European regions championing cooperation on climate change and energy transition

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1 February 2018

LONDON: At the European Energy Transition Conference in Geneva today, the regions of Baden-Württemberg, Catalonia, Lombardy and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, reaffirmed their commitment to long-term decarbonization targets during their ‘Four Motors for Europe’ panel.

The four regions, amongst Europe’s most industrialized, have today called for their peers to embrace the opportunities of the clean economy while strengthening their commitments for climate protection, also via the Under2 Coalition, of which The Climate Group is Secretariat.

Launched 30 years ago, the long-lasting cooperation aims to reinforce competitiveness across the economy, sciences and technologies – as well as boost partnerships and international economic exchanges between the four regions. Together, the Four Motors for Europe group represents around 54 million citizens and accounts for 6.8% of European GDP.

The four European regions are also leading members of the Under2 Coalition, which brings together 205 governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions towards net-zero by 2050. “The constant work on climate action from these highly-industrialized regions shows that innovative policies protect both their industry and the environment,” says Tim Ash Vie, Director of the Under2 Coalition Secretariat, The Climate Group.

“The Under2 Coalition is helping more than 200 sub-national governments find pioneering solutions to the common issue of climate change, and these forward-thinking regions are showing that this pathway is not only possible, but necessary.”

Towards 2050 net-zero emissions

In October 2017, Baden-Württemberg – the region that kick-started the Under2 Coalition with California in 2015 – took over the presidency of the Four Motors for Europe from Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, and released a new work program for 2018-2019 which places climate protection as a focal point, through strengthening cooperation with the Under2 Coalition. Through valuable best practice exchanges on energy transition strategies, electromobility and climate adaptation the Four Motors help each other find solutions to common challenges.

The new program is significant in light of the recent European Parliament’s broad consensus to push for higher 2030 targets on climate. Last January, the Parliament agreed on a 35% improvement in energy efficiency, a minimum 35% share of energy from renewable sources in gross final consumption of energy, and a 12% share of energy from renewable sources in transport, by 2030.

MEPs are now ready to negotiate with EU ministers on a joint position. However, with only one full calendar year to go until the end of the Juncker Commission’s mandate, such increased ambition must be supported by all key players involved.

With the elections for the new European Parliament fast approaching, EU institutions know they are expected to demonstrate how Europe can deliver for its citizens where it matters most. A joint declaration on the EU’s legislative priorities for 2018-19 was in fact signed by the three institutions, who committed to “give priority treatment in the legislative process […]” to the Energy Union and the delivery of forward-looking climate policy “to ensure substantial progress and, where possible, delivery before the European elections of 2019”.

The European Commission is also raising its game on long-term decarbonization targets, with a much-needed update of its Low-Carbon Economy Roadmap for 2050 to ensure policy coherence and investment certainty towards 2050 and compliance with the 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius limits set out in Paris.

Evolving regional climate policymaking

The leadership role of ambitious European regions – setting bold science-based emission reduction targets – is crucial to step up the bloc’s wider climate legislation.

Last year, 46 European regions publicly disclosed their climate targets and actions to CDP. As part of the Under2 Coalition’s transparency work, The Climate Groups partners with CDP to incentivize regions to disclose annually, illustrating how regions are embracing climate transparency to better understand and act on the risks and opportunities of climate change.

Tim Ash Vie, Director of the Under2 Coalition Secretariat, The Climate Group, added: “By complementing ambitious top-down EU policies with practical, on the ground delivery, European regions have demonstrated that they are able to champion decarbonization and successful climate action, ensuring consistency of EU, national and regional measures.”

The European regions that participated in last year’s Disclosure Update represent US$4.8 trillion in GDP, 135 million people and total emissions of 1.4 GtCO2e – and 16 of them have a legislated 2050 decarbonization target, mostly in line with the EU 2050 Energy Roadmap.

The numbers show real progress towards near-term emissions reduction targets – as demonstrated by Four Motors’ members Lombardy and Catalonia – but many regions still have some way to go.

Progress to 2020 made by governments was assessed by comparing current emissions with base year emissions to then produce estimates on how close regions are to achieve their 2020 emissions reduction target. Data from the Disclosure Update 2017

Last week, The Climate Group released the Under2 Coalition highlights report for 2017, which shows how international climate cooperation is helping to shape a cleaner world – and the four members Catalonia, Lombardy, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Baden-Württemberg are clearly demonstrating their climate leadership within Europe.

The Four Motors for Europe regions are transforming their economies with solid clean energy transition measures and providing a driving force for other European regional governments to join the Under2 Coalition – and accelerate climate action around the world.

by Virginia Bagnoli, European Government Relations Manager, The Climate Group

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