Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
European section of United Cities and Local Governments

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Climate and energy transition

Sustainable development - 12.01.2006

CEMR welcomes thematic strategy on urban environment and calls for political support
The Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) welcomes the thematic strategy on urban environment launched on 13 January 2006.
Urban environment is a key aspect of sustainable development, says CEMR secretary general Jeremy Smith. By working on the environment in our municipalities we can improve the environment across the whole of Europe, including tackling climate change. We therefore welcome the Commission's initiative.
CEMR also praises the Commission for giving a strong emphasis on subsidiarity in its strategy. As its name indicates, explains Jeremy Smith, the strategy focuses on urban issues; each municipality knows best how to improve its own urban environment, this is why we needed this "bottom-up" approach.
Originally, the Commission had suggested legislatives (binding) measures which CEMR opposed, we therefore welcome the Commission's "non-legislative approach"; the strategy proposes a range of voluntary measures. Most European municipalities already have their own sustainable development strategies, to add an extra layer of European legislation would have put too much stress on local governments.
However, CEMR feels that some aspects need clarification. One of these is about the Commission's proposal to establish a network of national focal points on urban issues. CEMR's members being national associations of local and/or regional governments, they could, each in their country, become the national focal point.
Finally and most importantly, there is a need to give the strategy a political dimension. Though the thematic strategy on urban environment contains many positive initiatives, adds CEMR secretary general, without political support - in particular at local level, it could have only a limited impact. CEMR is offering to work in partnership with the European Commission to raise awareness and support of the strategy in political circles.
Note: CEMR's involvement in urban sustainable development includes its contribution to the Aalborg Commitments (that aim at helping local governments set clear qualitative and quantitative targets for practical work to implement the urban sustainability principles)
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