Policy Framework of the European Response to Climate Change

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By Simon Luyts:

"The European Union has undertaken action in mitigating climate change. It has introduced the Horizon 2020 targets, aiming for a 20% of energy from renewable sources, 20% (or even 30% in some cases) reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990, and 20% increase in energy efficiency (EU, 2017). For 2030, these targets are; 27% from renewable energy sources, 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and 27% energy savings compared to a business as usual scenario.

In tackling this challenge, there is a growing consensus that local authorities play a crucial role. The UN recognizes the role of local governments as a crucial factor for sustainable development, highlighted in their Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). The SDG’s, launched by the United Nations in 2015, is a set of 17 targets for sustainable development. One of these goals is entirely dedicated to the role of cities and local governments. As Judith Karl, the UNCDF Executive says: “There is increasing acceptance that societies and economies cannot undergo that transformation – and cannot meet the SDGs - without utilizing the comparative advantage of local governments. Central government ministries alone cannot drive transformation towards resilient, sustainable, equitable growth alone.” (Karl, 2015) The European commission urges local governments to implement these goals into their policy planning as we all need to work together to realize these goals.

One very important initiative in achieving the SDG n° 7 (clean and affordable energy for all), and SDG n° 11 (sustainable cities and communities) is the Covenant of Mayors.

The Covenant of Mayors (CoM) is a European initiative launched by the European Commission to engage local municipalities and their citizens, in mitigating climate change. The initiative started through the realization that if we want something to happen, the local level should be engaged.

Each city participating in the Covenant of Mayors voluntarily commits itself to reduce, by 2020, the CO2 emissions of the city by 20% compared to 1990 (or the first following year that reliable data is available). Now, since 2015, the Covenant has renewed itself with a long term vision for 2030. Here the commitment is to decrease the carbon emissions by 40%, to increase the resilience to the impact of climate change and to assure clean and affordable energy for all. The city starts by preparing a baseline emission inventory to quantify the CO2 emitted on the city’s territory. A risk and vulnerability assessment is made to identify the climate hazards and vulnerable places in the region. Following, a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP) is developed. This document is a strategic plan which policies and measures will be undertaken to achieve the goals. Every 2 years, monitoring reports need to be submitted to assess the progress of the action plan (CovenantOfMayors).

This covenant is an opportunity for cities to improve their sustainability by getting support and knowledge from the Covenant of Mayors Office and the other participating cities. The cities and municipalities are responsible to find the expertise so to set up this action plan, and to implement it. Organizations like Climate Alliance, but also regional and federal governments help to build capacity."

More Information

Source: Collaboration between Local Authorities and Renewable Energy Cooperatives