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EU mayors commit to significant reductions in CO2 emissions

28/07/2011

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Over 1000 people attended the first formal signing of the Covenant of Mayors in Brussels. The Covenant commits cities to reduce CO2 emissions beyond the EU 20% objectives for 2020.

One year on from the launch of the initiative in January 2008, more than 100 mayors representing participating cities from across Europe gathered in Brussels to sign the Covenant of Mayors. The formal signing ceremony was one of the highlights of the 2009 EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW).

This first ceremony of the Covenant of Mayors was not only a chance for participants to formally sign; but also an opportunity for them to interact with high level members of the European institutions, other signatory cities and the international media.

To date, more than 400 municipalities, representing over 60 million citizens, have made their commitment to the Covenant. Participants have to submit a sustainable energy action plan within a year of signing up that supports their commitment to reducing CO2 emissions by at least 20% by 2020. Cities are then expected to report to both their citizens and the Commission every two years to ensure real progress is being made. Failure to do so will result in the termination of their involvement in the initiative.

High-level representation

Hosted by the European Parliament, the signing ceremony was organised by the European Commission Energy and Transport DG and the Committee of the Regions. The event was chaired by the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, EU Commissioner for Energy Andris Piebalgs, the President of the Committee of the Regions Luc Van den Brande, the Vice-President of the European Parliament Alejo Vidal Quadras and the Mayors of Budapest (Gábor Demszky), Hamburg (Ole von Beust), Madrid (Alberto Ruiz Gallardón), Riga (Jānis Birks) and Växjö, Sweden (Bo Frank).

“The battle against climate change will have to be fought and won in the cities,” said European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, in a keynote speech. “This is why the commitment shown by mayors across Europe by signing the Covenant of Mayors sends us a strong message of hope, particularly in the difficult times that we are facing.”

"Europe's ambitious targets for cutting greenhouse gases will only be met when European local and regional authorities pull together and become involved as partners,” said Luc Van den Brande. “The Covenant is not for big cities alone: smaller cities and towns, as well as regions as a whole, should also be encouraged to sign the Covenant and make the environmental pledge."

More information

Key role for cities

Local authorities have a key role in fighting climate change. Over half of greenhouse gas emissions are created in and by cities. Some 80% of the EU population now lives and works in cities, where up to 80% of energy is consumed – and the population of cities is expected to continue to grow.

Already, in 2004, as part of the European Cities & Towns Campaign, representatives of 110 local governments signed the Aalborg Commitments, devised to help cities and towns achieve sustainability. Almost 600 local governments have now signed up to the Commitments and the number is still increasing

EU Member States are also fully committed to encouraging sustainable development in cities. The 2007 Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities argues that integrated urban planning is a prerequisite for sustainable development. Its key themes concern strategies for upgrading the urban fabric and for enhancing local economies and labour markets, clean urban transport and the integration of migrants.

More information:

Aalborg Commitments: http://www.aalborgplus10.dk/

Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities:
http://www.eu2007.de/en/News/download_docs/Mai/0524-AN/075DokumentLeipzigCharta.pdf