Local empowerment needed for increased investments in clean energy

PART OF Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy PROJECT

The two members of the European Covenant of Mayors Board – President of FEDARENE and Mayor of Sevilla – met on July 18th to discuss common challenges and opportunities in the clean energy transition efforts at local level.

Summer is no longer just the season of holidays, but also that time of the year when extreme weather conditions push us to reassess our climate change mitigation efforts. For Dr. Julije Domac, President of FEDARENE and Director of REGEA, it was the opportunity to meet in July his fellow member of the European Covenant of Mayors Board, Juan Espadas Cejas, Mayor of Sevilla and CEMR spokesperson on Climate and Energy.

As part of their key missions in the European Covenant of Mayors Board, they give local and regional leaders the opportunity to play a greater role in shaping and further guiding the initiative. Board members campaign for enabling frameworks for local climate and energy action from the national and European level, raising awareness about local needs amongst European and national decision makers. 

In this view, the two representatives had a chance to discuss the current trends and challenges for European cities committed to achieve their Climate and Energy goals. Though cities are well positioned to implement energy transition strategies and over 7 700 go beyond legally binding objectives by signing the Covenant of Mayors, they are not always fully empowered to do so especially when it comes to managing financing mechanisms. In the Multi-annual Financial Framework post2020 negotiations, National and EU representatives should make sure cities and regions have more important roles by fostering the development of robust governance frameworks to strengthening local governments.

More specifically under the current programming period, several European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI funds) related mechanisms serving territorial development could have been used for the implementation of Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans but were under-utilised. Integrated Territorial Investment (ITI) allows Member States to combine investments from several priority axes of one or more Operational Programmes for the purposes of multidimensional and cross-sectoral intervention. Community led local development (CLLD) aimed at mobilising and involving local communities and organisations to contribute to achieving the Europe 2020 Strategy goals of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, fostering territorial cohesion and reaching specific policy objectives. These instruments could be used to integrate investments thematically for climate adaptation and mitigation and steer them towards sustainable urban development. SEAP/SECAPs could be used as key documents for ITI in part of energy and climate related issues, but also more generally for ESI funds post-2020.

The two local leaders agreed the added value of the Cohesion Policy was indisputable. Cohesion policy supports overcoming barriers in the field of energy transition, in achieving a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, alleviating energy poverty and ensuring security of energy supply. Over the years, ESI Funds have contributed to mobilising investments in the low carbon economy, which would be very difficult for many regions to achieve without this assistance.