As the third COVID-19 wave spares almost no territory, local and regional leaders' main focus for 2021 is on delivering a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery that leaves no citizen behind
The ENVE Commission of the European Committee of the Regions has presented its 2021 work programme today. Local and regional leaders' top priority is to ensure that the COVID-19 recovery translates into concrete projects that accelerate the transition towards climate-neutrality while creating jobs and social inclusiveness in every territory. Climate ambition, refurbishing the EU's building stock, biodiversity and the 8th Environment Action Programme were amongst the topics discussed in a meeting that welcomed Florika Fink-Hooijer, the new Director-General of the European Commission's DG Environment. Members exchanged their experiences and lessons learned during COVID-19. The CoR holds a plenary session on 3-5 February 2021.
Opening the meeting, the Mayor of Seville, Juan Espadas (ES/PES) said: "Cities and regions play a key role in facing the COVID-19 pandemic and they must now be at the centre of building back better our territories. Environmental and climate action are our greatest ally for the recovery, but for this to succeed, it is essential to strengthen multi-level cooperation, supported by appropriate funding. Only by involving local and regional authorities in the formulation of sustainable recovery strategies and only by taking into account the geographical and social characteristics of each territory, we will succeed in building resilient and future-proof cities achieving the European Green Deal goals of climate neutrality and environmental protection." Juan Espadas is the Chair of the ENVE commission and of the Green Deal Going Local working group.
"We are very well aware of the importance of working with local and regional authorities to successfully deliver environmental policies on the ground. And we cannot achieve it without teaming up with the CoR", said Florika Fink-Hooijer, the new Director-General of DG Environment. "The Green Deal remains the compass of the EU's recovery plan" added Florika Fink-Hooijer before listing the Commission's environmental priorities for 2021. These include the zero pollution action plan (consultation is open until 10 February 2021), the EC's sustainable products initiative, the new forest strategy and stepping up climate and biodiversity ambition ahead of major global summits coming up in 2021. Florika Fink-Hooijer proposed that the CoR hosts a new stakeholder platform for an upcoming zero-pollution action plan.
During his intervention, the CoR rapporteur on the European Green Deal, Andries Gryffroy (BE/EA), recalled the CoR proposal to develop a regional scoreboard in order to assess the implementation of the EU's sustainable growth strategy at the local level.
Dimitrios Karnavos (EL/EPP) presented the main points of his draft opinion on the 8th Environment Action Programme (EAP).The Mayor of Kallithea stressed that the COVID-19 outbreak has increased the need for 'a better link between health and environment'. Mayor Karnavos sees the 8th EAP as a 'tool to promote a sustainable business environment and foster green investments'. Rapporteur Kanavos' opinion requests the EC to add the Technical Platform for the Environment in its 8th EAP proposal, which is currently subject to inter-institutional negotiations. Adoption is scheduled this week during the CoR's plenary session on 3-5 February 2021. MEP Grace O'SULLIVAN (IE/Greens), EP rapporteur for the General Union Environment Action Programme to 2030, intervened to reaffirm its commitment to cooperate with the CoR in order to move the environment agenda forward.
The members of the ENVE commission adopted a draft opinion on 'A Renovation Wave for Europe - greening our buildings, creating jobs, improving lives'. Rapporteur Enrico ROSSI (IT/PES), former president of the Tuscany Region (2010-2020) and now councillor of Signa Municipality (Florence), said: "The European resources available in the coming years are extraordinary. Boosting public investment in the construction sector can accompany the recovery. We insist on multi-level governance, including funding, in particular a technical assistance facility accessible to all regional and local authorities for the implementation of the Renovation Wave, and more flexible budgetary rules for cities and regions to support their capacity to invest in the renovation of buildings. The Renovation Wave represents an opportunity we cannot miss." A webinar on Financing the Renovation Wave took place last 27 January. Enrico Rossi's draft opinion is to be adopted on 17-19 March 2021.
Members had exchanges of views on the following opinions:
- Stepping up Europe’s 2030 climate ambition towards COP26. The rapporteur is Vincent CHAUVET (FR/RE), mayor of Autun. The draft opinion is to be adopted on 26 March 2021 with the final vote scheduled during the CoR's plenary session on 30 June – 2 July 2021.
- Safe and sustainable chemicals for a toxic-free environment in Europe's cities and regions. The rapporteur is the president of the Mazovia Region, Adam STRUZIK (PL/EPP). The adoption of the draft opinion is scheduled on 26 March 2021 with the final vote foreseen at the CoR's plenary session on 5-7 May 2021.
- Local and regional authorities protecting the marine environment by Emma Nohrèn (SE/The Greens), the vice mayor of Lysekil Municipality. The adoption of the draft opinion is scheduled on 26 March 2021 with the final vote foreseen at the CoR's plenary session on 5-7 May 2021.
ENVE welcomed the participation of Joke Schauvliege (BE/EPP), member of the Flemish Parliament and CoR rapporteur on the 'Experiences and Lessons Learned by Regions and Cities during the COVID-19 Crisis'. The draft opinion is scheduled for adoption during the CoR's plenary session in March 2021.
The next ENVE commission meeting will take place on 26 March 2021.
In the 2020 state of the environment report, the European Environment Agency (EEA) warns that Europe faces environmental challenges of unprecedented scale and urgency.
Read here the CoR web interview to Dimitrios Karnavos (EL/EPP) on the 8th Environment Action Programme (EAP).
The European Committee of the Regions
The European Committee of the Regions is the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives from all 27 Member States. Created in 1994 following the signing of the Maastricht Treaty, its mission is to involve regional and local authorities in the EU's decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies. The European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. To sit on the European Committee of the Regions, all of its 329 members and 329 alternates must either hold an electoral mandate or be politically accountable to an elected assembly in their home regions and cities. Click here for more details on your national delegation.
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