Covenant of Mayors
  Covenant Coordinators & Supporters May 2012  
Covenant of Mayors: Driving change in local communities
{{{Interview with Salvador Esteve, President of the Barcelona Provincial Council.}}} The Barcelona Province is one of the most active Covenant Coordinators. It was among the early beneficiaries of the ELENA technical assistance, which proved instrumental in setting up the necessary legal and financial framework to assist municipalities in delivering ambitious sustainable energy measures on their territories.

A few years have elapsed since the province first launched its Covenant of Mayors-related campaigns and activities. To take stock of the past accomplishments, the Covenant of Mayors Office has secured an exclusive interview with Salvador Esteve Figueras, President of the Barcelona Provincial Council.

Covenant of Mayors Office : In august 2009, the province was among the first in Europe to join the Covenant of Mayors. Looking back over the last three years, how do you think has this initiative contributed to the province objectives for climate change mitigation, citizens’ well-being and economic development?

The Covenant of Mayors has established a common framework which has had a mobilising effect on municipalities accross the province. This has allowed municipalities with very different characteristics to all play their part in the fight against climate change. In particular, the Covenant has been instrumental in helping small-sized municipalities with limited technical and financial resources to address these challenges. It should be noted that 108 of the 150 municipalities of the province which have joined the Covenant have less than 20,000 inhabitants and 50 of them less than 5,000.

The measures derived from their Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAPs) have had significant environmental benefits, both in terms of cost savings and in the generation of green jobs. Needless to say, in a complex situation such as the one we are experiencing in the "municipal world", all these aspects are of paramount importance.

How does the province assist municipalities in seeking the contribution of citizens and local actors?

The Barcelona Provincial Council provides the budget and assistance required for the drafting of the SEAP of signatory municipalities from the province. In parallel to this process, the involvement and participation of citizens is secured in the early stages of the plan preparation.

Likewise, we provide muncipalities with communication resources, to maximize citizen outreach and participation throughout the year but especially during the European Sustainable Energy Week. Activities range from lectures to films, plays, workshops and exhibitions.

Our experience shows that consideration of economic and social aspects as well as involvement of the general public is crucial to achieving the 20/20/20 goals of CO2 reduction, increased energy efficiency and use of renewables by 2020.

How do you think can the municipalities best address economic and budgetary pressures and how does the province assist them in finding alternative means of financing?

The financial situation of municipalities is complicated: we have to comply with commitments to restrain spending and debt and at the same time, maintain the same level of services and quality of life. These challenges are added to the commitment of the Covenant of Mayors. Consequently, we need to find creative means to launch low-cost actions or activities which do not involve borrowing. Many of the endeavours undertaken by the Barcelona Provincial Council are based on behaviour change, with the implication of citizens, employers, workers, municipal officials and so forth: Low-cost actions which nonetheless produce significant energy savings.

The European Project "EURONET 50/50" has for example allowed the 13 participating European schools to reduce their energy consumption by about 40,000 kWh, and their emissions by about 6,000 tonnes of CO2. Other pilot initiatives in sports and cultural facilities have achieved reductions of up to 25% in electricity consumption.

To manage actions of higher budget we have had to introduce mechanisms which so far had not been exploited in our country. The Barcelona Provincial Council has for example extended its technical support to explore energy performance contracting for public lighting management, management of buildings and equipment, maintenance contracts and other related investments. In this context, the ELENA facility funded by the EIB has supported 66 local authorities so far and planned investments total around €67 million.

We very much value our early involvement in the Covenant of Mayors initiative, both in light of the environmental benefits achieved and with regard to the impulse it has given to municipalities in terms of economic development and green job creation.

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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, Fedarene, and ICLEI Europe.

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