To reach the objectives of the Paris Agreement and to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a broad transition to a sustainable, low-emission energy system is needed. The scale of this transition requires integrated solutions and close cooperation across all levels of government and civil society, states rapporteur Witold Stępień (EPP/PL), whose opinion on Implementing the Paris Agreement through innovative and sustainable energy transition at regional and local level was adopted today at the Plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR).

The success of an energy transition relies on the capability of cities and regions to manage this change at local and regional levels, closest to the citizens. Understanding local and regional characteristics, constraints and needs is crucial for this process. Stepien’s opinion calls on the Commission and the Member States to provide local and regional authorities with adequate resources and support to speed up the energy transition, with a particular focus on coal regions, carbon intensive regions and islands suffering depopulation that will be hard hit by job losses in the wake of this transition.

The clean energy transition has already created two million jobs across the EU. To address the lack of financial and human resources hampering the transition to low-carbon technologies, the rapporteur underlines the need for resources for capacity building and training to repurpose labour skills towards more sustainable industries.

Rapporteur Stepien welcomes the new European Green Deal, which President-elect Ursula van der Leyen will officially propose in the beginning of the new term of the European Commission:

“I welcome the upcoming proposal for a new Just Transition Fund as part of the European Green Deal, which answers our call for tailored financial support to the most affected regions. This funding will help Europe’s coal regions, which face the biggest challenges in greening their economies and ensuring a just energy transition for their citizens.”

The opinion fully supports the 40% goal for renewable energy and the imperative of energy efficiency and highlights the close link between circular economy and sustainable energy transition. It calls for effective measures to gradually end direct and indirect subsidies to fossil fuels in order to create a level playing field for renewable energies, encourage behavioural change and generate the necessary resources to support a just transition.

“We need to prepare our communities for the changes that the energy transition brings. This is a particular challenge for local governments, who can draw links between citizens, educational centres and businesses”, said Stepien at the EU Regions Week event on Implementing the Paris Agreement: EU cities and regions in energy transition on 9 October.

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