European cities sign climate change agreement, pledges to go beyond the 20% agreement

The Covenant of Mayors ceremony

Mayors from 400 cities around Europe have signed the Covenant of Mayors agreement and promised to go beyond EU's 20% by 2020 energy and climate goals.

The whole idea with the Covenant of Mayors pact is to "go beyond" EU’s 20% greenhouse gas emission cuts and 20% renewable energy by 2020. The German city Hamburg plans to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2020. Paris on the other hand says it hopes to reduce emissions by 25 percent over the same period.

EU’s Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the plan, which will affect 80 million Europeans, is equivalent to reforest each year a surface larger than the whole of Hungary, or taking out from the streets more than 35 million cars or closing down 20 coal-fired 50MW power plants. At a conservative estimation the plan will save around €8 billion ($10.4 billion) in energy costs every year.

"Most of the energy produced in Europe is consumed in urban areas. The battle against climate change will have to fought and won in the cities. This is why, the commitment shown by Mayors across Europe by signing the Covenant of Mayors send us a strong message of hope, particularly in the difficult times that we are facing ", said Commissioner Piebalgs.

Cities in non-EU member states have also backed the climate change agreement. These include cities in Switzerland, Norway, Ukraine, Turkey, Buenos Aires, Argentina and New Zealand. In USA the New York mayor Michael Bloomberg backed the EU plan and said his city would aim to reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

Committee of the Regions President Luc Van den Brande, speaking at the signing ceremony, said that the plan “is not for big cities alone” and that “smaller cities and towns, as well as regions as a whole” should make the environmental pledge:

"The Covenant of Mayors is an excellent initiative which will continue to grow in partnership with the Committee of the Regions.
Europe's ambitious targets
for cutting greenhouse gases will only be met when European local and regional authorities pull together and become involved as partners. The Covenant is not for big cities alone: smaller cities and towns, as well as regions as a whole, should also be encouraged to sign the Covenant and make the environmental pledge. The Committee of the Regions is also exploring the idea of creating a network for cities and regions signed up to the Covenant, helping them to share best practice ideas and experience."

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Simon Leufstedt
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