Climate Actions as a Paradigm of Multilevel Government

It was not until the Treaty of Lisbon that the measures “combating climate change” became an objective of the European Environmental Policy (Article 191 TFEU). Until then, some measures adopted on the basis of different policies—energy, single market, territorial cohesion.—indirectly supported the climate change goals.

However, from then on the energy and climate packages will be adopted in an integral way, with the previous regulations being renewed and giving rise to the current Directives with clear implications at the local level.

On the one hand, and relating to urban renewal measures, the Energy Efficiency Directive 2012/27/EU, fully applicable since January 2017,[1] [2] imposes a minimum (3%) annual renewal of public buildings to progressively comply with minimum energy performance’s standards, which requires a previous base-line inventory. The new Directive makes compulsory the energy audit for private companies and requires the public procurement being consistent with energy performance of products if stated by the EU regulations.

Furthermore, the new Directive reinforces the promotion of cogeneration lying down in a strong multilevel administrative cooperation. Among other provisions, article 14 states that:

  • - Member States shall adopt policies which encourage the due taking into account at local and regional levels of the potential of using efficient heating and cooling systems, in particular those using high-efficiency cogeneration;
  • - particularly, Member States shall carry out and notify (December 2015) to the Commission a comprehensive assessment of the potential for the application of high-efficiency cogeneration and efficient district heating and cooling, containing the information set out in Annex. Depending on the (positive) results of such assessment, Member States shall take adequate measures for efficient district heating and cooling infrastructure to be developed and/or to accommodate the development of high-efficiency cogeneration and the use of heating and cooling from waste heat and renewable energy sources;
  • - in any event, and for electricity generation and industrial installations above 20 MW there is an obligation to prepare a cost-benefit analysis on the viability of cogeneration, waste heat recovery or district heat network connection when they are built or substantially refurbished.

On the other hand, the Directive 2009/28 on the promotion of renewable energies refers to and support specific urban equipment, the district heating and cooling systems based on renewable energy, meaning “the distribution of thermal energy in the form of steam, hot water or chilled liquids, from a central source of production through a network to multiple buildings or sites, for the use of space or process heating or cooling”.19 The Directive states the obligation of States to induce local and regional entities to develop these systems (Article 13.3),


obligation which specifically reaches “the planners” (Article 14.5). In a bottom-up approach, is also required that the National Renewable Plans assesses the possible need for new infrastructure for these urban systems, in particular for the production of heating and cooling from biomass, solar and geothermal (Article 16.11).

This multi-level governance approach of the Directives on which the main European climate strategies are rooted, reveals the clear intention of the European institutions not to totally ignore the participation of the sub-state entities in their application,—as theoretically would be expected according to the Principle of Institutional autonomy governing the implementation of EU law.

Reference has already been made to urban authorities (local and regional) and their relationship with the “management authorities” (basically state) which are now acknowledged by the new ERDF Regulation, as well as the new mechanisms for dialogue between Local Authorities. Beyond these binding provisions, the EU promotes through non-binding rules actions that specify local versions or projections of its climate policies, in order to facilitate the adaptation of these measures at local level. This promotion goes parallel with the financial support provided for by the Structural Funding.

In this context, mention should be made of local climate policy, the Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans (SECAP), which represents a minimum of local commitment in the fight against climate change (Peeters 2012, p. 285). This Plan, established within the framework of the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, must be signed by Local Authorities within the year following the accession of the Pact, which also presupposes a base inventory of emissions. The Plan has to be accepted by the Convenant, and is evaluated and monitored by the European Commission through the Joint Research Center. Failure to submit the Plan within the set timeframe or negative follow-up reports is a reason for exclusion from the Covenant. SECAPs must include:

  • - energy saving programs in buildings and public services, which can also be achieved through public procurement;
  • - mobility plans, aimed at reducing dependence on the private vehicle;
  • - energy performance standards and requirements for incorporating renewable energy equipment into new buildings;
  • - public awareness;
  • - promotion of local production of renewables and use of renewable sources, such as combined cycle plants.

Beyond the scope of the EU although strongly supported by its institutions, ICLEI,—Local Government for Sustainability—should be mentioned in this context. It is an international association of local and metropolitan governments dedicated to sustainable development, which has been acquiring a growing institutional role in recent years particularly in climate conferences. At this regard, it is worth to underline:

  • • its observer status in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and, in this context, is the seat of representation of Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA), established in 1995 at COP1 of the Convention held In Berlin;
  • • holds the secretariat of the World Council of Mayors for Climate Change (WMCCC) which in 2010, in the Mexico City Pact, approved a key instrument managed by ICLEI for the standardized measurement and verification of climate commitments, Carbon Registry of Cities (cCCR), which is applied by about twenty programs and climate networks integrated by local entities. Furthermore, cCCR assesses and manages the climate data of non-state actors that are integrated in the NAZCA (Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action) platform, a global platform where the climate commitments of non-state actors are recorded and established at the COP20 of Lime 2014 as the framework for the development of the Paris 2016 Agreement.

  • [1] It replaces the previous Directive 2010/31 on energy performance of buildings and Directive2006/32/EC on energy end-use efficiency. A description of this process of normative renewal canbe found in Galera, S. “Del Ahorro de Energia a la Eficiencia Energetica: objetivos e instrumentosde las Politicas Europeas”, Revista de Derecho Urbanistico y Medio Ambiente no 288, Marzo2014.
  • [2] Article 2, g/.
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