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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

“Accelerating local and regional climate action” – Speech by Vice-President responsible for the Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič

Paris, 12 December 2017

Madame la Maire, Chère Anne,

Mayors, representatives of financial institutions,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Two years ago, not one but two historic summits took place in Paris. One of them was a diplomatic turning point, resulting in the adoption of the Paris Agreement by national governments. The other was convened by Mayor Hidalgo: the very first 'Climate Summit for Local Leaders', gathering hundreds of mayors from all over the world to discuss how they can make progress on the ground.

Today's One Planet Summit, and in particular this roundtable, brings all actors together. Our task is to connect our long-term global goals with the determination, commitment, and action of local leaders.

Many cities are pioneers on a way towards a low-carbon and resilient future. In the Netherlands, for instance, the cities of Rotterdam, The Hague and 21 other municipalities developed a common vision on how the modernize their economies and turned this vision in concrete, bankable projects. By working together, they can move ahead swiftly and attract the investments they need. We see more and more pioneers on the path towards a low-carbon and resilient future.

But we should not be blind to the obstacles that local leaders who want to roll up their sleeves and take action still face. The most urgent is access to finance and to technical assistance.

It is not that funding or financing is not available. In Europe, we have the ambition to be the hotbed of urban innovation. This is why we support local climate action through EU funds, with at least 20% of the EU budget going into climate-related projects. But cities do not always find the way to those funds. And important opportunities are lost.

That's why as recently as last week, the European Union launched a new instrument called Urbis, developed by the Commission and the European Investment Bank. It is a new initiative to help cities plan and implement their investment strategies; a dedicated city advisory service where cities benefit from an easy-to-access entry point. Experts from the EIB and the European Commission will advise public authorities - free of charge - on how to benefit from EU funds and how to access private and philantropic capital. Equally important, it will also advise cities on innovative financing options. I truly believe this is an important step forward to bridge the urban financing gap.

I am therefore proud that - based on this blueprint - we can today announce Global Urbis. It is an ambitious global initiative that will provide cities on a global scale with financing and technical assistance to mobilize significant private investment. It is not the brainchild of one single entity, but a unique partnership between the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Global Covenant of Mayors, the single coalition of more than 7400 cities all over the world. When these organisations team up, things start moving. Investments start flowing. Change begins to happen.

As Vice-President of the European Commission, I am particularly glad that the European Commission, as part of this initiative, will soon launch a first call for projects for cities in Africa and the European Neighbourhood under the Sustainable Cities Window of our External Investment Plan. These projects will benefit from a 1.5 billion euro guarantee facility. Indeed, we walk the talk. We mean business.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Urban investment support for cities is only one of the ten initiatives of the European Business Plan that the European Commission brings to the One Planet Summit. We have others:

  • yesterday, I discussed the challenge of climate change with European youngsters and announced the European Youth for Climate Action initiative to help young people take action for the climate and the local communities they live in.
  • We not only invest in our young people, we also invest in young, innovative technologies, a challenge which, as Chair of the Mission Innovation Ministerial in May of next year, is particularly important to me. I invite cities and regions to play a leading role in Mission Innovation.
  • And I could mention several other initiatives Europe launches today.

But let me conclude with an appeal. The Paris summits of two years ago were summits of long-term vision. Let this summit result in concrete, time-bound action. Let's better coordinate investment between national and local authorities and turn the nationally determined contributions into investment plans that involve all levels of government. Let's better link up cities with businesses, and forge partnerships in areas such as transport, buildings, energy and waste. Let's make full use of the enormous potential of the Global Covenant of Mayors to make cities lead on climate action. And for all this, let's work towards a concrete milestone. In September next year we will meet in San Francisco for the Climate Action Summit, and in December in Katowice for COP24. We need tangible results to show by then: projects on the ground that make our economy cleaner and our lives better.

In short, let's invest in our planet.

I thank you.


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