Covenant of Mayors
  Covenant Coordinators & Supporters April 2012  
Matching national ambitions with EU agenda
{{{Interview with Serafin Pazos-Vidal, Head of European Affairs at the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.}}} In Scotland, local authorities are all committed to very ambitious climate and energy objectives as part of their national framework. Some of them have in addition decided to take a step forward by joining the Covenant of Mayors. According to Serafin Pazos-Vidal, from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), this provides them “a unique opportunity to marry an ambitious domestic agenda with the wider European aims promoted by the Covenant.” In this interview with the Covenant of Mayors Office, Mr. Pazos-Vidal explains how COSLA, one of the official Covenant Supporters, assists Scottish local authorities with this dual responsibility.

Showcasing his members’ concrete achievements, he shares some best practices from Scottish Signatories, including an initiative by Aberdeen City Council, which is about to launch one of the largest hydrogen bus project in Europe.

Covenant of Mayors Office : In times of public spending cuts and budgetary pressure, how do you think can Scottish local authorities benefit from fulfilling the Covenant of Mayors objectives? How would you encourage your members which haven’t done so yet to join the initiative?

Serafin Pazos-Vidal: Scottish Councils already play a crucial role in delivering a low carbon and sustainability agenda. In addition to the Covenant of Mayors, Scotland domestic legislation is very ambitious. While the EU has set its members the official target of 20% for CO2 emission cuts, energy efficiency improvement and development of renewables, the Scotland Climate Change Act, which is a binding piece of legislation, sets an interim 42% reduction target for 2020, and a 80% share of renewable energy by that date. This is supplemented by additional policies like the Energy Efficiency Action Plan and the Low-Carbon Economic Strategy. To deliver this, the 32 Scottish Councils, which are among the average largest in Europe (155,000 population; 2,500 km2 ; 7,500 staff), have a central role to play and COSLA negotiates with the government how to implement this ambitious framework.

Scottish municipalities have already committed to a sort of “domestic Covenant of Mayors” in the form of the Scottish Climate Change Declaration that is signed up by all 32 Councils and through which they pledge to produce an annual statement, detailing their progress towards sustainable policies. We see the Covenant of Mayors as adding the European dimension to this domestic work, and thus we would be keen that all Council become Covenant Signatories.

CoMO: Two Scottish signatories have adopted their Sustainable Energy Action Plans and one is still due to do so. Did you hear from them about the challenges and opportunities associated with this process? How does COSLA support its members with this crucial step?

The opportunities are clear; there are obvious synergies between Scottish domestic policies on sustainable development, energy efficiency and climate change and the Covenant objectives. This is indeed the main reason why COSLA became a supporting organisation of the Covenant, as it provides us the opportunity to align our domestic work with EU activities. The challenges are also evident, because the national agenda is very ambitious, and requires a significant degree of focus from Councils; it is naturally difficult for them to also cope with additional EU requirements. This is however mainly a matter of perception and capacity, as the workstreams and reporting requirements of both the Covenant and the domestic ones are rather similar.

We are encouraging other Councils to become Covenant Signatories as this would present them with an opportunity to network, share resources and inspiration with other signatories. As the national voice of local government we provide views on the progress of the Covenant, engagement opportunities at EU level, exchanges of experiences and appropriate political support.

CoMO: Among your members, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Glasgow and Edinburgh are Covenant Signatories. Could you give us examples of inspiring, citizen-oriented actions taken by these local councils in the field of local sustainable energy?

It would not be possible to summarise here the range of activities that Scottish Councils undertake. Just by way of example, Aberdeen City Council is developing an ambitious hydrogen bus project with local partners. This will lead to the deployment of a fleet of 12 locally generated renewable hydrogen buses, Scotland’s first and the largest in Europe.

Because the buses emit no local emissions and are virtually noiseless this will greatly improve the quality of life in the city centre as well as save over 100 tonnes of CO2 emissions per bus.

This should position Aberdeen as a leading energy city by attracting innovative renewable energy developers. It will open up new markets for renewable energy generated in Scotland –from the fuel sold to vehicles as well as from direct injection into the natural gas grid, for use in the heat sector. It will stimulate inward investment, transferable skills, new knowledge for local SMEs and universities and will leverage European funds.

In terms of integrated policies, Sustainable Glasgow is an example of city-wide partnership between the municipality, the higher education sector and businesses, which aims to help the city reduce its carbon emissions by 30 per cent within 10 years and is to bring £1.5 billion (€1.8 billion) of new investment into Glasgow during that period.

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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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