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Cities at the forefront of climate action

Achieving the Paris climate goals through the Effort Sharing Regulation

Executive summary

Cities and regions are critically important for meeting and overachieving Europe’s climate targets. More than a third of the EU’s 2020 climate target will be delivered by cities, equivalent to 240 million tonnes of CO2 emission reductions (JRC, 2016).

The numerous co-benefits of climate and energy measures have motivated thousands of local and regional authorities across Europe to take ambitious actions in the building and transport sectors. These local actions have led to more livable cities with less noise and air pollution, more comfortable, affordable and healthier homes and a better quality of life for millions of urban residents.

The EU is currently finalising the implementation of its 2030 climate and energy framework, including a legislative proposal for the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) for the 2021-2030 period. The Effort Sharing Regulation sets national climate targets for the transport, building, agriculture and waste sectors and is a centerpiece of Europe’s efforts to implement the Paris climate goals.

A strong Effort Sharing Regulation – without loopholes – can support and incentivise the uptake, replication and upscaling of local climate and energy actions. However, many countries are eroding this potential by introducing regulatory loopholes in the climate law which – if adopted – would put the delivery of Europe’s climate commitment at risk and stifle climate efforts undertaken by cities and regions.

The national push for these loopholes in the EU’s key climate law hence goes against the interest of the local actors in these countries (and their citizens). The national governments of Spain and Italy are at the bottom of the EU Climate Leader Board that evaluated their stance on the ESR, for example. However, their view is not held by the thousands of municipalities in these two countries, representing over 24% of the Italian population and 16% of the Spanish population that are working to accelerate the low-carbon transition under the EU Covenant of Mayors.

The local good practice examples highlighted in this briefing point to the impressive mitigation potential in cities. Unlocking this potential will allow the EU and its Member States to enhance Europe’s climate ambition and improve the living conditions for the millions of their city inhabitants.

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