Committee of the Regions calls for water management to be integral part of Covenant of Mayors

As EU environment ministers met for an informal two-day council meeting in Hungary, Committee of the Regions' President Mercedes Bresso highlighted the vital importance of involving local and regional authorities within sustainable development programmes, proposing to enlarge the scope of the Covenant of Mayors from energy savings to the entire Resource efficient Europe agenda, in particular with regard to sustainable water management. President Bresso also suggested the use of EU Project Bonds in the sector of eco-infrastructures.

President Mercedes Bresso was invited to take part in the informal environment council convened by the Hungarian Presidency in Gödöllö, near Budapest, between 24 and 26 March. After Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik presented the main lines of the forthcoming Blueprint for Safeguarding European Waters, President Bresso reminded ministers that in sustainable water management, the best results are achieved when specific planning and governance tools, such as the River Basin Management Plans, are matched with the broader policies such as Europe 2020. However, Bresso pointed out, this raises many questions, such as how water policies will be prioritised within the new EU budget post 2014, in particular the Common Agricultural Policy and Cohesion Policy.

The Committee of the Regions is currently preparing its own position on the future of water management through an outlook opinion, requested by the Hungarian presidency and drafted by the president of the Italian region of Puglia, Nichi Vendola. The opinion is due to be adopted at the Committee plenary session in June and presented to the environment council that same month.

The role of regions and local authorities in climate change

In her intervention at the informal Council meeting, President Bresso also highlighted the role of local and regional authorities in other key environmental dossiers, such as the next steps in the global climate change negotiations and the new roadmap for a competitive low carbon Europe by 2050. Addressing the Ministers and the Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, CoR President called for the next round of UN-sponsored talks on tackling climate change, which will take place in Durban at the end of the year, to build on the momentum of Cancun, where the role of local and regional authorities as key partners in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gases was mentioned explicitly for the first time. Furthermore, the Committee of the Regions adopted in October 2010, during the celebration of the Open Days its Resolution on the Cancun Climate Summit appealing to regions and local authorities to sign local climate action pacts setting out concrete measures in the fight against climate change.

On the issue of the roadmap, meanwhile, she reminded ministers that many regions and cities already have their own long-term carbon strategies, and that these could be used to enrich the European Commission’s final proposals.

President Bresso also reiterated Committee's support for greater ‘carbon proofing’ of EU structural funds. This subject will be dealt with formally through an outlook opinion from the CoR member and mayor of Malmo, Illmar Reepalu, later this year.