Europe’s regions demand financing for climate action

François Hollande at the World Summit Climate & Territories on 1 July. [Région Rhône-Alpes]

Three more European regions pledged to reduce their CO2 emissions by 80-95% by 2050 at the Summit Climate and Territories (WSCT) in Lyon on 1 July. EURACTIV France reports

“Governments are no longer acting alone. We are also making concrete commitments,” said Jean-Jack Queyranne, President of the Rhône-Alpes region of France, whose capital Lyon played host to the two-day climate summit.

While the international climate negotiations leading up to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference are making slow progress at state level, regional leaders have volunteered increasingly ambitious proposals to fight climate change.

>>Read: COP 21 national contributions behind schedule, France warns

French President François Hollande made an appearance at the Lyon summit, where he praised the participants’ engagement. “Your actions are accelerating the mobilisation of regions around the world,” he told the representatives from over 80 countries. “As a head of state, I expect the regions to contribute. You have already made good progress,” he added.

Climate protocol

On 1 July, three European regions took their mobilisation one step further by making ambitious and concrete commitments to slash their CO2 emissions. Rhône-Alpes, the host of the WSCT, joined the Spanish Basque Country and Scotland in signing the “Under 2” protocol, a firm commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 80-95% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

The objective of this agreement is to keep global warming to below +2°C. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), reaching this target will require global emissions to be cut in half by 2050, and by at least 80% in developed countries.

The German region of Baden-Württemberg, Spanish Catalonia and Wales have already signed up to the agreement, and the region of Lombardy plans to sign up soon.

>>Read: Interview with Frédéric Vallier: ‘Countries will fail to meet climate targets without the contribution from regions’ (in French)

Launched in California in May, the protocol has so far been signed by 17 regions, including Chipas in Mexico, the state of Cross River in Nigeria, and the states of Washington, Vermont and Oregon, in the United States.

The signatories of the “Under 2” protocol represent a population of 123 million people, with a combined GDP of $5 trillion.

Matthew Rodriquez, California’s environment secretary, said “Subnationals are not waiting for our national governments to act. The time for aggressive action is now.” This message is aimed above all at the Republican-led American Congress, which is strongly opposed to a binding agreement at the COP 21 in December.

“In the space of four years, we have gained major benefits from our climate commitments, for example with the creation of 65,000 jobs in the solar industry,” the environment secretary added. “We can fight climate change whilst being a strong economy”.

Financial worries

But even the most ambitious regions cannot escape one of the main topics of the climate debate: how their efforts should be financed.

“We have been implementing an integrated climate plan for nearly 20 years, in partnership with the Ile-de-France region and the French Development Agency (AFD),” said the mayor of the Senegalese capital Dakar, Khalifa Ababacar Sall. “The problem is that we need access to local finances so we can become less dependent on states,” he added.

>>Read: Climate finance levels drop, as Green Climate Fund coffers swell

This reliance on public funds and development assistance, particularly in the global South, could be reduced by a community financing system for climate action. François Hollande confirmed his support for such a system to regional leaders at the Lyon summit.

“Communities need access to $100 billion in climate finance,” the French president said. “This is a major issue.”

By 2020, public and private sources are expected to provide $100 billion of climate finance every year, part of which will be distributed through the Green Climate Fund. But most of this money is currently allocated at state level.

Negotiations on climate change began in 1992, and the UN organises an annual international climate change conference called the Conference of the Parties, or COP.

The 20th COP took place in Lima, Peru, from 1 to 12 December 2014, and Paris is hosting the all-important 21st conference in December 2015. The participating states must reach an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the object of which was to reduce CO2 emissions between 2008 and 2012.

Agreeing on a framework, whether legally binding or not, is the priority between now and December.

So far around 40 countries have submitted their national contributions.


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