The European Parliament stressed the need to better support the territories most affected by the transition towards climate neutrality, notably outermost regions and small islands, which have specific needs. Such territories “play a key role” as “innovation laboratories for the development of clean energy, smart mobility, waste management and circular economy.” They should be able to access sufficient economic resources in order to unleash this potential, MEPs emphasised.
A report adopted today by 572 votes in favour, 79 against and 37 abstentions highlights that cohesion policy is the biggest and most important EU investment tool, with an approved budget of over 330 billion euros for 2021-2027. Therefore, it can play a “crucial role” in helping the EU to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and fulfilling the Paris agreement.
MEPs called for local and regional authorities to translate EU climate targets into concrete local actions using a holistic approach and taking into consideration their region’s specificities, whilst relying on robust research and innovation policies.
Monitoring local and regional progress
Parliament recalls that at least 30% of both cohesion and regional development funds have to be spent on green projects in the current programming period and demands that all investments apply the ‘do no significant harm’ principle.
Regional plans should focus on risk prevention, energy transition to renewable sources, biodiversity and climate adaptation, and support civic engagement and locally owned projects. Cooperation between regions and cross-border projects and mechanisms, such as the Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, should also be fostered, according to the report.
Moreover, MEPs demand an “effective methodology” for monitoring the progress of national governments and local and regional authorities in addressing climate change using a common standard for all.
Parliament also urges member states to include the Smart Villages approach in their cohesion programmes and asks Commission to provide the necessary tools for implementing the proposal set out in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. The strategy calls cities with at least 20 000 inhabitants to create urban forests and farms, parks, gardens, green roofs, and tree-lined streets. Such measures have a positive impact on urban microclimate and health, in particular for vulnerable groups, MEPs highlight.
Finally, the report asks for more synergies between the different EU cohesion funds, instruments and programmes, and that the link between public and private financing to be reinforced to increase the effectiveness of regional environment strategies.
Rapporteur Tonino PICULA (S&D, CS) stated: “Climate change is not only a matter of environment. It is also a matter of economic and social change, and European regions can make a great contribution in fighting it. This is what the Cohesion and ERDF funds help us achieve: investing in jobs, better life quality and greener cities, while winning the fight against climate change. The transition towards climate neutrality can only be reached in a socially fair and just pathway forwards, leaving no one behind.”
Global warming may reach 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels already between 2021 and 2027. The transition to a climate-neutral, sustainable and circular economy is not only essential to prevent massive biodiversity losses, but also to ensure the long-term competitiveness of the EU economy. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), climate-related extremes caused around 11.1 billion euros in losses per year in its member states between 1980 and 2019.