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More than 1000 towns and cities commit to use sustainable and renewable energy

The number of municipalities which has signed onto the ‘Covenant of Mayors’ for sustainable and renewable energy has surpassed 1000 since its creation in February.

The Covenant of Mayors is a commitment by towns and cities to go beyond the objectives of EU energy policy in terms of reducing CO2 emissions, through production and use of cleaner energy such as renewable energies, as well as enhanced energy efficiency. The concept has received signatures from 21 capital cities, as well as major cities such as London, Paris, Barcelona and Munich.

The smallest municipality to sign is Suflí in Spain, with a population of 288.

Local governments which sign onto the Covenant of Mayors commit to submit their Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAP) within one year following adhesion. The SEAP shows how the municipality will reach its CO2 reduction target by 2020, with actions involving both the public and the private sectors.

In principle, it is anticipated that most SEAPs will include actions in decentralised renewable energy sources; built environment (including new buildings and major refurbishment); municipal infrastructure (district heating, public lighting, smart grids); land use and urban planning; public and private transport policies and urban mobility; citizen and civil society participation; as well as intelligent energy behaviour by citizens, consumers and businesses.

Reductions of GHG emissions due to industry delocalisation are explicitly excluded.

Renewable energy projects, energy efficiency measures and other energy-related actions can be introduced in various activity areas of local and regional governments, the group explains. The Covenant of Mayors concerns the action at local level within the competence of the local governments, and the SEAPs should be debated by the civil society.

Signatories are not limited to the European Union, and the latest count of 1018 cities includes Argentina, Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, New Zealand, Switzerland, Turkey and the Ukraine.

At the COP15 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the European Union announced the tally, noting that the German city of Rostock was the 1000th signatory. “We understand the opportunities and risks on the spot and know our competences; the sustainable use of natural resources is definitely one of those capabilities,” says Karina Jens of the Rostock City Council.

“This includes the management of forests and green spaces in the city as well as the efforts deployed in all the fields of environment protection and the greater use of renewable energies.”

Rostock has a population of 200,000 and its key actions under the Covenant include targeting a fossil-free energy supply with energy supplied from the region, as well as extending use of combined heat and power for district heating through a system that already covers 70% of households.

The first 372 cities signed the Covenant in February 2009. “The number of communities now involved is a clear indication of the strong belief in tackling climate in a coherent way at local level,” says EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

The European Commission funds the European Investment Bank for the Covenant of Mayors through its Intelligent Energy Europe programme. The facility is accelerating the introduction of sustainable and renewable energy by encouraging project promoters to identify and prepare bankable projects; improving access to equity and credit markets; and reducing transaction costs.

The objective of the Intelligent Energy Europe II programme is to contribute to secure, sustainable and competitively priced energy for Europe by providing for action to promote new and renewable energy sources; foster energy efficiency and rational use of energy resources; support energy diversification; and promote energy efficiency and use of new and renewable energy sources in transport. Its 2009 budget is €10.5 million.

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