To influence the thinking of other European institutions and to ensure that concrete ideas are taken up from the local level, a ‘Green Deal Going Local’ Working Group was launched within the European Committee of the Regions with Renew Europe Group (Renew Europe CoR) members Vincent Chauvet (FR/Modem) and Mirja Vehkaperä (FI/Keskusta) as full members and Manuel Alejandro Cardenete (ES/Ciudadanos) and Jeannette Baljeu (NL/VVD) as alternate members.
The Working Group will ensure that cities and regions can bring the European Green Deal off the ground with concrete projects and direct funding to local and regional authorities. Both the European Green Deal and the EU’s recovery strategy should translate into tangible projects and direct funding for local and regional authorities.
During its inauguration, Vincent Chauvet introduced the idea of direct funding of local and regional authorities, asking for support during an exchange with Aurore Lalucq MEP (FR/S&D), chair of the Green New Deal intergroup.
“The reduced economic activity, in combination with tax reliefs and deferment measures offered by LRAs to support citizens and local businesses, caused local revenues to drop dramatically. To counteract a potential drop in investment, to correct the fiscal imbalance and to ensure that cities have adequate resources to undergo the Green, as well as the digital transition, we have to look for solutions”, said Chauvet, and continued:
“A way forward would be for LRAs to be able to benefit from the financial flexibility and debt capacity and on the European Central Bank to consider buying Local Authority Bonds as part of a European Recovery Plan, similarly to the Federal Reserve buying Muni Bonds in the United States. A purchase scheme by the ECB could significantly reduce the cost of borrowing, encourage local and regional investment needed to re-launch the economy and finance the investment directly where it takes place, as well as create a form of city to city solidarity within the European Union.”
Another proposal from Chauvet is based on a best practice from his constituency that could be shared more widely:
“Another suggestion is the buying of natural assets through the green deal, e.g. forests, having an important role for biodiversity. One of the possibilities would be for the EU to buy forests through LRAs in order to manage them sustainably and making sure they are in mid and long term profitable. We have done this in my constituency, and it is certainly a best practice to share.”
The Working Group had an exchange with Diedrik Samsom, Head of Cabinet of European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, who said that the Green Deal will only become a reality if local and regional authorities are able to carry it out on the ground. Renew Europe CoR member of the Green Deal Working Group, Mirja Vehkaperä, said:
“Europe needs green growth, development, and recovery. Covid-19 showed that our society has changed permanently. Now is the time to take the Green Deal seriously and take advantage of people’s life changes. I emphasize our need for investments in sustainable, energy-efficient and use of new materials in construction. In Finland, the construction of wood in public buildings is being increased and new technology applied. A green society also includes a circular economy. All material must be able to be recycled and we need new raw materials to replace plastic products. We must also support the competitiveness of companies as well as European employment. Traditional industries and new technological innovations need a roadmap for this green growth. Traffic, for example, needs to move faster towards an emission-free era.”
The ‘Green Deal Going Local’ Working Group is composed of 13 local and regional elected representatives. Its objective is to guarantee that EU cities and regions are directly involved in the definition, implementation and assessment of the numerous initiatives under the European Green Deal, the EU’s sustainable growth strategy to reach climate-neutrality by 2050. It has three specific objectives:
- To bring together the numerous policy initiatives within the European Green Deal, under the viewpoint of cities and regions;
- To facilitate EU institutions working together in order to place cities and regions at the heart of policies promoting carbon-neutrality;
- To convey the challenges that local and regional authorities face while implementing the green transition locally and to highlight their achievements and best practices, so as to facilitate their replication across the European Union.
The working group will meet on a regular basis and feed the plenary sessions of the European Committee of the Regions. Current priorities of the working group include the European Climate Law and Climate Pact, the Just Transition Fund, a new industrial strategy for Europe, clean air and water, hydrogen, the new Circular Economy Action Plan, biodiversity and forests.