Reflecting a shared deep concern over the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, members of the ENVE commission of the European Committee of the Regions on 10-11 March put forward a set of proposals to accelerate the deployment of renewable energies and energy-saving measures as to secure Europe’s energy sovereignty. A socially fair implementation of the Green Deal has become even more pressuring as the Ukraine crisis has raised gas and fossil-fuel prices to record levels, increasing the exposure of vulnerable citizens and creating new mobility poverty across the EU.
Opening the meeting, the Deputy Mayor of Budapest and chairwoman of the CoR’s ENVE commission and Green Deal Going Local working group, Kata Tüttő (HU/PES), said: “The Russian invasion of Ukraine is one the most severe threats to European peace, democracy and security since World War II. We, cities, have been on the frontline for a while now: migration, climate change, a pandemic, war, the energy and economic crises. As local leaders, we are more crisis managers than we are mayors. We need to be pragmatic, but also visionary and never forget where we want to lead our communities. This is a call to not undermine the European Green Deal’s goals. With the Ukraine war, the insecurity of energy supplies and soaring energy bills, we cannot allow the EU’s climate legislation agenda to face a setback. Our actions towards a successful COP15 and COP27 must remain as ambitious as before.”
“The Ukrainian crisis shows the high price we pay for our energy dependence”, said Andries Gryffroy (BE/EA), member of the Flemish Parliament. The rapporteur of the draft opinion ‘Amending the Renewable Energy Directive to meet the new 2030 climate targets’, stressed the need to “rapidly and massively expand renewable energies in conjunction with increased energy efficiency as the two instrumental elements to achieve the EU’s climate and energy objectives” while recalling that “more cross-border sustainable-energy projects and infrastructure need to be developed if we are to reach a decarbonised and fully integrated energy system in the EU. It is fundamental to remove existing barriers and boost energy cooperation across borders.” The opinion is to be adopted during the plenary session on 27-28 April 2022.
“We’re voting on this draft opinion in very turbulent times. The context of the EU energy policy and our climate-related ambition is changing swiftly. For some, the need to speedily build our independence from Russian energy sources is an excuse to weaken our climate goals. I believe we should be even more ambitious and reach them sooner”, said Rafał Trzaskowski (PL/EPP), Mayor of Warsaw. “ I am therefore reaffirming my support for upgrading the energy-efficiency targets. Local and regional authorities should support such new targets and be ready to implement them. However, they should receive substantial technical support and, first and foremost, financial support”, added Mayor Trzaskowski , who is the rapporteur of the draft opinion ‘Amending the Energy Efficiency Directive to meet the new 2030 climate targets’ . His opinion is to be adopted during the plenary session on 27-28 April 2022.
The need to rapidly accelerate the decarbonisation of the EU’s energy sector might exacerbate existing social vulnerabilities, in particular the problems faced by the estimated 10% of the EU’s population who live under the threat of energy poverty. To reduce those dangers, local and regional leaders adopted a draft opinion entitled ‘ Towards a socially fair implementation of the Green Deal. Rapporteur Csaba Borboly (RO/EPP), President of the Harghita County Council, said: “We are witnessing an extreme increase in energy prices that is significantly impacting vulnerable households, micro-enterprises and automotive users. Citizens have to use a higher part of their incomes on energy and transport without access to alternative and affordable energy and mobility solutions. With this opinion, we call on the European Commission to protect citizens, SMEs and farmers from energy-price volatility and to guarantee a fair transition by aligning the European Social Fund with structural funds and involving local and regional authorities on the basis of the principle of multilevel governance”. The opinion is to be adopted during the plenary session on 27-28 April 2022.
Members also adopted the draft opinion ‘Revision of LULUCF and Effort Sharing regulations’. Rapporteur Åsa Ågren Wikström (SE/EPP), Member of Västerbotten County Council, said: “ We need to unlock the full potential of the forestry sector in climate-change mitigation and in the development of the bioeconomy at the local and regional level. Carbon sequestration, sustainable products and bioenergy can greatly contribute to alleviating the impact of global warming while creating new business opportunities and jobs. Climate change is a trans-boundary problem, which cannot be solved by national or local action alone. All sectors of the economy need to contribute to reducing the EU’s carbon footprint, ensuring that this necessary transition is fact-based, engages local and regional authorities and is anchored on fairness and solidarity.”
Members exchanged views on three additional key files of the ‘Fit for 55 package’, including the Revision of Energy Performance of Buildings Directive by rapporteur André Viola (FR/PES), Member of a Local Executive of the Aude Department. In a debate with representatives of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, members exchanged on two French referrals. First, the opinion entitled ‘Ecological transition – Which balance between social acceptability and environmental imperatives to build resilient communities from the point of view of cities and regions?’ by rapporteur Hanna Zdanowska (PL/EPP), mayor of Łódź. And, secondly, on the opinion entitled ‘Green budget put into practice at local and regional levels’ by rapporteur Vincent Chauvet (FR/RE), Mayor of Autun.
The next ENVE commission meeting will take place on 31 May 2022.
Source: Vincent CHAUVET (europa.eu)