SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
In order to reach a sustainable society, it is necessary to integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning. It is vital to improve education, awareness-raising, and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation but also to strengthen global resilience and adaptive capacities to the effects of global warming.
The approach of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities is based on three key principles: achieving SDGs is the shared responsibility of all levels of government; local and regional authorities must have the necessary competences and financial autonomy to achieve the goals in their respective areas; citizens must always remain at the heart of the action.
For the last two decades, the Congress has been working on the different aspects related to the quality of the environment, the impact of climate change on citizen’s lives and energy transition. This is one of Congress’ priorities as declared by the Congress President during the World Environment Day. The basic premise of Congress action – also shared by the Council of Europe Secretary General – is that local and regional authorities are required to adopt strategies to respond to environmental challenges and adapt their communities accordingly. This approach is carried out through the improvement of education, awareness and human and institutional capacities, as well as progress in fields such as transport, recycling, water and waste management, production and consumption of local products and tourism.
The texts adopted by the Congress relevant to SDG 13 have been grouped under three headings: quality of the environment, climate change and energy transition.
Quality of the environment
The Congress recommends that environmental quality standards be imposed in public procurement procedures, in particular with regard to the construction and operation of buildings. It also stresses the importance of technological innovation to develop safer and more environmentally friendly products.
The Congress also considers it necessary to generalise environmental accounting information tools, such as "carbon accounting" and environmental heritage censuses. Such tools would allow better integration of the environment into decision-making processes, increase transparency and better determine the responsibilities of different levels of governance.
With regard to waste management, the Congress recommends that the general public be made aware of the importance of waste reduction, recycling and selective collection, and that the principle of "clean consumption" be promoted with a preventive approach involving industrial players and concerning the entire life cycle of a product: its design, manufacture, use and disposal.
The issue of drinking water is particularly sensitive because of the pressures on water resources. The Congress considers access to drinking water as a fundamental right that must be guaranteed both at national and territorial level. It considers it necessary to have a clear legal framework for the activities of local and regional authorities which share responsibility for water supply, waste water disposal and the protection of water resources.
The involvement of citizens, especially young people, is a key element of the Congress' approach to guarantee their right to information, transparency and control. In particular, the Congress encourages the creation of citizens' advisory committees, the promotion of the research role of universities and technical institutes, as well as the development of teaching of the principles of sustainable development.
Finally, in view of the challenges of globalisation and the impact of international agreements on local and regional authorities, the Congress calls for a consultation mechanism for local and regional authorities to ensure that their interests and concerns regarding sustainable development are taken into account in international negotiations.
The Congress stresses the need to give local and regional authorities the necessary powers and resources so that they can rely on a solid institutional basis to implement their climate protection strategies.
The Congress encourages an integrated approach in all areas of responsibility where action is needed: energy issues, public transport, spatial planning, architecture and town planning, water and waste treatment, green spaces, etc. It calls for changes in national legislation to strengthen the capacity for action as close as possible to citizens and for the development of a global, equitable and multi-level governance framework: European, national, regional and local.
Faced with the threats to coastal towns and cities, the Congress calls for national policies to be drawn up to secure the safety of populations while taking account of the experience of local and regional authorities in adapting their territories, particularly in the context of the Council of Europe's EUR-OPA Major Hazards Agreement. Local and regional authorities are invited to adopt policies that limit urban growth on sea fronts and to set up flood warning systems.
The Congress also proposes to define climate strategies which, alongside mitigation policies, focus on risk assessment and adaptation in order to ensure the protection of citizens, resources and property from the impacts of climate change. This includes the establishment of "ecological watch" through local information systems to measure vulnerabilities as well as strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Awareness-raising of public and private actors as well as the general public on climate change and its socio-economic impacts is also highlighted. In addition, policies developed at all levels of governance must be based on the sharing of good practices carried out in European communities.
- REC484 (2022) and RES489 (2022) - A fundamental right to the environment: a matter for local and regional authorities - Towards a green reading of the European Charter of Local Self-Government
- RES490 (2022) - Human Rights Handbook for local and regional authorities
- RES339 (2012) - Making cities resilient
- REC281 (2010) and RES298 (2010) - After Copenhagen, cities and regions take up the challenge
- REC298 (2010) and RES317 (2010) - Coastal towns and cities tackling threats from the sea
- REC271 (2009) and RES288 (2009) - The global challenge of climate change : Local responses
- REC231 (2008) and RES248 (2008) - Climate change: building adaptive capacity of local and regional authorities
- REC215 (2007) and RES236 (2007) - Climate Change: approaches at local and regional level
The Congress is convinced that the energy transition will lead to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This implies devising a new development model in order to reduce the use of fossil fuels, save energy and develop alternative energies.
In this context, local and regional authorities play a key role as energy consumers, urban planners, investors, energy producers and distributors, and must set an example through a new energy culture. National authorities must support this approach by granting greater autonomy to local and regional authorities and providing them with appropriate powers and sufficient financial resources.
The Congress emphasises that, under the European Charter of Local Self-Government (ETS No. 122) (Article 4), local and regional authorities must be consulted on all decisions concerning energy transport infrastructure: on the one hand, in order to exercise their choice of modes and sources of supply, and on the other hand, to control the impact of transport infrastructure on the territories concerned.
The Congress encourages governments to promote decentralised energy policies, to develop fiscal incentive policies and to set national standards to facilitate the production of renewable energies, for example by regulating energy production and setting limits on the pollution generated, regardless of the type of fuel.
Following the Chernobyl disaster, the Congress approved the principles set out in the "Slavutych Appeal", which emphasise the central role of the State and the place of local authorities, which are in the front line, as well as neighbourhood solidarity, transparency of information and consultation of citizens. With regard to oil spills, the Congress advocates strengthening the "polluter pays" principle and firmly applying national legislation and international rules.
The clear links between human rights and environmental protection are evidenced by several decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. Addressing the environmental challenge is one of the priorities of the Congress, whose activities aim to guarantee communities the right to be consulted and involved in the development of national strategies for a healthy environment.
- Environment : The Congress calls for the drafting of an Additional Protocol to the European Charter of Local Self-Government
- Towards a new Urban Charter of the Congress: How to build participative, inclusive and sustainable cities and towns
- Climate strategies must involve local and regional authorities
- World Environment Day: Congress President’s declaration
- Council of Europe Secretary General: "Local and regional authorities play a key role in responding to the COVID crisis and that of climate change"