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Adapting to climate change: cities and regions urge the EU to reduce red tape and simplify access to funds  

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has adopted its proposals on climate adaptation in the opinion Forging a climate-resilient Europe - the new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change. The CoR calls for demand-based policies, market incentives, carbon footprints and handprints in public procurement criteria and to accelerate cooperation with academia and businesses to boost broad-scale innovation, sustainable products, services and nature-based solutions. Despite net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020 estimated to drop 35% below 1990 levels, the economic rebound from the COVID-19 risks bringing emissions back up. Around 40% of EU cities with more than 150 000 inhabitants have adopted climate adaptation plans.

During his presentation at the CoR's plenary session, Markku Markkula (FI/EPP), Chair of the Espoo City Board and President of the Helsinki Region, said: "We must start by reducing red tape and simplifying access to EU funding. We also need higher ambition and the EU to encourage forerunner measures, societal innovations and solid market-based incentives to deploy new CO2-reduction technologies. Municipalities and regions must draw up their own Green Deal Going Local action plans, in close cooperation with academia, research institutes and private companies. For that purpose, the new carbon handprint solutions for products, systems, and services are crucial."

The opinion of Markku Markkula, former CoR President, stresses the need to put an end to direct and indirect subsidies to fossil fuels like the existing tax exemptions for aircraft-fuel and to ensure an effective CO2 pricing system including a carbon border adjustment mechanism to eliminate carbon leakage and protect businesses against anti-competitive practices. The CoR opinion calls on local and regional authorities to use public procurement to accelerate demand for innovative and sustainable products and services, to implement nature-based adaptation solutions to green urban areas and to protect and restore forests' carbon capture capacity.

Maria Spyraki (EL/EPP), member of the European Parliament, took part in the debate saying: ''No climate adaptation policy will be successful unless it takes into account the needs, views and expertise of regions and cities. We need coherence and coordination across EU policies and the right combination of market mechanisms, taxes, funding measures, legal provisions and voluntary public-sector commitments to attract climate adaptation investments. Tackling climate change means reducing GHG emissions. Methane is a greenhouse gas that warms the planet eighty-six times as much as carbon dioxide (CO2). It is therefore critical to negotiate a principal agreement on methane emissions in the next COP26 in Glasgow as to establish a methane global regulatory framework in 2021."

On the financial front, the CoR urges to reduce red tape and simplify access to EU funds. The CoR welcomes the new commitment from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to raise the share of funds dedicated to climate action by 2025, the development of the Climate Bank Roadmap and the EIB Climate Risk Assessment system (CRA).

The CoR calls on European industry to initiate and invest in carbon handprint business development, such as improving energy efficiency, reducing the use of materials, introducing climate-friendly raw materials, reducing the amount of waste, expanding product lifespans, and enhancing product usability. A carbon handprint is the positive environmental impact of a product or service throughout its life cycle.

The CoR backs the Policy Support Facility as proposed in the EU Adaptation Strategy to provide technical assistance to develop and implement local adaptation strategies and express its readiness to develop it jointly with the European Commission.

Members urge the European Commission to strongly recommend to Member States to involve subnational governments in drafting national climate adaptation strategies, to include regional breakdowns and to support the development of regional and local climate adaptation plans.

Members propose to extend the scope of the European Climate and Health Observatory under Climate-ADAPT to also include the effects of urbanisation and aging as part of its mission to collect, monitor and analyse data, tools, and expertise to prevent the effects of climate change on human health.

The Committee calls for a rapid implementation of the planned Horizon Europe Missions, including the two climate-focused missions, "a climate-resilient Europe" and "100 climate-neutral cities by 2030". The CoR underlines its commitment to deliver on the Joint Action Plan, signed in November 2020 with Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, and is ready to cooperate with the Joint Research Centre (JRC) to organise research and learning activities under the 'Science Meets Regions' headline. The CoR stresses the vital importance of partnership contracts between the EU and the demonstrating cities and regions in Smart City and Climate Adaptation Missions.

On digitalisation, data, and space, the CoR highlights the importance of using preventive systematic and comprehensive information systems, such as Galileo and Copernicus, to anticipate climate-related risks, and encourages local and regional authorities to use the Copernicus Climate Change Services (C3S).

Along with Markku Markkula's opinion on climate adaption, the CoR's has presented its political positions on global climate action ahead of the COP26 in an opinion led by rapporteur Vincent Chauvet (FR/Renew Europe), Mayor of Autun.

More information:

Climate change is having wide-ranging impacts on ecosystems, economic sectors, human health and well-being in Europe. From 1980 to 2016, the total reported economic losses caused by weather and other climate-related extremes in Europe amounted to over EUR 436 billion, according to the European Commission.

Despite net greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 being estimated to drop 30 to 35% below 1990 levels, the economic rebound from the COVID-19 crisis is also estimated to bring emissions back to previous levels, unless additional action is taken. In 2019, EU emissions, including removals, were down by an estimated 25% compared to 1990, while over the same period the economy has grown by 62%. This proves that we can tackle climate change and ensure sustained economic growth and job creation at the same time (EC).

Next Generation EU and the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027 have a combined weight of over 1.8 trillion euros and provide significant firepower to help deliver the twin green and digital transitions (European Commission. Stepping up Europe’s 2030 climate ambition Investing in a climate-neutral future for the benefit of our people COM (2020) 562 final).

Around 40% of EU cities with more than 150 000 inhabitants have adopted climate adaptation plans (EC).

In November 2020, the CoR rapporteur on climate adaptation, Markku Markkula, urged the European Commission to develop a more ambitious EU Adaptation Strategy in line with the principles of active subsidiarity and proportionality, recognising the crucial role that cities and regions play in climate adaptation and providing them with the tools necessary to develop territory-based solutions.

The European Commission adopted its new EU strategy on adaptation to climate change on 24 February 2021. The new strategy sets out how the European Union can adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change and become climate resilient by 2050. The Strategy has four principle objectives: to make adaptation smarter, swifter and more systemic, and to step up international action on adaptation to climate change.

The CoR is committed to contribute to accelerating the transition towards climate-neutrality with its initiative Green Deal Going Local.

Markku Markkula and Vincent Chauvet are both members of the CoR's Green Deal Going Local working group.

Contact:

David Crous

david.crous@cor.europa.eu

+32 (0) 470 88 10 37

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