Subject: Cities and Climate Change

Subject: Cities and Climate Change

Policy development


REGIO D.2//AMT D(2008)

Minutes of the 9th Meeting
Inter-Service Group on Urban Development
3rd July 2008 - CSM 1 08/66, 15h00

Subject:"Cities and Climate Change"

Participants: Loubna ABDESSALAMI (AIDCO.E.7)
Elisabeth BITTNER (EAC.A.2)
Aline DENIS (EAC.C.1)
Monique RAQUET (EMPL.A.1)
Claudia OLAZABAL (ENV.B.1)
Balazs GERGELY (ENV.C.3)
Władysław PISKORZ (REGIO.C.2) - Chair
Enrique BUATAS (REGIO.D.2)
Jean-Sébastien LAMONTAGNE (RP – FR Presidency)
Marie-Claire GRIMA (Central Admin. – FR Presidency)
Hans VERDONK (Eurocities)
Bernd STEINACHER (Reg. Stuttgart – METREX)
Sylvia SCHREIBER (Reg. Stuttgart – METREX)
Jürgen LUDWIG (Reg. Stuttgart)
Christian SEITZ (Reg. Stuttgart)

The thematic focus chosen for the meeting was Cities and Climate Change, with the aim of raising awareness of the wealth of initiatives sponsored by the EU services and other interested partiesin this realm, and enhancing coherence between them. The meeting was chaired by WładysławPiskorz, Head of Unit "Urban Development, Territorial Cohesion.

Corinne Hermant (DG REGIO) introduced the topic, focussing on its relevance, the relativeopportunities and challenges, and the way Cohesion Policy can help to address them.If challenges and objectives are global, implementation must necessarily be regional and local, due to the variable nature of the issue and of its impact. Cities are huge emitters, but are also the place where the greatest impact in fighting climate change can be achieved, through spatial planning and infrastructures, energy-saving and efficiency policies, especially in building, housing and transport, and environmental governance. Limiting factors regard funding, scope of local powers within the multi-level governance, and the relationship with private enterprise and citizens sharing responsibility in this context. Cohesion Policy put a strong emphasis on climate change and, albeit its impact is still difficult to assess, is likely to continue to do so after 2013. General priorities include exchange of information between cities, supporting information gathering and engineering at city level and fostering "urban mainstreaming" on environmental matters.

Marco Gasparinetti(DG ENV)further clarified how cities are key actors with respect to climate changein two central aspects: they are vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, while being a prime location to mitigate the impact of, and adapt to, climate change.In terms of mitigation, cities are regarded as major contributor to GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emissions in the air, estimated at 80 percent of the total, mainly through fossil-fuel burning for transport and energy dispersion from buildings. Acting on these fields, as well as leading by example through greener public procurement, is central for local authorities. In terms of adaptation, the impact is directly or indirectly related to water (excess or lack of it) – and many urban centres have developed on sea or river shores. Cities can act by assessing their vulnerability and plan responses for their local situation. Possible areas for intervention are spatial/land planning and use, water-usage efficiency and vulnerability impact assessments on infrastructures. All these actions should be part of a much larger multi-level strategy, which goes from local to global (Kyoto and, next year, Copenhagen) through the regional, national and EU levels.

An interesting EU-sponsored action is the "Covenant of the Mayors for Energy Efficiency", illustrated by Pedro Ballesteros Torres (DG TREN).The approach followed in this case was for the cities to mirror, within the EU, the 'moral leadership' and first movers approach that the EU has adopted globally. The signatories of the Covenant commit to reduce GHG emissions by morethan 20 percent until 2020. By December 2007, 95 cities had expressed their interest (including 15 capitals), and a formal Secretariat will start operations in mid-November this year. The Commission offers technical assistance and provides credibility to the initiative, as well as enhancing the visibility and good-practice dissemination aspects of local participation, which is the main reward, at the moment, for participating partners.

Finally, Bern Steinacher (METREX - network of metropolitan regions and areas) shared the experience and the initiatives adopted by the METREX network to tackle climate change-related issues, which have clear links to the thematic work of the partnership in many fields. He agreed on the central role of metropolitan regions, recognising the validity of the "polluter pays" principle, especially in a global context. He also pointed out the range of skills and resources available in the metropolis to successfully respond to this challenge, as a result of the early realisation of the importance of this theme, of the opportunities linked to climate change-related threats, and the resulting experience cities and companies have accumulated in this field. He cited, among other examples, the Greenhouse Gas Inventory Project (GRIP), a model based on the exchange of best practices in a range of adaptation and mitigation policies, which is being adopted by 21 European members with the aim of reducing GHG emissions by 80 percent and that it is attempted to further share with 22 US cities and, possibly, beyond (China, India…).

Positive reactions to the presentations were expressed in the discussion that followed, which also brought additional elements.

Angelika Poth-Mögele (CEMR/CCRE – Council of European Municipalities and Regions) welcomed the recognition at European level of the strong role local and regional authorities can play in this field, and cited the many cooperation initiatives of various European organisations (EnergieCités, Eurocities, CEMR/CCRE, METREX) – and beyond – including in the Covenant of Mayors. She also welcomed the focus on water-related issues, which the Council is promoting also through a dedicated 1-day programme in an International Congress in September 2008.

Thedisaster recovery and rehabilitation initiative in ACP countries, as explained by Anastase Zacharas (DG AIDCO), contains mainly adaptation measures (fight rains, maintenance/adaptation of infrastructures…) and consist of a 5-years programme with a dedicated strategy. Mr. Zacharas also reminded the Commission Communication "Winning the Battleagainst Global Climate Change"[1] as a valuable source for their action.

Rainer MEILICKE (DG SANCO) highlighted the human health threats of climate change, especially as far as water contamination is concerned – for which health systems must be prepared – and weaker groups, such as young people. He also recognised that no strategies in this sense exist at the moment.

DG EAC is working on the theme of "Architecture and Sustainable Development", reported Aline DENIS (DG EAC). Building on the 2001 "Resolution on Architectural Quality", it is foreseeable that the role of architecture, creativity and innovation in tackling climate change might be assessed. In addition, in a forthcoming study on the contribution of culture and creativity to innovation, one section will be specifically dedicated to the sensitisation of citizens to climate change-related issue. Elisabeth Bittner (DG EAC) informed that, in the context of the Creativity and Innovation Year 2009, sustainable development will be tackled through a compilation of relevant "good examples" in various fields, which should constitute a useful reference. She also praised references to the importance of education and the necessity for changes in the behaviours to effectively address climate change-related challenges.

Daniel Quintart (DG INFSO), on the other hand, mentioned how ICT can be used effectively to foster sustainable growth (for instance, in terms of energy efficiency, or disaster prevention and recovery) and that the DG's assessment of the use of ICT in cities for mitigation purposes is forthcoming, although still in its early stages.

Other contributions from DG ENV which should be highlighted?

Hans Verdonk (Eurocities) complemented the discussion with various observations. Urban areas, he stated, are ideal environments to test new approaches in a cost-effective way. He also pointed out how cooperation is vital in order not to 'reinvent the wheel' in every country. He called also for a formal recognition of the role of cities in the Copenhagen 2009 negotiations, as the UNFCC only recognises states at this stage. He introduced the Eurocities "Declaration on Climate Change" as a valuable complement to, or stepping stone before, the Covenant of Mayors. Finally, he advocated for a strong cooperation with the private sector to address dependencies and the competences' gap.

Corinne Hermant (DG REGIO) presented DG RTD's reflections on the environment theme on their behalf. She illustrated the approach followed in the context of FP7, which has a strong urban dimension n its consideration of natural hazards, management and planning of urban environment and landscape preservation and technologies supporting the built environment and cultural heritage, to cite but a few. Several relevant ongoing and prospective projects were presented (cf. Annex 5).

Two further aspects of the contribution of Cohesion Policy towards the challenges of climate change were finally highlighted by Enrique Buatas (DG REGIO): on the one hand, the value-added springing from the implementation of the policy itself, and the negotiations with the various actors concerned, which brings substantial benefits going beyond the mere provision of money. In this context he cited energy efficiency, water, sustainable energy and health. On the other hand, he reminded the importance of shared management, and how it is aimed – although not always possible – to include regional and local authorities in the allocations of budgets, a process normally widely dependant on national 'traditions'.

In conclusion, the Chair, WładysławPiskorz, thanked all participants for their input and commitment, reminding how climate change remains a key global challenge which is addressed in the reflection towards the Cohesion Policy post-2013, and how the comments made during the meeting would feed in the forthcoming discussions.

On a more administrative topic, he committed to an increased effort at better coordination of future activities, to make more efficient use of the time of all concerned.

A. Torre (87421)

Enclosures:Annex 1: Agenda of the Meeting
Annex 2: Presentation "Cities and Climate Change" by Ms. C. Hermant, DG REGIO
Annex 3: Presentation "DG REGIO – Climate Change and Cities" by Mr. M.Gasparinetti, DG ENV
Annex 4: Presentation "The Covenant of Mayors" by Mr. P. Ballesteros, DG TREN
Annex 5: Presentation "Environment Theme", by DG RTD



[1] COM (2005) 35 of 9th February 2005, and the relative Commission Staff Working Paper SEC (2005) 180