The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has stressed that without the formal involvement of local and regional governments, a gap will remain between the climate pledges and achievements needed to keep temperature rise well below 2°C.

CoR held a high-level debate on climate action where EU local and regional leaders adopted an opinion on Climate Governance after 2020, defining its position on how to put the Paris agreement into practice – the so-called Paris rulebook. The CoR said in a press release on July 5 that the Committee of the Regions backs the proposal of rapporteur Andrew Cooper, member of the UK’s Kirklees council and rapporteur on Climate Governance after 2020, to bridge the emissions gap through Locally Determined Contributions (LDCs).

The meeting took place five months ahead of the UN’s COP24 climate talks in Katowice, Poland.

Opening the debate held in Brussels and referring to the recently adopted 2030 EU energy and climate targets, the CoR President Karl-Heinz Lambertz said, “The EU continues to show leadership on climate change but unless we set more ambitious targets, commit more local investment and have a fundamental change in climate governance, we will not deliver our promises made in Paris. At both the UN and EU level, we urgently need a new climate governance with permanent structures that incorporates the views, solutions and contributions made by cities and regions.”

EU Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete reminded that the Multi-level Climate and Energy Dialogues that Member States have to organise to design national energy and action plans is an opportunity for regional and local authorities to influence the development of the Energy Union. “The new EU targets mean that we can raise our level of ambition in reducing CO2 emissions from the current 40% to slightly over 45% by 2030. This puts the EU in a strong position for the next UN Climate Conference in Katowice. We need a strong and transparent governance framework for the Paris agreement, and dialogue and involvement of cities and regions is key,” Cañete said.

Turing to finance, the Commissioner stressed that €379 billion investments are needed annually between 2021-2030 and recalled that 25% of EU expenditure for that same period is focused on climate objectives.

The Spanish commissioner gave an overview of the main EU financial programmes available to support climate action such as the European Regional Development and Cohesion Fund; the Connecting Europe Facility; the InvestEU Programme; the Horizon Europe programme with €15bn for climate, energy and mobility; and the new Clean Energy Transition sub-programme proposed under LIFE with €1bn budget. To support the most vulnerable regions, the EU has put into place specific programmes such as The Coal Regions in Transition and the Clean Energy for EU Islands.

Tomasz Chruszczow, Climate Change Special Envoy and Poland’s High Level Climate Champion said: “Cities and regions are real game changers. The Paris climate agreement can only be successful if it is deployed by all: all countries, all cities and regions, businesses, communities and individuals. The slogan of COP24 Polish Presidency is “Changing together”. We do hope that our joint efforts can and will bring the change we need.”

In follow-up to the climate objectives agreed in Paris in 2015, Katowice is expected to deliver the guidelines and modalities on how to reach the target of keeping world temperature rise well below 2°C. A key aspect is the transparency framework that is to include the way countries monitor and report progress on emission reduction, crucial to build trust amongst the international community.

Meanwhile, Cooper noted that since the adoption of the Paris agreement, there has been visible signs of a rising status for local and regional governments in international climate talks. “It is now time to acknowledge multi-level governance and formalise the role of local and regional in global climate governance. Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are falling short in reaching the Paris agreement goals of limiting temperature increase to well below 2°C, let alone 1,5. We propose a system of Locally and Regionally Determined Contributions to complement national pledges. Not only cities and regions are the ones that can bridge the emissions gap, we are also those that can demonstrate further ambition is possible,” Cooper said.

Ashok-Alexander Sridharan, the Mayor of Bonn and President of ICLEI, remarked: “Cities and regions are at the forefront of climate action. The climate summit of local and regional leaders in Bonn last year gave an unequivocal sign to the international community: we support further and faster action to deliver the Paris agreement. The Paris rulebook must integrate a system in which cities and regions emissions’ reduction feed national tracking schemes. We must ensure Locally Determined Contributions are visible in the Paris rulebook.”

Mariusz Skiba, Deputy Mayor of Katowice said: “Katowice’s objective for the COP 24 is to demonstrate how a city can go through a deep restructuring process in a short time. Historically, Katowice has always been associated with coal mining and heavy engineering, like the whole Silesia region. Both revitalisation and reindustrialisation processes have turned Katowice into a friendly and really green city, now specialised in intensive developing technologies, business services, the banking sector, academics and tourism. We want to show everyone that change.”

The CoR noted that today, several global initiatives exist to track the climate progress achieved by local and regional governments. “The Covenant of Mayors and the Carbon Climate Registry are two good examples of it. Yet, the Paris agreement still does not foresee a formal way for the monitoring emissions and reporting cuts from cities and regions, neither within Nationally Determined Contributions or through a direct UN system,” the CoR said.