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27th Jun 2022

Magazine

EU and US cities jointly commit to reducing carbon emissions

  • Traffic congestion: EU and US cities face similar problems in terms of CO2 emissions. (Photo: EUobserver)

Mayors from both sides of the Atlantic on Wednesday pledged to work together to reduce carbon emissions and to aje their voice heard at the upcoming UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen.

"US mayors stand solidly with mayors across the globe who believe that climate disruption is an urgent threat to the environmental and economic health of our communities," Elisabeth B. Kautz, vice-president of the US conference of mayors said in Brussels during the Open Days, a marathon of events dedicated to regions and cities.

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Ms Kautz's organisation is the US counterpart to the assembly of over 700 European local authorities that have signed the so-called Covenant of Mayors that aims to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 20 percent by 2020.

"Although our national government did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, almost 1,000 US mayors have subsequently signed the US Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, pledging to meet or beat Kyoto Protocol targets," Ms Kautz explained.

She was one of the regional and local representatives placing her signature on a three-metre inflatable globe which will be sent to Copenhagen as a reminder of the need to involve local and regional levels in the climate change negotiations, since they will be the ones actually implementing many of the measures on the ground.

Among the co-operation forms envisaged are 'green' expert exchange programmes that would allow cities in the US and Europe to share best practices and raise awareness among citizens of the need to do save energy and reduce emissions.

Luc van den Brande, head of the Committee of Regions (CoR), a consultative body of EU regional and local representatives said he was "delighted" that officials from both sides of the Atlantic pledged to co-operate more on the climate front. The CoR will also represent Europe's regions and cities within the official EU delegation led by the Swedish presidency.

As for EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs, one of the 'fathers' of the Covenant of mayors, which is supervised by the EU executive, he was "very proud" of the American-European tandem at local levels.

"If the battle against climate change is to be won, it will have to be fought in the cities," he said. "I am convinced that the administration that is closest to the citizen, the municipalities, will play a major role in mobilising efforts to reach an ambitious agreement in Copenhagen ."

His comments were echoed by local officials speaking in the CoR plenary session. The deputy mayor of the Danish capital, Mona Heiber, highlighted the need for local authorities to "play their part" in solving climate change issues. Ms Heiber noted that Copenhagen was striving to become a "carbon neutral" city by 2025.

"We are facing a window of opportunity to create a path towards a sustainable green economy. We believe that the communities of the future are based on smart economic growth," she said.

Henning Jensen, mayor of Naestved, a city on the Danish island of Zealand, said that climate change could only be tackled via a multi-level governance approach.

"Although climate change is a global issue, the consequences are always local: flooded basements, fewer tourists or poor harvests caused by drought and extreme temperatures. Sub-national authorities can contribute to the fight against climate change by bringing their hands-on knowledge of the everyday challenges, and their solutions to them," he argued.

A German representative of Hohenlohe, a district in the south-western region of Baden Wurttemberg stressed the importance of beefing up civil protection capacities at a local level.

"The effects of climate change can often be disastrous, and in many cases, it is the local and regional authorities that are directly responsible for tackling them, for instance forest fires or floods, or to bear the economic and social consequences. That is why it is so important to ensure that all those involved on the front line are as well-prepared and as quick to respond as possible," he said.

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