Nature is paying back humanity for its negligent attitude: greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere have caused the average temperature on Earth to rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius over the past 100 years. Because of this, humanity is already suffering from forest fires, an increase in the number of tornadoes, snowy winters, droughts, flooding, etc. Global climate change requires immediate intervention at the highest level, and we need to act now.
Municipalities are also affected by climate change: large settlements are where most climate risks are concentrated due to traffic congestion, the operation of enterprises that emit hazardous substances into the air, and the use of fossil fuels.
Cities are the largest polluters and are a major contributor to climate change. According to UN Habitat, cities consume 78% of the world’s energy and produce more than 60% of greenhouse gas emissions. The UN report indicates that by 2050, 2.5 billion people will live in cities (almost 90% of them in cities in Asia and Africa).
Municipalities are decision-making centers that must assume climate responsibility in today’s environment. They play an important role in implementing real changes on the ground and directly affect the living conditions of the population: the European Union’s Covenant of Mayors initiative is one of the most effective examples. Its signatories – local authorities – make voluntary commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency and use renewable energy sources.
What is the Covenant of Mayors and why is it needed
The Covenant of Mayors is the world’s largest movement for climate protection and energy conservation at the local level. The European initiative brings together thousands of local authorities that have voluntarily committed themselves to achieving the EU’s climate and energy goals.
The signatories commit to take action to achieve the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30% by 2050 and to develop a common approach to addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation.
As of November 2021, 303 localities in Ukraine have joined the Covenant of Mayors. Joining the Covenant of Mayors is a strategic step that allows you to analyze the real situation at the local level, and think through municipality development scenarios and ways to solve existing problems. Strategic cities are more likely to receive investments.
For example, Myrnohrad has estimated that by reducing fossil fuel consumption and replacing it with renewable energy sources, the city will be able to reduce energy consumption by almost 100 thousand MWh and CO₂ emissions by 28 thousand tons per year.
The signatories intend to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, contributing to green economic growth and improving the quality of life. To do this, they have to develop Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans (SECAPs).
For example, Zhytomyr, Khmelnytskyi, Korosten, Pyriatyn, and other cities are already working hard on their energy and climate plans. This may allow them to attract large development grants from the European Union in the future, which is a significant investment for local budgets. Investors are primarily interested in those cities that have a clearly defined vector of energy development, take on large commitments and are ready to fulfill them. Ecoclub expert Dmytro Sakaliuk believes that the primary goal of cities joining the Covenant of Mayors should not be financial motives, but the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy consumption. Due to municipalities’ eagerness to obtain the desired funding, documents can be drafted poorly and inefficiently.
The Covenant of Mayors initiative has already managed to fully complete some of the planned projects in different cities of Ukraine. These include a comprehensive thermal modernization of a kindergarten and a city gymnasium in Konotop, the modernization of a municipal boiler house in Zhovkva, the reconstruction of street lighting in Sambir, and other interesting projects.
Many of them are being implemented in small towns. For example, as reported on the Ecodia website, in Morshyn, in 2016-2018, electric lamps were replaced with energy-saving lamps in the entrances of 11 houses. Also, in the coming years, Malina plans to develop a hot day warning system for local residents.
The Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan contains a short descriptive part about the city/municipality (location, features, energy consumption for a certain period, etc.) and is approved by the city council. The emission reduction indicator is directly linked to the amount of energy consumed, and a SECAP is subsequently developed.
If a city plans to reduce its emissions by 30%, the SECAP should clearly describe the main areas of work and measures to be implemented – how much it will cost, who should be responsible, etc.
The Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan has two parts, although previously all cities developed only the energy part. Now, a city or municipality must also develop climate change adaptation measures. The document has been adapted to modern challenges. Covenant of Mayors members must work with budgetary institutions, transportation, and the service sector.
The first step after joining the initiative is to set up a working group that collects data on fuel and energy consumption, assesses future climate risks, identifies vulnerabilities and risks, and proposes measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.
It is important for an individual municipality or city to participate in the global process of combating climate change, as each resident should feel responsible for reducing energy consumption directly in their municipality. In the long run, this will help to avoid the most pessimistic scenarios in the climate issue.
The main advantages of participation in the Covenant of Mayors
– Approval of a clear vector for the development of the energy sector in the municipality.
– Increasing the efficiency of fuel and energy resources and the share of renewable energy sources in the city or municipality.
– Opportunities to attract funding in the form of grants and investments.
– Implementation of energy-saving technologies.
– Improvement of public services and infrastructure.
– Improving the quality of life and the environment.
– Exchange of experience with other cities and international cooperation.
– Creation of new jobs.
How to become a signatory to the Covenant of Mayors
The Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy is open to all local governments, regardless of their size and stage of implementation of energy and climate policies. Small, medium, and large cities can join the Covenant of Mayors signatory group and submit a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan.
To join the Covenant of Mayors, local authorities need to present this initiative to the municipality. As soon as the decision of the session is approved by the municipal representatives, the mayor must sign the Covenant of Mayors Accession Form, which can be downloaded at http://com-east.eu/images/ua.docx.
*The photo shows an insulated kindergarten in Dolyna, which is a signatory to the Covenant of Mayors. Photo: Volodymyr Rikhlitsky
The article was created with the support of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety as part of the International Climate Initiative (ICI) project.