Speaking in Brussels, the Spanish official said the EU continues to support cities and regions through EU funds and the target to invest at least 20 percent of these funds into climate-related projects.
As an example, he cited the fact that more than half of the European Regional Development Fund in 2014-2020, more than €100bn, is invested in cities.
He said, “We also recognise the need to continue to step up this support in the coming years and a vital component is the financial support under the next European Union long-term budget for 2021 to 2027.”
Cañete, addressing a debate of EU regional leaders, pointed out that the Commission has proposed that 25 percent of the next budget goes to climate-related action, up from the current 20 percent.
“This would mean climate-related spending of €320 billion across all major European Union funding programmes, including cohesion, agriculture, infrastructure investment and research and innovation.”
“We also propose that 35 percent of the new Horizon Europe research programme goes on climate objectives - with a dedicated €15 billion fund for climate, energy and mobility.”
“Horizon Europe will include new research missions on climate-neutral and smart cities and adapting to climate change. The missions should obtain between €5 billion and €10 billion.”
“Our proposals are ambitious but achievable. And crucially, they will create much better funding opportunities for cities and regions to implement both climate mitigation and adaptation measures” Miguel Cañete, EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy
The Commission also wants 30 percent of investments under InvestEU - the successor to the European Fund for Strategic Investments - to go on climate objectives.
“Our proposals are ambitious but achievable. And crucially, they will create much better funding opportunities for cities and regions to implement both climate mitigation and adaptation measures, Cañete added.
Reacting to his comment, Enrico Rossi, president of Tuscany who participated in the debate, told this website, "I welcome the New Strategic Agenda 2019-24 adopted by the EU Council.”
“Building a climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe must be a priority for the next Commission. I only regret that the Member States decided not to commit inserting concrete targets or fixed deadlines in this document.”
“This decision will not facilitate a quick implementation on the ground. However, fighting climate change has been a top priority for us and we are taking a number of measures to reduce Co2 emissions.
“We drafted a very detailed plan aiming at reaching the objective of Carbon Neutral Region by 2050. In order to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas, from this summer we decided to ban selected single-use products made of plastic for which alternatives exist on the market such as cutlery, plates and cups from all beaches of Tuscany.”
The recently-unveiled Strategic Plan caused controversy when it made tackling climate change only a third-level priority, behind measures to counter illegal immigration and boost the economy.
A reference to a "large majority of Member States" wanting to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 was relegated to a footnote - at one point it was left out altogether before being reinstated.
Wendel Trio, director of CAN Europe said the failure to set new, higher EU climate targets was “irresponsible given the climate emergency we are facing.”
The European Civic Forum, a transnational network of over 100 NGOs in 28 Member States, agreed with his criticism, adding that the EU must “radically change” direction.
Roger Casale, General Secretary of New Europeans and a vice president of the Forum, said, "It seems that the EU council has listened and there are clearer references in the strategic plan to European values and the defence of our fundamental rights as well as to the need to create a social Europe and not just a single market.”
“However, it remains to be seen how deep these commitments run. It will be up to us, the citizens, to make sure that the idea of a social Europe does not end up as a footnote in history. As with climate change, we urgently need to put tackling social exclusion at the heart of the EU's strategy for the future."
Meanwhile, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has put forward its proposals for the EU's new legislative mandate for 2019-2024.
The CoR argues that for the EU to regain citizens' trust and address major current challenges, EU decisions and policies must be “anchored locally and local and regional authorities involved at all stages of EU decision-making.”
CoR president Karl-Heinz Lambertz said, "The nearly 100,000 local authorities and 300 regions of the EU represented by the CoR are key partners to increase citizens’ ownership and strengthen trust in the Union.”
“We need to radically rethink the way the EU works so it is closer to the citizens. That's why we ask for the creation of a permanent mechanism for citizens' dialogue and an EU based on multi-level governance, better law making and active subsidiarity.”