The engagement of small communities and neighbourhoods is crucial when it comes to delivering effective climate and environmental policies and ensuring their successful implementation. Small communities often have a strong interest in environmental issues that can have a considerable impact on the local area and on the quality of life of their residents, such as air quality or noise.

Sub-municipal communities, however, face specific challenges in their efforts to tackle environmental issues. In the European Union, these communities range from urban areas to rural districts and from mountain hamlets to islands that are not municipalities in their own right. They may not have the required representatives, budgets and other resources that would allow them to participate in policy making and implementation and to make good use of the opportunities offered by the European Union.

Rapporteur Gaetano Armao‘s (EPP/IT) draft opinion on sustainable neighbourhoods and small communities – Environment policy below municipal level aims to make sure that the needs of all typologies of communities are taken into account in EU environmental policies. It calls for a systematic review on how EU environmental legislation takes the sub-municipal level and specific territorial situations into account in areas such as raw materials, water supply, waste and the circular economy.

The draft opinion welcomes the integrative nature of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in particular, Goal 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities that calls for “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” human settlements. The rapporteur believes that the concept of sustainable communities should target poor or vulnerable areas by combining social and environmental objectives.

Specific territorial situations facing particular environmental challenges, such as small islands and sparsely populated or underpopulated areas require specific attention. The draft opinion calls for a coherent policy framework and adapted targets for communities below the municipal level and specifically islands in the mitigation of climate change, facilitating their transition to renewable clean energy.

Armao’s draft opinion puts forward several proposals to increase the local ownership of environmental policy choices and to strengthen the capacities of sub-municipal communities. It calls for a better use of tailor-made solutions, including a greater degree of regulatory flexibility and technical and financial assistance to support small communities with their climate actions. It also promotes the exchange of best practices and proposes the establishment of a Sustainable Neighbourhood Award or the integration of the sub-municipal level in existing environmental awards.

The draft opinion was presented by Sirpa Hertell (EPP/FI) and adopted at today’s meeting of the Committee of the Regions’ ENVE Commission.

Armao’s opinion is scheduled to be adopted in February 2020 at the Plenary session of the CoR.

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