Covenant of Mayors
  Covenant Coordinators & Supporters January 2012  
Spotlight on Denmark: The Zealand Region's experience
{{{Interview with Chairman of the Regional Council Steen Bach Nielsen.}}} Issues related to energy, environment and climate change are at the heart of the Danish government priorities for the presidency of the European Union, which it took over from Poland this January 2012. While the country has always nurtured high ambitions in this field, the Zealand Region is certainly no exception.

A Covenant Territorial Coordinator since 2009, it plays a pioneer role at European level with its overarching objective of turning climate challenges into innovation opportunities, paving the way for new workplaces and better living conditions. Within the Covenant of Mayors itself, the region is at the forefront of the country, coordinating the activities of 15 signatories which all have adopted and submitted their Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAPs).

The Covenant of Mayors approach of tackling climate change in a bottom-up, transparent and participative fashion is generating unprecedented enthusiasm and result on an international scale.

What is your particular experience? How is multi-stakeholder cooperation in sustainable energy planning driving the economic development and attractiveness of your region?

The Zealand Region and all its constituent municipalities are committed to taking all the necessary steps required to mitigate climate change. Our vision is to become the leading green region in achieving the objectives of Europe’s 2020 strategy. The use of local resources and roll out of green technology innovations feature among our top priorities. We believe that leadership taking at regional and local levels is the way ahead. Our common climate strategy is a product of this thinking.

Cooperation and participative democracy is a tradition in Denmark to which we attach great importance since the involvement of all stakeholders seems to bring positive results to our society.

Region Zealand and its municipalities are working together across different fora, political and administrative, and share a common regional climate strategy beyond the Covenant of Mayors. All 17 municipalities have adopted the regional strategy and 15 of them have joined the Covenant.

To oversee the implementation of our climate strategy we have set up a steering committee and a working group. The steering committee anticipates the efforts to be deployed in the forthcoming year while the working group monitors the implementation of actions.

As Covenant of Mayors Coordinator, the Zealand Region supports signatory municipalities in their Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) efforts. We do so by organising trainings on climate and energy planning. We also set up a regional network which brings together municipal climate coordinators thus ensuring mutual support and smooth implementation of climate actions.

Together with the Growth Forum Zealand, we have funded and co-funded projects in order to position our region as one of the leaders in Europe, especially when it comes to utilising renewable energy sources. Since the municipalities are represented in the Growth Forum, they influence climate policies and actions through this platform as well as through the Covenant of Mayors, the regional climate strategy and the networks. The multi-stakeholder perspective is a strong driver influencing the development of the region. To stimulate the creation of jobs and the use and development of green technology innovations, this cooperative approach will be further leveraged in the next three years. As an example, we recently launched a green venture programme and founded a green committee to work more closely on these issues.

To complement the Covenant of Mayors methodology, the Zealand Region has developed a set of guidelines to assist its associated signatories with the successful development of their action plans. What are the key specificities of this approach? How was it initiated?

We have not developed a specific set of guidelines, but rather circulated the official Covenant of Mayors guidebook to signatories with recommendations and guidance on climate and energy management in line with the SEAP development. In addition we organised a series of workshops and webinars, to secure a common understanding of the initiative among signatories, and give them the opportunity to discuss and pinpoint difficulties in the measuring of CO2 emissions and development of their SEAP. This approach provides networking opportunities to signatories, enables them to help one another and encourages the development of joint projects and green thinking. We are maintaining a very close cooperation with signatories, a process which our administration fully implements and supports. Our approach is very much inspired from the findings of the UN Brundtland Report - Our Common Future, as well as the very useful experiences we have gained from regional networking projects.

What is the experience of the Zealand Region with the ELENA facility for technical assistance? What investment projects did it trigger among Danish signatories?

In the region and among municipalities - primarily Covenant Signatories – the political support to this initiative [ie, applying to the ELENA facility] has been unanimous. However, our application has not received a final answer yet and the feedback process is proving longer than expected. We thus do not have actual experience with the implementation of ELENA technical assistance so far.

The overall investment programme we have foreseen would consist of substantial investments in improving the energy efficiency of the buildings portfolio from the region and municipalities (i.e. hospitals, schools, institutions, etc.) and in an increase in the production and use of renewable energy in these sites. Furthermore projects for CO2-neutral or low-CO2 local energy supply for public buildings, primarily in the form of solar cells are envisaged. We have great expectations for the investments and projects to come and are also very happy and proud to announce that we have been nominated for a Danish energy and climate award for this project.

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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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