Covenant of Mayors
  Covenant Quarterly Newsletter January 2012  
A roadmap for the Covenant’s future
{{{Interview with President of the Committee of the Regions Mercedes Bresso.}}} In this exclusive interview with the Covenant of Mayors Office, President Bresso shares the Committee’s perspectives regarding the future developments of the Covenant of Mayors, which can be summed-up in its recently unveiled [ABC strategy - Activate, Broaden , Cooperate->]. Touching on a wide array of issues including sustainable energy funding and investments, inclusion of resource efficiency within the scope of the initiative and far-reaching international cooperation, Ms Bresso calls an all the EU Institutions to move up a gear on the Covenant of Mayors in 2012.

The year 2012 has just begun: do you have a New Year’s wish for the Covenant of Mayors?

"I wish to see local and regional authorities extend innovative partnerships like the Covenant of Mayors to other policy areas. This would help Europe to translate its ambitions into reality, while taking account of the immense diversity our continent enjoys, and the differing situations on the ground". These are not my words but those of President Barroso, back in 2010. Not only do we share this wish, but as the Committee of the Regions, we call on all the EU Institutions and the Covenant partners to take specific action to make it come true during 2012. To recover from the crisis, we need more local investments in "green" growth and jobs and we need a greater partnership within Europe and with our global partners. 2012 provides us with a number of windows of opportunity and we shall seize them together in order to ensure that the Covenant continues to deliver. I am referring here to processes such as shaping EU cohesion policy for 2014-2020, the upgrading of a number of key EU environmental policies such as water or the various global agreements on sustainable development that are anticipated at the Rio+20 summit. It is time indeed to take a step forward with our Covenant, and the Committee is pleased to present a political manifesto to this end "Covenant of Mayors 2020: Activate, Broaden, and Cooperate>>". I invite all those who agree with this manifesto to publically support and share it.

In your ABC on the future Covenant, you start with ACTIVATE. What do you mean?

Today, the Covenant has about 3,500 signatures and around 1,100 approved plans. So, the first cornerstone is ACTIVATE: moving from signatures to plans and investment. The Committee has advocated this from the very start of the Covenant in 2008 and we now welcome the European Commission’s proposal to earmark a substantial part of the 2014-2020 cohesion policy programmes to energy efficiency and renewable energy (a minimum of 20% of national ERDF resources for transition and more developed regions and a minimum of 6% for less developed regions). However, we would also like to urge all the Covenant Signatories to remain committed throughout 2012. The Commission’s proposal on the future EU budget and cohesion policy must be promoted and defended until a final decision has been taken by the European Parliament and the Council. Moreover, there are a number of pressing issues at national level. The current climate of fiscal austerity must not limit key investments in our cities and regions. We must not stop investing in energy-saving school buildings, in clean public transport and other such projects. The application of the so-called fiscal-compact should help maintain these types of investments, which will ensure savings in our public finances, create growth and jobs and, last but not least, preserve our climate and environment.

Why do you propose to BROADEN the Covenant’s thematic scope?

We propose expanding the Covenant from energy to include other areas that can ensure the efficient use of natural resources: e.g. consuming less water, reducing our use of raw materials or increasing waste recycling. Investments in such local projects can have an important pay off, especially in a world where the emerging economies are making certain natural resources increasingly rare and costly. Moreover, our health and the future of our children are also at stake. We should learn from the lessons of 2007/2008, when the climate and energy agenda which emerged at European level came about as a result of a twofold crisis: the squeezing of our gas and oil supplies by our neighbours coupled with a number of alarming findings about global warming. At the time, the European Union rushed to draw up the 20-20-20 energy objectives, on the basis of which the Covenant of Mayors was launched. Should we wait for this kind of emergency to happen again before we tackle the pressing issue of water scarcity more boldly? As was the case with the European Green Capital scheme, let us take on other challenges instead and gradually open up the Covenant of Mayors to cover additional areas. In 2012, the review of European water policy will provide an opportunity to introduce 20-20-20 targets for water into the Covenant, as suggested in a Committee opinion (+20% water saving, +20% naturalised water courses, +20% water recycling).

In your manifesto on the future of the Covenant, you suggest a third axis: COOPERATE. Could you elaborate on this point?

It is really rather simple: with the Covenant, we would like to achieve a more results-based form of cooperation between Europe and the other continents on issues such as energy, climate or the environment. Europe is among the world’s leaders in such areas but faces chronic difficulties with rallying its counterparts to sign up to international treaties.

While we wholly share the European Union’s objective of reinforcing binding commitments at global level, we also feel that we need to give more leverage to multilevel governance as part of this intercontinental dialogue. It is undoubtedly one of Europe’s unique strengths that – while we agree the general policy direction and incentives at EU level – we often take inspiration from the best practices developed by our cities and regions, such as through the Covenant of Mayors. We therefore propose opening up the Covenant even more to the exchange of good practices with cities and regions on a global scale, also linking to the "Sustainable Energy for All" initiative recently launched by the UN. Working together with the European Commission and the Covenant partners, our Committee has already opened the way towards a geographical extension to the Mediterranean basin and to the Eastern Partnership, where we are already active through the work of our two assemblies, ARLEM and CORLEAP. At the last Climate summit in Durban, for example, the Covenant captured the attention of the South African Association of Local Authorities. More generally, going forward to the Rio+20 Earth Summit on Sustainable Development (June 2012), which the CoR will be attending as part of the EU delegation, we would like to see the whole delegation actively engaged in providing other continents with the opportunity to cooperate in the field of local implementation, by sharing our experiences of the Covenant of Mayors and the European Green Capitals.

    >> Covenant Monthly Newsletter January 2012 <<
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  The sole responsibility for the content of this newsletter lies with the Covenant of Mayors Office. It does not necessary reflect the opinion of the European Union. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein. The Covenant of Mayors was set up with financial support of the European Commission and consists of five associations of European local authorities: Energy Cities, Climate Alliance, Eurocities, CEMR, and Fedarene.

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