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30th Sep 2016

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EU to re-use €115 million on urban CO2 reduction

  • A fresh batch of local authorities signed up to the "Covenant of Mayors" (Photo: European Commission)

The EU commission will re-channel a minimum of €115 million of unspent money to a local investment fund for the 500 or so cities who signed up for the "Covenant of Mayors," pledging to reduce CO2 emissions.

"I intend to propose to my colleagues in the Commission the re-utilisation of unspent funds in the European Economic Recovery package for sustainable energy developments at regional and local level. The amounts available are not yet confirmed, but a minimum of €115 million is available, which could increase until the end of the year," EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger told MEPs and local authorities on Tuesday (4 May).

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He was speaking at the one-year anniversary of the "Covenant of Mayors," an initiative co-ordinated by the European Commission which has so far seen more than 500 townhalls in Europe sign up to the pledge of reducing CO2 emissions by more than 20 percent by 2020.

Mr Oettinger explained that the fund would be used to raise further investment from banks and financial institutions, totaling between €2.5 and €8 billion.

"The experience gained will be critical in designing the next generation of programmes under the new financial perspective," he added, in reference to the upcoming discussions on the carve-out of the next multi-annual EU budget from 2014 onward.

EuroCities, a network of Europe's biggest cities, said it had pressed hard in 2009 for €500 million of recovery funding for green growth projects. "So this proposal is rather little, and rather late. Let's make sure that this funding can be accessed quickly and easily and does not get caught in a tangle of red tape," Paul Bevan, the network's secretary general said in a press release.

The commission's aid was also criticised for not being devoted to smaller towns.

"It's clear that a lot of smaller local authorities are getting involved in the Covenant. But for them it's tougher in economic terms than for bigger cities, who have the capacity to make larger investments. So it would be better to increase the commission's contribution for the smaller ones," Sten Nordin, the mayor of Stockholm, told journalists at a press conference on the margins of the event.

Through the Covenant signatory cities commit themselves to analyse how much CO2 they emit at the moment, outline measures such as green public transportation or energy efficiency schemes for buildings, and then evaluate their actions.

"The city of Rome decided on 18 June 2009 to join the Covenant of Mayors. It has since outlined a plan on energy efficiency, so that initiatives are not isolated, but integrated in a reference plan. We count on building permits for all new and refurbish buildings to include energy efficiency, for instance solar panels," Gianni Alemanno, the mayor of Rome, said at the same press event.

Similarly, the German city of Heidelberg has reduced its CO2 emissions by nearly 40 percent in public buildings through energy monitoring stations and the 'Energy Teams' in the city's schools, while Riga has come up with a way to use the methane gas produced in the city's waste dump to make electricity.

Over half of greenhouse gas emissions are created in and by cities and 80 percent of Europe's population lives and works in urban areas, where up to 80 percent of energy is consumed.

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