Brussels, June 26th, 2009
“The Assembly of European Regions (AER) has been a long time activist in favour of a model of local governance that fully includes the development of green energies, both in Europe and in the frame of North/South relations. Thus have I very naturally given a favourable answer to your invitation, as the AER joins forces with those who actively fight climate change.”It was with those words that the AER’s President, Michèle Sabban, addressed Quebec’s Prime Minister Jean Charest, Manitoba’s Prime Minister Gary Doer, The Climate Group’s CEO Steve Howard and Catalonia’s Minister for Environment and Housing, Francesc Baltasar i Albesa.
The Canadian provinces of Quebec and Manitoba, the Spanish region of Catalonia, The Climate Group and AER have come together to develop a strategy aimed at acknowledging the role of federal states and regions in the fight against climate change. Despite current efforts, this century’s continued greenhouse gas emissions will increase global warming and severely affect the ecosystem. Meanwhile, European energy policy will aim at raising the share of renewable energies among EU’s total energy consumption to 20% by 2020. “In view of the scale of the task before us, we can conclude that this is an emergency: everything must be done to bring regions together in the fight against climate change, especially when considering that the Copenhagen Summit is only six months ahead of us,“ said Michèle Sabban.
AER’s president introduced fellow speakers to the numerous initiatives launched by the AER’s member regions, such as the ‘European Regions for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Sources’ declaration signed in 2006 with the FEDARENE1 and supported by 86 regions to date. The declaration is a genuine commitment on behalf of the regions to fight global warming, and resulted in the adoption of ambitious goals in terms of greenhouse gas reduction.
In addition, AER’s Summer School this year will focus on developing responses to the challenge of dwindling natural resources. To be held in Valencia from the 24th to 28th of August, “Water, a commitment for our future” will pay special attention to water issues.
Michèle Sabban also invited her fellow speakers to follow the next AER General Assembly workshop results. On the 26th and 27th of November, the General Assembly in Belfort, Franche-Comté (F), will focus on sustainable development under the title: “Energising Europe: Regional Innovation and Diversity for Growth and Jobs.” AER will seek to enhance the visibility of local governments in the emerging field of environmental governance.
Michèle Sabban further emphasised the partnership between AER and GE Energy that has resulted in the creation of an “Energy Day” aiming to enable experts and decision-makers to gather and discuss regional solutions to issues related to energy efficiency, supply effectiveness and environmental awareness. “Energy Day” is the first co-operation program for European experts and regional decision-makers and will be held on an annual basis starting in April 2010.
AER’s president hailed the agreement signed today by Quebec and Manitoba with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and hopes it will trigger many others. Jean Charest, Quebec’s prime minister, was also glad that the role played by federal states and regions in the fight against climate change was acknowledged by the United Nations. “It is through our public policies and the course of our responsibilities in the field of energy, land settlement and transport that we can make a difference and spark a change in the right direction,” he said. AER has already come to an agreement with the UNPD that culminated in the Limoges Conference on Climate Change in March 2009.
1 European Federation of Regional Energy and Environment Agencies.
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