Clinton Global Initiative recognizes pioneering approach to sustainable mobility by EuropeanUnion

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									                                                       SPEECH/06/…




Danuta Hübner


Member of the European Commission responsible for Regional Policy




"Sustainable Regional Development in the
European Union”




European Forum "Climate Change: Energy and Mobility"

Geneva, 23 January 2006
Mr. Chairman,

Mr President,

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to be here with you.

I have accepted with pleasure to attend this Forum organised by
the European Foundation for the Sustainable Development of the
Regions [FEDRE], because I know that the FEDRE does such
essential work in promoting territorial cohesion throughout all the
regions of the Member States of the Council of Europe and I
would like to thank you for all your efforts.

Also, this event has given me the chance to return, even if only
for one day, to Geneva, where I spent a few years.

Probably my intervention today would not make the headlines in
a congress of environmental specialists, but this event
represents in my view an opportunity to take climate change as a
starting point for a wider and more forward-looking contribution.

So let me begin with a few words on climate change before going
on to look at broader economic, social and environmental
challenges. And finally I would like to stress the importance of
regional and local levels of government in addressing all these
challenges.

Why is climate change important to us?

Projected changes in climate, perhaps like any other changes,
may have both beneficial and adverse effects on our lives, water
resources, agriculture, natural ecosystems and human health.
But there seems to be no doubt that the larger the changes in
climate the more the adverse effects should dominate.

For instance, some crop and forest productivities could benefit
from a small climate change. But for many other natural systems,
the adverse effects should be dominant, especially if warming
exceeds a few degrees. Although it is not possible to link any
particular event definitively to global warming; it is indisputable
that we are more and more exposed to natural risks: floods,
droughts, cold spells, and so on.

Furthermore, as we all know, the vulnerability of human
populations and natural systems to climate change differs
substantially across regions and across populations within
regions.

The European Union is serious about it and, as agreed in
Montreal last December, it will take on new commitments when
the current emission targets under the Kyoto Protocol expire in
2012. Europe has led, and will continue to lead, the endeavour to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Its cohesion and collective
force is remarkable. We are set to meet our reduction target for
2008-2012.

When you go back home you are private citizens, but you are all
here as representatives of local and regional authorities, the
business and the academic communities, and international
organisations, and therefore you, like me and the other
participants in this event, have a greater responsibility.

Climate change could be taken as a genuine example of a
subject that can, and indeed must, be addressed at all levels of
governance. It is relevant to everybody. In the year 2000, when
global business leaders met at the World Economic Forum in
Davos, they anticipated that climate change would be the
greatest challenge they would face in the 21st Century. They
also declared it to be a challenge which, with leadership, we
could meet. But we need to follow that up with concrete actions
and better behaviour in a framework of strong cooperation.

This brings me to the second point.



What are the challenges that Europe is facing today, and how
are we addressing them?

When I think what Europe needs today, among the first ideas
that come to my mind is Europe’s capacity to change. I was
enthusiastic in 2004 to start my work as Commissioner for
regional policy, and particularly because I realised that I had the
challenge   to   address   the   expectations   of   the   citizens.
Unfortunately, 2005 would be remembered as marked by the
failures of the referenda in France and in the Netherlands. But
we are now more optimistic, and with reason. When I and my
fellow Commissioners met the Austrian Prime Minister, Wolfgang
Schüssel, in Vienna on 9 January to mark the beginning of the
Austrian Presidency of the Council of the Union, we agreed with
his statement that “Europe needs a fresh start”. Europe needs
ideas and commitments. We are all aware that we cannot follow
the pattern of development characterising our economies in
recent years – low growth, poor labour market performance and
trailing competitiveness. Soon we will be increasingly facing the
consequences of ageing of our societies. The choice of a “no
change” scenario would be disastrous for the well-being of our
citizens.

The world around us is changing, rapidly and profoundly.
Meeting this challenge requires enormous efforts from Europe.
The sooner we build Europe’s capacity to innovate, to grow and
to create sustainable employment, the better able we shall be to
take full advantage of globalisation, technical progress and
longer life-spans. When the Commission presented a revitalised
Lisbon agenda last February, we decided to harness all our
policies in pursuit of growth and jobs, social cohesion and
environmental sustainability. And Member States agreed with us
that regional policy should be a key instrument in this. They
agreed that we should fully exploit its potential to bring faster
growth and more jobs to Europe’s economy and to contribute to
Europe’s innovation and competitiveness, in a sustainable way.

We also need to maintain excellent cooperation among the EU
and other international Institutions. Geneva is e perfect place to
say that. We must work together if we are to deal successfully
with issues such as the differentiation of energy sources or the
close links between the environment and mobility.

Let me mention in this context the urban policy, which is a case
in point where a joined-up approach is essential. We know that
Europe’s urban areas face a number of environmental
challenges including poor air quality, high levels of traffic and
congestion, urban sprawl, greenhouse gas emissions and
generation of waste and waste water. These can cause
environmental damage and affect human health. While local
action is essential, public authorities at regional, national and
European level also need to be proactive. The European Union
can provide support by promoting Europe’s good practices. It can
do so best by encouraging effective networking and exchange of
experience between cities. Many solutions already exist in cities
but they are not sufficiently disseminated or implemented.

According to the United Nations Population Division, for the first
time in history more people live in cities than in rural areas.
Without sustainable cities, we cannot have sustainability.

Cohesion policy, for which I am responsible in the Commission,
can do a lot to tackle these concerns. Cohesion policy has
undergone, in my view, one of the greatest transformations in the
history of the Union. This year, we celebrate the 30th anniversary
of the entry into force of the European Regional Development
Fund.     For its first few years, the ERDF represented
approximately 4% of the EU’s budget; now the Structural Funds
represent around one third of the EU’s budget and as of 2007,
around 40%.
Probably not all of you are familiar with cohesion policy, but I can
assure you that what we have proposed for the future is a
modern policy. We will be looking at the ways to streamline our
interventions for 2007-2013, in order to maximise synergies and
added value. For the first time we will have a well-defined
framework for action, which is represented by the Strategic
Guidelines for Cohesion. These will represent a key tool for
decision-makers: the Member States, the regions, the cities and
the other stakeholders will not be let alone, but will be helped in
identifying their needs and the best and most efficient means to
address them. One of the priorities is the greater focus on the
attractiveness of regions and cities, in order to stimulate
investment. Crucial elements in this objective will be improved
accessibility of the regions, combined with an adequate quality
and level of services, and the preservation of environmental
potential. We have very explicitly affirmed in these Strategic
Guidelines that environmental investments can contribute to the
competitiveness    of   the   economy     by   ensuring   long-term
sustainability of economic growth, by decreasing external
environmental costs to the economy (e.g. health costs, clean-up
costs or damage recovery) and by stimulating innovation and job
creation. Future cohesion programmes should seek to strengthen
potential synergies between environmental protection and
growth.
Development strategies should be based on a prior evaluation of
needs and specific issues faced by regions, and efforts should be
made to promote the internalisation of external environmental
costs, with the development of market-based instruments.
It goes without saying that the concrete actions which flow from
these broad guidelines will be adapted to the needs of local
citizens and to the economic, social and environmental profile of
each region, and decided by them in a close partnership among
the Commission, the Member States, the regions and the local
authorities.


How to act at local and regional level?

Europe needs, more then ever, the dynamism and initiative of its
regions and cities. Their energy must be channelled in support of
our common aims through dialogue and collaboration, involving
all levels of governance. We will not succeed in revitalising the
European project unless we reach out to every citizen, and in
doing this the regions are our indispensable allies.
The role of local and regional authorities is paramount. Very
recently, the Committee of the Regions conducted a survey to
assess the level of involvement of regions and cities in preparing
National Reform Programmes under the Lisbon Strategy. The
survey found that only 17% of regions and cities were satisfied
with their involvement in the preparation of these programmes.
Of course, in the not too distant past, they were not involved at
all in most Member States, so this represents some progress.
But there is scope for a substantial improvement next year. The
work to boost competitiveness on the global level will only have
an impact if all levels of government work in partnership.

Ladies and gentlemen, only by mobilising all the resources and
by engaging all stakeholders, at national, regional and local
levels, can Europe succeed to promote growth, jobs and
solidarity in a logical and sustainable way. Let me again praise
your initiative to raise awareness on one of the greatest
challenges ahead.

I wish your “Planète climat” initiative a success that would help
us all live in a better world.

Thank you very much for your attention.

								
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