At the annual Herman Van Rompuy Lecture, held this year on 21 November at ‘Het BEL’, a new green building at the Tour & Taxis site in Brussels, keynote speaker Christiana Figueres, Vice-President of the Covenant of Mayors, will address the role local actors can play in implementing the Paris Agreement and how they can help achieve climate goals. As former head of the UNFCCC, Figueres played a pivotal role in the negotiations leading up to the Paris Agreement and has a unique insight into climate action at various levels.
The world’s biggest urban climate and energy initiative
Since the conclusion of the Paris Climate Agreement, the fight against climate change has been more significant than ever. Governments all over the world pledged to step up their contributions and the EU has been at the forefront of the fight, most prominently with its ambitious overhaul of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).
In addition, local branches of government have stepped up to the plate as well, united by a wish to decarbonise their territories and to grant their citizens access to secure, sustainable and affordable energy. The most prominent of these initiatives is the Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy. Heralded by Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete as the “world’s biggest urban climate and energy initiative”, the Covenant of Mayors brings together thousands of local and regional authorities voluntarily committed to implementing EU climate and energy objectives on their territory.
The fight against climate change will be won or lost in urban areas
The fight against climate change will be won or lost in urban areas. A vast majority of the European population lives and works in cities – worldwide, cities consume 75% of global primary energy and account for approximately 80% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Local administrations, as the closest government level to citizens, are ideally placed to address climate issues in a comprehensive manner.
Today, more and more cities are prepared to rise up to the challenge. So far, 6733 towns and cities in Europe have signed up to the Covenant of Mayors. Each detailing their own commitments to reduce carbon emissions in their area.
All these commitments are linked to the European Union’s climate and energy policy framework. These include the European Union’s climate and energy package for 2020 for signatories who joined between 2008 and 2015 and the European Union’s 2030 climate and energy framework and EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change for signatories joining after 2015. As of October 2015, signatories have also committed to developing Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans with the aims of cutting CO2 emissions by at least 40% by 2030 and increasing resilience to climate change within the first two years of adhesion.
More information on this year’s Herman Van Rompuy lecture can be found at www.hvr-lezing.eu