Sunday

19th Nov 2017

Climate change: nations talk, but cities act

  • Wind turbines in Denmark (Photo: www.CGPGrey.com)

When Jean-Claude Juncker his first State of the European Union speech in September, he spoke so long about migration that he had little time left to talk about the road to Paris.

The president of the European Commission devoted just two of his ninety minutes to climate change. But from a text which his civil servants distributed afterwards, we know what he had planned to say.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Stockholm (Photo: jcmu)

"The fight against climate change will not be won or lost in diplomatic discussions in Brussels or in Paris", Juncker said. "It will be won or lost on the ground and in the cities where most Europeans live, work and use about 80% of all the energy produced in Europe."

Formally, local governments have no say in the treaty that will be negotiated at the Paris Climate Summit in December by the national representatives of 195 countries, plus the European Union. Some of the groundwork is being done this week as climate negotiators gather in Bonn for the last round of talks before the summit.

However, cities and regions will be involved in reaching the climate goals their national governments agree to – and some have already begun to do that.

"As cities, we can lead the way in demonstrating innovative solutions. We can fight against climate change", Karin Wanngard, the mayor of Stockholm, said at a recent conference organised by the Vatican.

Take Copenhagen, for example. Many involved in the climate dossier may associate the Danish city with the failed climate talks held there in 2009. But the bike-friendly capital of 1.2 million may become an exemplar if it fulfills its promise of becoming completely carbon-neutral within the next ten years.

Last year, when the city's environment mayor visited Brussels, he told EUobserver that in his eyes "nations talk, but cities act".

"I see mayors, cities, all around the globe actually acting in promoting more livable, greener and more sustainable cities, whereas I see nations just doing nothing, failing to act on what should have been their responsibility", Morten Kabell said at the end of 2014.

One year on, the list of cities and regions that have taken or promised action has only increased.

Several cooperation agreements have been signed, such as the Covenant of Mayors, which, as of September 2015, has been signed by 5,887 mayors of mostly European cities and municipalities. Of them, 80 percent have submitted an action plan.

While this does not yet mean that promises will be fulfilled, it shows at least that saving energy and increasing the share of renewable energy is on the agenda of local governments.

Regions are also involved in a similar scheme, with the initial results of commitments made by the so-called Compact of States and Regions expected to be presented in December in Paris. Members include Lombardy, Wales, Catalonia, Rhone-Alpes, and Baden-Württemberg.

Divestment movement

The latest emerging trend that is starting to trickle down in city halls is the global "divestment" movement.

Slowly but surely, European cities are also joining this camp, which started in American universities and urges investors to ditch their investments in fossil fuel projects, and reinvest that money in clean energy projects.

Boxtel (the Netherlands), Oxford and Bristol (the UK), and Oerebro (Sweden) have already promised they will no longer hold any shares in oil, coal, or gas projects.

On Monday (19 October) the city of Oslo announced it would divest its €8 billion pension fund from fossil fuel companies. “We are very happy to announce that Oslo will take responsibility for the climate, both through our own policies and our investments", said Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, of the Green Party in Oslo.

And while a place like Boxtel has only 30,000 inhabitants, the cliched 'every part helps', was the message at a recent conference on fossil fuel divestment in Paris.

"Climate change is an easy topic to feel powerless about. It's easy to throw your hands up", said Julia Christian, who was involved in a divestment campaign at a university faculty in London. "But it has to be now, it has to be us."

This article was first published in EUobserver's Regional Focus Magazine 2015

Magazine

Car-sharing's promise of clean cities

What if all cars in a city were replaced by a new form of public transport? A think tank modelled what would happen in Lisbon.

Magazine

The EU Agencies Race

In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies, exploring how their location matters and the benefits for cities and regions to host them.

Magazine

The EU Agencies Race

In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies, exploring how their location matters and the benefits for cities and regions to host them.

News in Brief

  1. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  2. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  3. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December
  4. Ireland wants written UK guarantees to avoid hard border
  5. US did not obstruct climate talks, says German minister
  6. EU signs social declaration
  7. Puigdemont to be heard by Belgian judges
  8. Steep fall in migrants reaching EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  2. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  3. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  4. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  5. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  6. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  7. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin
  8. German coalition talks in near collapse