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7th Dec 2022

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Cities and regions stand with citizens and SMEs ahead of difficult winter

  • My region is doing its fair share with almost 80 percent of energy production coming from renewable sources
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After being at the forefront when responding to the pandemic and welcoming refugees from Ukraine, cities and regions are bracing for more challenges.

Across Europe there is clear discontent among citizens who are exasperated by continued emergencies and who are anxious of what they will find in their next energy bill. Our families, our entrepreneurs and small business owners are asking for concrete solutions to these pressing problems, in particular the soaring energy prices.

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Cities and regions can play a crucial role to respond to the energy crisis.

I believe that our role as regional and local leaders starts with leading by example by reducing energy consumption in our public buildings, lowering the heating temperature in winter, insulating public buildings making them more energy efficient, deploying electric buses, optimising waste management and shifting to — and even producing — as much as possible clean energy locally.

My region is doing its fair share with almost 80 percent of energy production coming from renewable sources. The new regional headquarters is being currently constructed in line with passive building standards using innovative solutions that will consume eight times less energy than in normal buildings.

In the Region of Andalusia, led by Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, 100 percent of the electricity consumed by the regional administration's facilities now comes from renewable sources. This shift contributes not only to climate targets but also to the regional economy, given the fact that Andalusia is one of the major producers of renewable energy in Europe.

The city of Espoo, in the region of Helsinki led by Markku Markkula, will become fully climate-neutral by 2030, with the use of innovative digital solutions and a strong cooperation between public-private sectors and active engagement of the citizens.

We fully support the need to reduce energy dependency on Russian gas and to increase Europe's energy autonomy. This will not only improve energy security and energy affordability for citizens and businesses alike, but it will create new jobs locally. It will also offer the opportunity to transition to more sustainable sources and reduce carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution, making our cities, municipalities and villages cleaner, and more attractive to live in.

To do so, we need to invest in innovative solutions, appropriate infrastructure including cross-border, renewable energy but also in other environmentally sustainable types of energy.

This transition can only be achieved bottom up by fully engaging all levels of government, especially the local and regional level. Energy is consumed in cities and regions and the very first response needs to start here.

SMEs, especially family run SMEs, are the backbone of our society. They now face crippling energy bills so the EU — as a Europe that protects — should move ahead with the implementation of a price shield against rising energy prices.

We welcome the proposals outlined in the State of the Union to halt the skyrocketing energy prices but it is regrettable and disappointing that the eminent role of the regional and local authorities were once again not even mentioned in the speech of President Ursula von der Leyen.

Cities and regions also need adequate support. This is why EPP local and regional leaders who gathered in Brno with national and European leaders called for more efficient use of EU investment to enhance local and regional renewable energy production and consumption, low carbon public transport, energy efficiency in public buildings, local energy storage, and the boosting of research and innovation in low-carbon and alternative sustainable fuels.

Cities and regions are key players in mitigating the climate crisis. We also act as climate ambassadors while leading by example. This will be also part of our message during the upcoming COP27 meeting in November in Egypt where I will represent the European Committee of the Regions (CoR).

The EPP-CoR is also calling for direct funds for local and regional authorities implementing projects that accelerate the energy transition in line with the RePowerEU Plan, as well as for an EU-wide fair solution for an energy price ceiling without leaving any region, city or municipality behind.

We called on the Energy Council to approve the emergency energy plans to help citizens and SMEs with their energy bills. We reiterate our responsibilities in this regard and express our political commitment and solidarity to work closely together building sustainable, cohesive and inclusive regions, cities and municipalities across the EU.

Author bio

Olgierd Geblewicz is president of the European People's Party-Committee of Regions Group and president of the West Pomerania Region in Poland.

Disclaimer

This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver.

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