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10/12/2016

Cities reluctant to publish climate risk reports

Climate & Environment

Cities reluctant to publish climate risk reports

London does make public reports on its vulnerability to climate change

[Conor/Flickr]

EXCLUSIVE/ Thousands of cities signing up to the new Covenant of Mayors tomorrow (15 October) will submit reports on their vulnerability to climate change to the European Commission every two years – but are under no obligation to make the information public.

Some cities are reluctant to publish such evaluations out of fear information about the climate risks they face could deter investment and hike up insurance premiums.

The lack of a publishing requirement in the new covenant speaks to that resistance, but EurActiv has learnt that the European Commission will encourage cities to publish the reports, which must be submitted and updated every two years. 

EurActiv understands that talks will continue with cities over publication until next spring. Working groups will be held to secure agreement on what sensitive information can ultimately be published.

The Covenant of Mayors is a voluntary agreement between cities and the European Commission. Launched in 2008, it was the first time the executive directly involved local leaders in implementing EU policy. A renewed and expanded commitment will be launched in the European Parliament tomorrow (15 October).

Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete told EurActiv that regional reports should be made public and rejected fears it could affect investment or raise insurance premiums.

“It’s a call to action to put into action the right policies. Member states have to make national adaptation plans taken into account all the risks in the areas,” he said after speaking at the Committee of the Regions plenary session today.

“We need national [climate] adaptation plans and this would be very positive to make the best national adaptation plans.” 

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Nick Mabey, chief executive of environmental think tank E3G, said, “Anecdotally there is a pattern of risk assessments not being released, and this is widespread in Europe and beyond.

“It means businesses and individuals can’t make decisions to protect themselves.”

Cities could face legal action demanding publication on the basis of the Aarhus Convention. It gives the public the right to information about environmental matters, with some exemptions such as commercial confidentiality.

Carmen Bell, policy advisor, personal insurance & general insurance at Insurance Europe said the lack of proper planning for climate change lead directly to increased risk, making it more difficult for insurers to offer cover in the future.

“There is certainly more that governments — at all levels — can do to better understand the risks, for example by commissioning vulnerability reports,” she said.

“By acting now, governments — at a national, regional and local level — can lessen the impact of climate change on them and their citizens in the future.”

New covenant

Six years on from the launch of the Covenant of Mayors, more than 6,000 cities have volunteered to go beyond EU climate and energy targets by implementing sustainable energy plans.

Tomorrow in the European Parliament, hundreds of city representatives will commit to reduce their local emissions by at least 40% by 2030 in a conscious echo of the EU’s 2030 climate targets.

>> Read: EU leaders agree ‘flexible’ climate and energy targets

The new agreement incorporates the 2014 Mayors Adapt initiative, which focused on adapting to climate change.

The renewed strategy now includes a promise to tackle both climate mitigation and adaption.

As part of that the cities will submit reports every two years, detailing their vulnerabilities to climate change and the measures they are taken to adapt to or fight it.

The expanded commitment is a signal of intent from Europe’s local leaders ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris on 30 November. The conference aims to secure a worldwide agreement to limit global warming to no more than two degrees compared to pre-industrial levels.

The new Covenant will also encourage greater cooperation between cities worldwide in the fight against climate change.

In an exclusive interview with EurActiv, Committee of the Regions President Markku Markkula said that the role of cities must be enshrined in the final COP21 agreement if it is not to be a failure.

>> Read: COR President: COP21 will be a failure if cities’ role not enshrined in final deal

Background

The Covenant of Mayors, a European Commission initiative, recognises that cities have a responsibility to contribute to the fight against climate change, as around 80% of CO2 is emitted in urban areas.

Signatories include over 5,000 EU cities and regions which voluntarily committed to cut CO2 emissions by over 20% by 2020.

Participating mayors and local authorities commit to producing sustainable energy action plans, which must detail how they plan to reach the promised emissions reductions both in the public and private sectors of the city concerned. The mayors will then have to report on implementation progress at least every two years.

Separately, the Energy Cities group bills itself as "the European association of local authorities in energy transition". According to a recent analysis by 'The Economist' magazine, a third of the world’s cities will be susceptible to the effects of climate change by 2025.

But cities also contain a disproportionate amount of buildings and street lights, account for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and could be pivotal in mitigating the worst effects of climate change.

Timeline

  • 30 November: UN Climate Change Conference begins in Paris

Further Reading

Covenant of Mayors