On the eve of COP 21, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) together with the Committee of the Regions (CoR) have urged negotiators in Paris not to fail, sending a clear message: Real action on climate and towards low-carbon transition is taking place outside of the political decision-making process, and it is now time for the contribution of civil-society actors as well as local and regional authorities to be framed in a multi-level governance system.
The two Committees organised a joint conference on 19 November in Brussels to ensure that their potential to help combat climate change is recognised in the COP21 international climate talks in Paris which will start end of November.
In his opening speech, EESC President Georges Dassis reminded national leaders who will attend the COP21 conference that Europeans and citizens around the world expect "a binding, ambitious and universal agreement and also a structured way of involving civil society, which is indispensable for its success." He called on the negotiators not to lose the contact with ordinary people: "State leaders must not forget that it is the citizens who will drive the change".
Karl-Heinz Lambertz, Vice-President of the CoR, said: "We, regions and cities, are often more ambitious than states on climate policy. We know the development opportunities and the weaknesses in our cities and regions. We are now ready to go further on climate action. But we need adequate support. We need a climate governance system that works and that brings into accord all levels of government and an agreement that explicitly refers to local governments."
The two EU bodies have closely aligned their positions on many of the major issues that will be decided by national leaders at the summit, which should culminate in a long-term global agreement on how to prevent runaway climate change.
Transition towards a low-carbon economy and society is already happening at grassroots' level with many communities leading the way, in particular thanks to partnerships between sub-national governments and civil society organisations. National governments sometimes fail to recognise and empower bottom-up initiatives, but the success of international climate action will depend on harnessing the ideas, knowledge and energy of businesspeople, consumers, trade unions, NGOs, communities and local and regional authorities.
Both the CoR and the EESC are intensifying their efforts to ensure that an agreement in Paris explicitly recognises the role of citizens and of local and regional authorities in tackling climate change, empowering them and giving them more possibilities to translate global climate policy-making into further concrete, meaningful, transformative actions.
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