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What is the role of regions to achieve EU climate targets?

Euromontana participated as a guest to the task force on climate meeting of The Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR), on February 6th, 2019, since mountain regions and islands (together with sparsely populated areas) fall into the family of regions with specific territorial features as mentioned in Article 174 of the Lisbon Treaty.

The meeting involved more than 30 experts from CPMR member regions from ten countries with welcome words from Cees Loggen, Regional Minister, Province of Noord Holland and CPMR Vice-President in charge of Energy and Climate and Eleni Marianou, CPMR Secretary General. The most recent political developments at international and European level in the field of climate change adaptation and mitigation were discussed with participation of guests from the European Commission, DG Clima and DG Energy.

 

Global context and EU initiatives

 

The session started by bringing up global initiatives related to climate change, like the COP, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as well as Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). As a reminder, while the Paris Agreement (from COP 21) fails to mention the specific mountain dimension, mountains are clearly mentioned in several targets within SDG 6 “Clean Water and Sanitation”, and SDG 15, “Life on Land”. The latest 24th edition of the COP meeting in Poland, Katowice was briefly discussed. Cristina Carreiras from the European Commission, DG Clima, pointed out that COP is a tool to drive emissions reduction by keeping the pressure on the EU. Adaptation to climate change in EU is a slow process but it needs to be done for robust results and so creating a rulebook for all countries takes time. Since climate and environment-related issues are transversal, they should eventually become part of every ministry and local policies.

 

Towards climate neutral economy by 2050 with proactive regions

 

Fabien Ramos from the European Commission, Dg Clima, made a presentation on “the EU strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy by 2050 – A Clean Planet for all” with 2030 targets as a milestone set to reach the goals included in National Climate and Energy Plans 2021 – 2030. The strategy is built on seven pillars which require a larger framework for the transformation to be successful:

  • Research and innovation: based on the next funding programme Horizon Europe with the climate, energy and mobility cluster,
  • Investment in a socially fair way with the highest investment coming from the private sector which needs to be further facilitated as “green finance” or “sustainable finance”,
  • Support of the citizen with the adaptation on the demand side – mobility, waste management, food – and awareness of benefits and implications.

Euromontana welcomed these points which are in line with its response to the consultation “Evaluation of the EU’s strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, What future for Europe’s mountains?
It was also stressed that the transition cannot provoke poverty. This is the point of particular importance from Euromontana’s point of view in relation to mountain areas and as presented in the Bragança Declaration “Mountains’ vulnerability to climate change: how can people and territories adapt and mitigate its effects?

Fabien Ramos reminded the role which regions can play throughout the process:

  • Common points across regions and exchange of information – it is important to know about regional initiatives and good practices, what fits and matters, and which solutions work (with diversity of the regions being recognized),
  • Proactivity in finalizing National Climate and Energy Plans which include a multi-level approach with mentions of regions’ roles (2019 is the deadline for their final versions to be submitted to the European Commission),
  • Decoupling growth with emissions is important: some regions gain even 2% GDP due to the transformation, even though some regions (like coal-mining-oriented) will lose.

 

Challenges faced by regions

 

How to include local initiatives in the central planning is, however, not always clear based on the experience from several regions, especially in non-decentralized countries in Europe. Renaud Layadi, Senior Adviser, Energy Transition, Brittany Region, believes that regions are ready to put resources into climate change activities if only they see a clear and ambitious message with relevant, supporting tools. National plans change too much for the region to be able to plan effectively on the long-term basis. The approach adopted in the region of Brittany is interesting since it is like the COP process but on the regional level: a debate with various stakeholders within the society to identify possible solutions and then a shift in policies. Frederico Cardigos, Head of Regional Office, Autonomous Region of the Azores, commented that under stress, people tend to blame migrants and agriculture for climate change, which creates tensions. Nikolaos Balabanis, Vice – Governor of Energy and Environment, Western Greece, brought an example from his region of climate change issues and the need for examples from all over the world to find solutions. For instance, as an example of international collaboration on climate-related issues, Panos Coroyannakis, CPMR expert presented the project Civitas Destinations, aiming at Sustainable Mobility for Green Tourism.

 

Next steps

 

Leonardo Zannier, European Commission, Dg Energy, concluded the session with a reference to the Clean Energy package – part of the Energy Union strategy. The following objectives were presented:

  • Ensure better regulation and less administrative burden,
  • Allow investors for certainty and predictability,
  • Synchronise planning and reporting with the Paris Agreement.

The governance of this initiative is ensured through National Integrated Energy and Climate Plans (2021 – 2030) which makes it politically stronger. The collective level of ambition is coherent with EU targets based on 28 contributions defined by Member States. The EU is expected to keep on improving related regulation and financing mechanisms. Regions were called again to be proactive both on the national and EU level. For mountain areas, the energy-related questions are of outmost importance as stated in Euromontana’s position paper on energy in mountain areas. This position paper was appreciated by a broad audience all over Europe and gave birth to different kind of actions like the involvement in the FREE initiative.

 

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26 February 2019

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