is making it more difficult for many regions and cities to take up the existing opportunities. The opinion suggests shifting the focus from planning to the implementation of projects and tangible outcomes, prototyping pragmatic solutions on the ground and overcoming barriers local and regional authorities face, such as limited staff and financial resources.
Local and regional leaders invite the European Commission to upscale the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy by exploiting stronger synergies with other initiatives, further supporting the EU Mission on Climate Neutral and Smart Cities, and strengthening multilevel governance, building on the CoR's Green Deal Going Local initiative. The new Covenant of Mayors could become an umbrella initiative allowing local and regional authorities the freedom to flexibly choose the thematic areas (mitigation, adaptation, energy poverty, sustainable mobility, air quality, water management, biodiversity, etc.) they are willing to start focusing on, based on their different starting points and needs.
"Each region and city have a particular DNA, which is why we can't squeeze them into a 'one size fits all' approach. Networks and EU-funded supportive initiatives should provide for sufficient flexibility to adapt to certain characteristics and tailor the support to local and regional needs focusing on creating enabling frameworks to accelerate implementation. For example, the Flemish Local Energy and Climate Pact where 294 local authorities build further on the framework of the Covenant of Mayors. The Flemish government provides a facilitating framework via financial support, streamlined monitoring, a district renovation tool, policy dialogue for legislative improvements and technical assistance for local capacity-building of energy communities", rapporteur Mr Gryffroy explains.
Regions and cities underline that the request for political pledges needs to be better connected with implementation mechanisms, direct funding and access to facilities offering sectoral technical and financial assistance. They call for the establishment of a unique platform acting as a single entry-point that would support all local and regional authorities’ efforts to become frontrunners in the implementation of the Green Deal. The European Commission should also support in-depth integration of local and regional governments' efforts and contributions with a reporting and monitoring system that is compatible with National Energy and Climate Plans and includes clear indicators for local and regional authorities without increasing reporting burdens.
Finally, the CoR opinion points out that transparent, open-source reporting of achievements and their impact is necessary to boost public engagement. Initiatives such as the EU Climate Pact offer citizens, especially young people, opportunities to work on local and regional projects and develop green skills. For this purpose, the Committee invites the European Commission to build synergies with Erasmus+, European Solidarity Corps and the European Social Fund programmes, and to make proposals in the context of the 2023 European Year of Skills.
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