Policy brief: A call for local liberties

By Claire Roumet on 5 October 2018

by Claire Roumet, Executive director of Energy Cities

A battle of figures and concepts is being fought in Brussels and the UN negotiations. Now is the time to translate the Paris agreement into practical action. There are those in favour of net-zero emissions, of negative emissions, of the utopian 1.5°C target and those advocating for a more realistic 2°C target. I must confess that I find all these discussions boring, but admit that they are vital. Because they illustrate in a tangible way what has to be changed.

All scenarios result, irrespective of which assumptions are made, in the same conclusion: we should have started yesterday. In its excellent report “The climate challenge of cities”, WWF France suggests allocating carbon budgets to the 10 French metropolitan areas based on the recommendations of the Paris Agreement. The result gives an idea of the urgency: on average, at current emission levels, these carbon budgets will be used up in 5 years if we are to stay within the 1.5°C trajectory, or in 13 years in order to remain below 2°C. In other words, in 2023, finito, no more emissions possible. Net zero needs to be reached by 2023.

Meanwhile, the discussions here in Brussels are about whether the target should be net zero-emissions in Europe by 2050. Of course, academic methodologies and hypotheses partly explain the difference, but what a huge gap!

Between 2004 and 2020, the city of Porto will have reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 45% : it is one of the many examples from Covenant of Mayors signatories that show that ambitious local policies can meet their objectives. Greater Manchester is going to develop a practical action plan based on its carbon budget, while for the Swedish pilot city of Järfallä, respecting the Paris agreement means cutting its GHG emissions by 15% every year...

Each of these reports identifies the levers and measures to be taken in a near future, and all point to the same conclusion: it is the local authorities which should have the main role of coordinating and supporting local players and transforming their territory’s economic metabolism. This means consuming and producing locally, inventing new partnerships for managing resources and reducing needs.

Local authorities, however, are losing their autonomy and are unable to act, due to insufficient resources: renationalisation of fiscal revenues in France, stability pact in the southern European countries preventing investment by local authorities, massive investment in polluting facilities, opening up of the energy sector in the Balkans favouring national operators, etc... On 27th September, an unprecedented alliance of French regions, cities and rural areas called for true devolution in the Marseille call for local liberties.

There is no doubt that this call could be also European

Energy Cities does regular analysis of EU policies on Energy and Climate.
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