In January 2008, the European
Commission launched the Covenant of Mayors. The initiative came
that were willing
to go beyond the objectives of the EU in reducing their CO2 emissions
by 2020 through energy efficiency and renewable energy actions.
The Covenant has by this far been signed by 82 cities, and 117
In November 20th-21st, 2008 was
arranged the first meeting of the Covenant of Mayors in Helsinki,
Finland. Despite “the
shortest conference arrangement timetable in my professional
as Deputy Mayor Pekka Sauri put it, 109 participants showed up.
The Helsinki initiative to get the boll rolling was appreciated
in many speeches. The theme to be discussed was how to finance
the investments needed for reaching the emission reduction targets.
Ms Stina Soewarta from the Cabinet of Commissioner
Andris Piebalgs told the public what the European Commission
can and cannot do
for supporting the city initiatives.
Ms Marjut Santoni from the
Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs described
their existing financial instruments. As it became obvious, that
most of them are designed for the new member states, Mr Mario
Aymerich from the European Investment Bank (EIB) catched the
obvious question of the old member states by saying: “If
you need money, just call us”. EIB is a member of the Covenant of Mayors, and wants to create
investment funds in the municipal sector. According to Mr Aymerich,
600-700 billion euros need to be invested by 2020 to achieve the
20/20/20 targets. EIB:s support to the Covenant is technical assistance
in identifying and, when needed, developing bankable projects.
Their investment strategy follows two lines: 1) energy efficiency
and RE and 2) urban transport actions. They can loan up to 75%
of the funding needed.
The night before, the city of Helsinki gave the participants a
chance to put their hands on a newly rewarded district heating
and cooling plant. Through heat pumps it utilises the energy stored
in purified sewage water. Exchanging information about such inspiring
examples seemed to be the greatest potential of the whole gathering.
This was brought up during the Round Table discussion
by Ms Inete Leliten from the Riga Energy Agency. One of her
wishes for the
European Commission was that the Commission could finance demonstration
projects: “In Latvia, the investigations suggest that there
might be potential in geothermal energy. People doubt it, though,
until they can see it with their own eyes”, she said. Another
thing that EC could do according to her was to start requiring
that impacts of different decisions were estimated even considering
energy efficiency, in the same way as their impacts on gender equality
or IT already are. She also suggested that more planning was prepared
The experience of Mr Javier Rubio de Urquía
from the city of Madrid was that 70% of the problem is about
citizens to change their habits. It requires money to be done,
than that, it requires new institutional governance tools: the
negotiations have to take place not only with the big companies,
but also with the small shops, as energy efficiency truly is
a cross-cutting issue.
Ms Gabrielle van Zoeren from
Rotterdam Climate Initiative accompanied
Madrid on the point that the work done is not only fighting climate
change, it also improves the quality of life of the citizens by
improving air quality. One of the tools in Rotterdam is a founding
of a knowledge development campus, where technology institutes
and companies will be able to develop best-practises-to-be in the
fields of energy efficiency and RE.
Ms Kristina Alvendal from Stockholm referred to all the things
that can be done without extra costs. She also warmly supported
the Benchmark of Excellence -mechanism of the EC, as an exchange
forum of the best practises. She understood the role of the cities
as finding the different measures to make it possible for citizens
to make climate clever choices. As an example, she appreciated
all the 100 000 inhabitants in her own city that take the bike
to work every day, and the 70-80% of the population that commutes.
What it has required is an attractive collective traffic and bicycle
Ms Kristina Dely from Energie-Cités gave
an example of private-public partnerships from Germany, where
the city is renting
roofs of municipal buildings to companies that can generate electricity
through PV. She also told about zero-rate loans up to 6500 EUR
to citizens who invest in energy efficiency. Those loans are paid
directly to the companies.
Rotterdam had another example of a new lending practise: buyers
of a new house get better loan conditions if they commit themselves
to renovate the house to be more energy efficient.
The representative for the private sector at
the Round Table, Mr Maxime Bureau from GE, took up the risk issue. “For
private companies, it all comes down to risk assessment”, he said.
The companies want stories that are already proven and thus less
risky. No new legislation is needed, it can be done today, but
the quality has to be put first, he stated. He also encouraged
even to think small - the companies can make simple projects as
well. As an example of a thought line for small cities he named
The risk discussion developed to a common statement that the underlying
conflict is between the long term investments that the cities have
to make in order to bear the responsibility for their citizens,
and the short term interests of the commercial actors. This eroded
enthusiastic visions of investments that don't increase overall
costs and good examples with payoff times like 3 years, but there
were also different opinions about the city responsibility, as
most of the emissions don't come from the public but from the private
The way forward for the Covenant of Mayors
was described by Mr Pedro Ballesteros Torres from the Directorate-General
and Transport. He reminded of the Covenant as a commitment of the
cities, that has to be demonstrated in front of the citizens. “We
follow the lead of the cities”, he said, referring to EC.
He also concluded that what we need more than money is brains: “People
with fresh minds have to be freed to develop their ideas”.