The EU's Assembly of Regional and Local Representatives
Brussels, 22 February 2012
Rio+20: European local action comes into play at the World Forum of Environment Ministers
Mercedes Bresso, president of the Committee of the Regions, presented green-economy initiatives devised by European cities and regions, speaking alongside the Brazilian minister for the environment, Izabela Texeira, at the opening of the 12th session of the Global Ministerial Environment Forum held in Nairobi (Kenya) from 20 to 22 February. Ms Bresso called for action and stressed that it was a matter of urgency for local and regional authorities to be more involved in environmental and sustainable development policy-making and programme implementation at global level.
The Global Ministerial Environment Forum of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that took place in Nairobi, brought together environment ministers from over 100 countries. This event is the last major meeting before the United Nations conference on sustainable development that will be held in Rio in June.
This is the first time that the CoR had been asked to participate in UNEP's ministerial consultations. CoR president Mercedes Bresso joined the EU delegation, headed by EU environment commissioner Janez Potočnik and including the EU commissioner for climate action, Connie Hedegaard. Denmark, which currently holds the presidency of the EU Council, was also represented by its minister for the environment, Ida Auken.
In her statement at the panel session opening the Forum, the CoR president drew attention to the sustainable development projects – local Agenda 21 initiatives – adopted by many cities and regions further to the 1992 Rio conference. Referring to the cities' programme for sustainable and inclusive growth, launched in 2010 at the suggestion of EU Commissioner Potočnik, Mercedes Bresso said: "Our European Green Capitals are now working with mayors and leaders around the world. We can sense a quite extraordinary positive energy in our regions and across every continent. At the approaching Rio Summit in June, we will need to capitalise on this grassroots experience by strengthening, broadening and adapting it. We support the European Union's position on the need for binding global commitments on environmental issues and to improve their implementation on the ground." She expressed concern that, unless progress was made on this front, the 600 or so multilateral agreements on the environment otherwise might remain mere declarations of intent.
On the subject of energy more specifically, Ms Bresso welcomed the launch of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Sustainable Energy for All initiative in Africa. At her meeting in Nairobi with Sha Zukang, Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, she called for a global platform for sharing good practice to be set up that would involve not just national levels of government, but also local authorities: "Through this platform, Europe would be able to share its experience on the Covenant of Mayors, which has brought together 3 500 cities and 100 regions that committed voluntarily to going beyond EU objectives and reducing their CO2 emissions by more than 20% by 2020."
The Council of EU Ministers for the Environment will formalise the EU's negotiating position for the Rio summit at its next meeting, on 9 March.
Speech (pdf) by Mercedes Bresso (in French only)
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The Committee of the Regions
The Committee of the Regions is the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. The mission of its 344 members from all 27 EU Member States is to involve regional and local authorities and the communities they represent in the EU's decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies. The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council are obliged to consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. It can appeal to the EU Court of Justice if its rights are infringed or it believes that an EU law violates the subsidiarity principle or fails to respect regional or local powers.
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