The energy transition is going local: actions, ambition and vision

A States & Regions Energy Transition Platform event
Ilario D'Amato
Reading time: 5 minutes
21 March 2017

LONDON: At an event hosted by The Climate Group and global think tank E3G, EU government leaders emphasized the key role that sub-national governments are playing in driving the clean energy transition.

Taking place in Brussels, at the representation of the German state of Baden-Württemberg to the EU, the international discussion focused on how sub-national governments can accelerate this energy transition – a structural, long-term change in their energy systems to move towards a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous future.

Opened by Johannes JungDirectorRepresentation of the State of Baden-Württemberg to the EU, the event saw participation from high-level policy makers from European regions, including sub national climate action experts and EU representatives.

The discussion focused on how, together, they can shape a successful Energy Union that can decarbonize the European energy system, whilst strengthening cross-border collaboration among all levels of government.

“We are proud to be co-hosting this event as part of our Energy Transition Platform,” said Libby FergusonStates & Regions DirectorThe Climate Group. “This is an important programme that is helping state and regional governments to share best practices and learning on key issues related to energy transition, whilst encouraging collaborative working to address common challenges.”

Helmfried MeinelDirector GeneralMinistry of the EnvironmentClimate Protection and the Energy SectorGovernment of Baden-Württemberg, noted that while sub-national governments can shape some policies that drive forward this necessary energy transition, European institutions must support these efforts with a consistent, ambitious set of rules that can support their bold ambitious.

He also highlighted the crucial role of the Under2 Coalition, of which The Climate Group acts as secretariat, in advancing climate action – focusing on the sub-national level and helping governments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions towards a below 2 degrees Celsius world.

“We want to inspire others to follow us,” he concluded, “and we're grateful to The Climate Group for being the Secretariat of this important initiative.”

Manon DufourHead of Brussels OfficeE3G, looked more broadly at the European energy transition, which “won’t happen unless we make our energy system fit for local action,” she said.

She continued by saying that Europeans “trust their sub-national public authorities 50% more than their national governments, on average.

“Meeting the EU 2030 climate targets requires the involvement of the local actors for two-thirds of the energy investments. They are the best trusted ambassadors for the energy transition.”

She also underlined how “local investment in the energy sector is affected by regulatory constraints in 80% of European member states,” highlighting how the interaction between European local authorities and national governments has not changed in the past 15 years.

“We need to give a formal voice to local authorities; develop local-friendly legislation; value states’ and regions’ climate ambition,” she concluded. “Moving to a low carbon world, we'll need trusted and reliable leaders more than ever, able to make difficult long-term decisions. In this sense, states and regions must continue to show how their climate action and ambition is working, and continue to engage with businesses.”

Paula Abreu MarquesHead of UnitRenewables and CCS policiesEuropean Commission, said the ‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’ package “proposed to look at the energy transition of carbon-intensive states and regions,” she said, and “one aim of the Commission’s Winter Package is to unlock local potential.”

She also defined the Energy Union as “a comprehensive strategy that proposes a new system of governance.” In this strategy, “renewables and energy efficiency measures are very much local,” and enabling policies is key.

However, “regulations and policies are important, but we do need a push from technology innovation,” she warned. “Sub-national authorities should have a close watch at national energy and climate plans, driving ambitions.” In this sense, the Energy Transition Platform enables “horizontal collaboration” that “is very important to have a strong voice: best practices exchange is crucial.”

Piotr BrożekChief SpecialistDepartment of Environment ProtectionGovernment of Silesia, underlined how “centralized powers in Poland limit local actions to address climate change and air pollution. This is why the Energy Transition Platform is very important for us, we can learn from other regions’ experiences and policies.”

Aitor OregiDirectorEnergy, Mines and Industrial AdministrationGovernment of the Basque Country, observed how a cleaner, sustainable energy transition “is not just a government issue: it is a society issue.”

Finally, Tina VölkerPolicy OfficerMinistry for Climate ProtectionGovernment of North Rhine-Westphalia highlighted how bottom-up climate action support for her government is needed “both financially and with networking. We don’t have time to make the same errors in every state and region: this is why The Climate Group’s work is so essential.”

The Energy Transition Platform is funded by Stiftung Mercator – an independent private foundation based in the German city of Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia.

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