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European cities sign climate change covenant

Cross-posted from The Great Beyond

paris poll.jpgAround 400 cities across Europe have signed up to an agreement to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by more than the EU’s overall target of 20% by 2020 (from 1990 levels).

The ‘covenant of mayors’ initiative, ceremonially launched on 10 February in Brussels, is the brainchild of the European Commission. Participating cities – so far including London, Paris, and Madrid – will submit action plans within a year, including an inventory of baseline CO2 emissions. They’ll have to publicly report once every two years on progress, and will get kicked out of the covenant if external evaluators fail them.

“The new group must not be confused with the World Mayors Council on Climate Change, the United Cities and Local Governments initiative on climate change, the Cities of Ambition climate change group, the climate leadership group of the C40 cities, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, the Cities for Climate Protection group, or any other grouping of cities talking about climate change,” John Vidal notes in The Guardian.

The commission’s Pedro Ballesteros Torres told the New York Times that there was a “name-and-shame” aspect to the covenant (though it doesn’t appear to have any other force). “For a mayor to be told a city is noncompliant would be a very strong thing,” he said.

Five MEPs have criticized the commission for scrapping a €500 million package which might have helped out the covenant with cash support. They say the commission had pledged to help ‘smart energy cities’ in its November 2008 economic recovery plan, but dropped this idea in January’s more detailed announcements. The whole package is still under negotiation with the European Parliament. The European Investment Bank says it is working with the commission to set up a €15 million grant fund to support urban energy developments.

Meanwhile, the price of allowances to emit carbon dioxide under the EU emissions trading scheme (the main driver for encouraging European industry to cut its greenhouse gas emissions) has slumped to another low, €9.3 euros/tonne CO2 on 10 February. They’re less valuable because industrial activity and electricity use is slowing in the recession – and because industrial emitters are selling their carbon credits to raise much-needed cash.

Image: pollution in Paris by Joooule via Flickr under creative commons

Richard Van Noorden is Nature’s assistant news editor.


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