EU effort sharing could have even greater potential if multi-level, place-based and locally differentiated
3 min read

EU effort sharing could have even greater potential if multi-level, place-based and locally differentiated

Late at night on 8 November, the EU agreed to a stricter trajectory with more ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets for all EU Member States. This move comes in the context of the Fit for 55 package and the revision of its Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR). Importantly, increases in Member States’ legally-binding reduction targets vary by GDP such that countries with higher GDPs have more demanding targets. As Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal articulated: “Our agreement today provides clarity about the effort required in every Member State and ensures solidarity in the way Europe reaches its climate targets.

ICLEI Europe welcomes this revision as an important step in Europe’s decarbonisation, enabling both faster and more equitable action. The next step, in our view, is applying this “effort sharing” model vertically, and in a place-based and locally differentiated manner. In simpler terms, efforts should be shared between all levels of government (local, subnational, national), and this should be done in a way that respects different places’ opportunities, mandates and resources – all in order to reach climate neutrality as soon as possible. At the same time, vulnerable groups within cities and regions can’t be left unattended, and wealthier citizens should balance out joint efforts fairly.

The revised ESR was agreed upon during the first few moments of international climate negotiations at COP27. More than ever before at this year’s COP, ICLEI, as the focal point for the Local Government and Municipal Authority Constituency to the UNFCCC, has demonstrated that multilevel action delivers on climate. Given that multilevel coordination is demonstrably impactful, the effort sharing model should be applied to multilevel action, laying out how emission reductions can be reached with strategic, complementary, and varied targets by all government levels.

Part of applying this ESR model to other governing levels should include effort sharing amongst regions within EU countries. Even some of the wealthiest Member States with the highest emission reduction targets as laid out by the ESR revision have coal, peat, or oil shale regions that face unique and greater challenges in reaching climate targets. Their just transition plans, the unique support they need, and their places in the larger mosaic of subnational regions within a Member State should be considered when setting regional climate targets.

This effort sharing model can also be applied within cities and regions to differentiate emission reduction requirements between richer and poorer communities. In this case, “richer” and “poorer” refer not only to income, but also to access to resources and services. In order to ensure that a climate transition is just, vulnerable and underserved communities must not be left behind, or be required to bear undue burden.

This response reflects ICLEI Europe’s work on climate justice, coal regions in transition fighting energy poverty, and more. What’s more, the above-stated examples provide just a glimpse into the many ways that effort sharing can, and should, be applied at lower governing levels. Such a perspective can, for example, also support bridging urban-rural divides with respect to climate goals.

Ultimately, justice is about distribution: distribution of effort, of resources, and of power. To this end, ICLEI Europe welcomes the November 2022 ESR revision, and offers our support to extend its reach further.

For more information and resources on equitable climate action in cities, make use of the 17 keys to sustainable and just cities, which ICLEI Europe developed with its partners in the UrbanA project. Likewise, CINTRAN’s inventory of coping strategies and its capacity-building programme highlight the role that public authorities at multiple levels can have in shaping their own just transition. To further explore the interface between underserved communities and local authorities, follow our work in the Powerpoor and Sun4All projects, particularly the Powerpoor Energy Powery Guidebook.

To read the official European Parliament statement on the revised ESR, click here.

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