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Making the Green Deal accessible and affordable for all is the real challenge, says CoR rapporteur Joško Klisović  

Can Europe afford the Green Deal in the wake of a global pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine? What are the challenges ahead and how can local and regional politicians make a difference? In this interview, Joško Klisović (HR/PES), President of the Assembly of Zagreb, delves into the multifaceted field of the European Green Deal. As rapporteur for the CoR opinion " Towards a multilevel Green Deal governance: the revision of the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action regulation", Mr Klisović provides valuable perspectives on the transformative impact of the Green Deal on regions and cities, its relevance in changing global contexts, and the crucial role local and regional authorities play in its successful implementation.

Mr Klisović's insights underline the enduring importance of the European Green Deal. As regions and cities face global challenges, the Green Deal remains a firm commitment to a sustainable future.

1. The Green Deal is an ambitious policy that has brought several novelties in the EU policymaking. What do you think is the most important merit of the Green Deal?

The Green Deal is not a law, but it has sparked an unprecedented legislative evolution and cultural change, covering all aspects of society and the economy, and setting ambitious goals for the environment, biodiversity and agriculture. We used to look towards the end of a decade; now we have growth strategy that looks ahead with a mid-century horizon. For me, its cross-sectoral approach is the most important novelty of the Green Deal, because on the ground, at local or regional level, we are facing all these issues at the same time. It is by addressing all these sectors at the same time that we will be able to meet our European commitments under the Paris Agreement and to promote sustainable development in our cities and regions.

Of course, certain aspects have been neglected, notably regarding health and gender policies. So, the European Commission should continue its work on the Green Deal in its next mandate, to go even further in addressing those topics and ensuring an even better integration between the different policies.

2. How has all this impacted regions and cities in your view?

Green Deal policies will really change people's lives. And those of local and regional authorities too, because it is they who will implement a large part of the measures adopted. The European Green Deal policies introduced many new obligations or recommendations for regions and local authorities (e.g., local heat and cooling planning, more thorough planning of urban mobility, new targets for reducing energy consumption in public buildings etc.). Regional and local authorities will therefore in the coming years be at the forefront of the action.

It is key to listen to what regional and local authorities have to say on the subject, particularly when it comes to transposing these new developments into national policy, but also to ensuring that cities and regions take ownership of these policies and make their own Local Green Deal, in consultation with local stakeholders and citizens, so that everyone embarks on this journey.

3. The European Green Deal was launched before the pandemic and before the war in Ukraine. Can we still afford the Green Deal in Europe?

Even in the less-auspicious political context after the EU elections, the EU has to implement the green roadmap to which the EU is now legally committed. With the European Green Deal, the EU has set an ambitious 30-year project with an unprecedented wave of legislation and clear targets to reach them. Hundreds of billions of euros in EU green funding have been mobilised. While the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine showed that the climate crisis is not the only major challenge for Europe, the EU has made major efforts to tap green opportunities as part of the management of these crises. The investment plan to address the pandemic – NextGenerationEU – emphasised climate-relevant investments, while the REPowerEU plan to minimise reliance on energy imports from Russia has focused on the rollout of green alternatives. Making the Green Deal an accessible and affordable solution for all is the real challenge, its social dimension in this massive transition. The European Green Deal must remain a paramount priority for the next EU mandate and beyond. There is little space for mistakes as the stakes are too high.

4. What comes next, in your view? Which are the unmet challenges that you see?

I see 3 main challenges:

1. The implementation of what we have just agreed upon at the European level, because we have a climate and social emergency that we must quickly face.

2. The revision of the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action Regulation, which must be adapted to the new framework and facilitate the implementation. The challenge here is to have better horizontal integration, between the different areas covered by the Green Deal, and vertical integration, that is to say better multi-level coordination.

3. The review of economic governance, starting with the European Semester and the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), which must both take much better account of climate and environmental issues, and take into account better the opinion of local and regional authorities, and provide them with better support financially.

5. How can local and regional politicians make a difference when it comes to implementing the Green Deal?

It is not a question of whether local or regional authorities will make a difference. The implementation of the Green Deal will be done with them, or not at all. Regions and cities are already at the forefront of translating the EU's green objectives into reality on the ground, building climate-resilient livelihoods guided by the principles of active subsidiarity, fairness, social justice and territorial cohesion. Many cities, particularly those in the 100 Climate Neutral and Smart Cities Mission, are much more ambitious than their national government.

We must not underestimate the role that local and regional authorities have thanks to their ambition, their proximity to citizens but also to local businesses and industries, and thanks to their knowledge of local contexts and resources and to their competences.

This interview was done in framework of the CoR Young Elected Politician Programme.

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