The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Union’s Committee of the Regions (CoR) recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding, signalling a new phase of cooperation between the two institutions. The agreement sets out a framework for strong cooperation with the shared goal of achieving a sustainable future. Both institutions agreed to prioritise five areas namely: multilevel environmental governance; green economy and resource efficiency; climate change mitigation and adaptation; biodiversity and ecosystems management; and decentralised cooperation for development. It reinforces both institutions belief that there is a need to strengthen the role of local and regional authorities within the policy-decision making process if this objective is to be achieved.
The agreement was signed during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio (Rio+20) at an event held jointly by the CoR and the European Commission in cooperation with UNEP. The MoU emphasises the importance of placing sustainable cities at the heart of the global strategy on sustainable development. With cities responsible for consuming some 75% of the Earth’s natural resources, the purchasing and policy decisions at a local level can assist the drive towards a green economy and make a key contribution to achieving the objectives of Rio+20.
In the presence of the EU Commissioner for Environment, Janez Potočnik, President Bresso reinforced this perspective stating that, “As representatives of the European Union’s cities and regions, we seek ambitious targets and an effective roadmap to a ‘green economy’ that must be agreed worldwide. It is time to call for a stronger institutional set-up in the global governance of the natural resources of our planet. And it is time to invest in cities and regions as government actors capable of driving growth, social inclusion and environmental protection.” She emphasised that this would also contribute to the strategy in dealing with the economic crisis.
Bresso also took the opportunity to call upon cities and regions throughout the world to join together and develop a global network to share best practise in urban sustainable development. Referring to two initiatives launched by the European Union – European Green Capitals and the Covenant of Mayors – she said, “Today we offer to make this partnership even broader and stronger. We call to work together to set a global playing field between the European schemes and the similar ones available in other parts of the world. This would allow to benchmark and guide urban best practices across continents, while respecting differences.”
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