The EU Green Deal: From Local to Global
The need to strengthen the level of ambition after COP 26 and the critical role of local and regional authorities were key themes from the closing event at the Multilevel Action Pavilion in Glasgow. Leaders and representatives from regional and local government assessed the state of play on the final day of COP 26 and discussed how initiatives at the local level are essential if sufficient progress is to be made.
The event took place both online and simultaneously at the Multilevel Action Pavilion and from the European Commission’s offices in Brussels. The Pavilion, which was hosted by the Scottish Government and ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), was established as the COP 26 “home” for subnational organizations, including cities, towns, and regional authorities. This session was organized by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), an assembly of local and regional representatives.
Opening of the Session
The event was chaired by Juan Espadas, Mayor of Seville and Chair of the CoR’s Environment, Climate Change and Energy Commission. He opened the event by stressing that local and regional authorities (LRAs) must contribute and be recognized in every country if we are to reach the ambitious targets needed. He called for recognition of LRAs in the COP 26 outcome.
Apostolos Tzitzikostas, CoR President, said the importance of LRAs in the climate equation needed to be a part of the EU’s official position, and called for a formal seat at the negotiating table.
Dialogue on the COP 26 Negotiations from a Local and Regional Perspective
Speakers were invited to discuss the COP 26 negotiations, with delegates from the CoR, along with other key participants, presenting their views.
Vincent Chauvet, CoR member and Mayor of Autun, France, supported greater recognition of LRAs in the COP 26 declaration.
James Grabert, UNFCCC Secretariat, noted progress in the negotiations while acknowledging divergent views remained. He agreed the proactive engagement of LRAs is crucial.
Clara de la Torre, Deputy Director-General at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Action, expressed concern that we are still not close enough to our Paris Agreement goals. She highlighted several new initiatives from the European Commission that would launch in early 2022, and emphasized the critical importance of citizen engagement.
Minna Arve, Mayor of Turku, Finland, and Vice President of ICLEI, highlighted the COP 26 Multilevel Action Pavilion as a positive innovation in global climate advocacy, bringing together LRAs and other stakeholders for more than 70 events over the past two weeks. Reflecting on the COP 26 negotiations, she expressed concern the outcome would not be sufficiently ambitious. This, she said, made it more important than ever for cities, towns, and regions to be more vocal, proactive, and ambitious on climate action. Calling on the Glasgow outcome to include active references to the role of LRAs, she also recognized that COP 26 beginning on World Cities Day on 31 October was appropriate.
Graham Houston, Vice-President of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), noted Scotland’s goal of achieving net zero by 2045. He joined others in expressing concerns at the state of negotiations and the need for full recognition of LRAs.
Many other speakers, including mayors and other municipal leaders from Poland, the Netherlands, Italy, Finland, and across Europe, participated in the event. They highlighted the critical role of LRAs and urged official recognition and a seat at the table for these groups in global negotiations. Several also highlighted the need for long-term, predictable funding for local-level activities, noting that by 2050 as many as 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. A number of participants highlighted the ever-growing ambition on climate change by many LRAs in recent years. Areas highlighted for major action included transportation systems and energy efficiency for households. Multi-stakeholder cooperation among LRAs, central governments, academia, business, and other groups was also a key theme to emerge from the discussions.