European cities pledge to boost climate action

Eiffel Tower Paris
Eiffel Tower Paris
Denna, MorgueFile

Publish date: March 30, 2015

Representatives of 30 European cities gathered in Paris on 26 March 2015 to declare their commitment to undertaking ambitious climate mitigation policies. Leaders signed a declaration whereby they agreed to use their collective purchasing power, amounting to approximately €10 billion a year, to buy eco-friendly products. Promoting electromobility and increasing energy efficiency were among the list of priorities the leaders agreed to focus efforts on. With the decisive UN climate summit in Paris (COP 21) only eight months away, this declaration sends a strong signal to world leaders to reciprocate in boosting their climate ambition.

The declaration, entitled “In response to the challenge of global climate change, a European commitment and local solutions”, recognises European capitals and metropolises as crucial actors in the fight against climate change, as they are at the crossroads of ‘global’ climate change and the much needed ‘local’ action.

The main purpose of the meeting was for major European cities to join forces and pool resources to enable them to more effectively tackle major causes of climate change, namely polluting transport, inefficient and poorly isolated buildings, and energy supply.

Urban air pollution is becoming ever more aggravated in a larger number of European cities and the ‘world’s most polluted city’ title was last week awarded to Paris. The signing of this declaration is therefore especially welcomed.

Because cities are amongst the major contributors to climate change, it is our duty to find viable paths for our future. This is the full measure of the synergy between the mayors who are determined to share globally the solutions they have found locally” – reads the concluding paragraph of the declaration.

Cities set to spur electromobility

What is more, city leaders launched a number of ambitious projects to address urban sprawl, enhance nature and biodiversity in cities, improve recycling and introduce more sustainable waste management practices, increase electromobility, and render buildings more energy efficient.

Bellona strongly welcomes the launching of these projects and is actively working on promoting a number of them.

Electromobility, for instance, has been a priority of Bellona’s work since its early years. After importing Norway’s first electric vehicle (EV) in 1989, Bellona initiated efforts to foster the adoption of the country’s first incentives to EVs in 1990. Now, 25 years later, Norway has the highest penetration of EVs in the world.

EU Member States, therefore, have a number of lessons to learn from the Norwegian EV experience. To reaffirm Norway’s leadership position in electromobility, Oslo joined another city-led initiative known as the The Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, comprising cities that aim to reduce their emissions with 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Electromobility will have to play a central role also in this initiative, as the transport sector continues to be cities’ greatest emission source and currently accounts for 60% of Oslo’s emissions.

To learn more about Bellona’s history in initiating the electromobility movement and adoption of EV-friendly policies in Norway read the Bellona Brief – Electric Vehicles: The Norwegian Experience in Overcoming Barriers.

City-level diplomacy

In addition to action at local level, the declaration highlights the importance of ‘European level diplomacy of cities’. City representatives made a commitment to closer dialogue and more regular exchange of expertise and good practices.

The role of direct European funding and support from the EU institutions was underlined in empowering cities to take action. The envisaged Modernisation and Innovation Funds for instance could offer important sources of funding to cities in modernising their energy systems and investing in crucial low-carbon technologies, such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

The declaration further commits European cities to concentrate their investment expenditures, which when accumulated represent a very substantial public procurement market, on green sectors of the economy as well as low carbon industries.