Cities from all over Europe are united in the fight against the climate crisis. When the Covenant of Mayors was founded in 2008 as a joint project of the European Committee of the Regions and the European Commission, the initiative was aimed at creating a network of local governments who are dedicated toambitious climate and energy goals in the EU until 2020. Today the initiative brings together close to 10,000 local and regional authorities across 57 countries.
During the December plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions, Benedetta Brighenti, our member and local councillor from Castelnuovo Rangone (Italy), urged the European Committee of the Regions, the European Commission and other stakeholders to reinvigorate discussions on the support for the Covenant of Mayors and to find a new framework post-2020.
In the context of a debate on the European Green Deal, European Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans stressed the importance of cooperating with local and regional authorities to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050:
“Just imagine the mayors of all cities would agree that we would make public transport emission-free, for example. This would set a significant signal to industries to catch up with providing sustainable technologies. That is why working with our cities must be an absolute priority. We must focus on better air quality, energy usage and greening our cities.” He also made a strong call for action: “When we hear people say we have to wait before we take action, just imagine that scientists would discover an asteroid which is on a collision course with our earth, and we know that it will hit us in 30 years from now – would we then say: ah, let's do something about it, but only if it does not disrupt our economy too much, let’s wait another couple of years before we act? We are facing an emergency and we have to act now!”
Benedetta Brighenti reiterates the demands for more exchanges and stronger financial and technical support for the Covenant of Mayors as a bottom-up approach to addressing the climate emergency. According to her opinion, the Covenant already has the necessary structures set up to contribute to the success of the European Green Deal. However, we need to make better use of the best-practices and the multiple experiences of mayors having already worked with the Covenant over the years.
“We are facing a climate crisis that is putting lives at risk, both of us and our children. But in a moment of fear, it is the mayors who are beside you. They cannot allow themselves to be afraid. They must be at the forefront, fighting for a sustainable future for us and the generations to come.”
Brighenti’s opinion, which takes stock of the evolution of the Covenant, adopted by unanimity:
- calls on the European Commission and all the Member States to recognise that the Covenant of Mayors is a key tool for responding to the climate emergency and for steering local and regional authorities in the transition towards climate neutrality;
- asks the Commission to consider expanding the initiative’s remit, for the moment limited to climate and energy objectives, to ensure a more effective response to the cross-cutting challenges and opportunities presented to local and regional authorities by the goal of climate neutrality, such as as air quality, the circular economy and biodiversity;
- wants to strengthen the role played by the European Committee of the Regions in the governance of the Covenant of the Mayors, including its global aspects, as the European assembly of cities and regions;
- wants the Covenant to solidly incorporate the Sustainable Development Goals framework and make it one of the key tools for monitoring the way the SDGs are implemented at local level.