In the 15 years since the Covenant of Mayors was launched, much has changed. A completely new legislative and governance landscape has emerged in the EU to frame energy and climate action in every Member State. Today, with this changed landscape, it has become increasingly clear that, beyond just gathering signatories across Europe, the Covenant of Mayors’ relevance increasingly lies in the framework and processes that give impulse to the local level, accelerating climate action from the bottom-up.
One key process that underpins the Covenant’s work and empowers local climate action is multilevel governance. The EU Green Deal has laid out important work to be done by all Member States in Europe. But national governments cannot reach Europe’s targets on their own. To reach the EU’s ambitious targets, they must not only engage businesses and citizens across their country, but also have to collaborate closely with regional and local governments who are implementing the transition on the ground and directly engaging local communities in their efforts.
What is multilevel governance?
Multilevel governance is all about teamwork across different levels of government to put together a giant policy puzzle. In climate and energy policymaking, multilevel governance means taking a step back from the traditional top-down approach.
It emphasises active listening to local and regional voices to enhance and align higher-level decision with subnational needs, encourages collaboration with peers at the same level, across ministries or relevant public agencies, and aims to create policies that accommodate the diverse needs of the entire population.
In assembling a climate and energy policy puzzle, every piece matters. It's essential to involve all levels and relevant actors to craft effective and inclusive policies, ensuring that no voice is left unheard, and no region is left behind.
How does the Covenant Europe leverage multi-level governance for successful climate action?
For these very reasons, promoting multilevel governance processes has become increasingly important in the Covenant's work. Over time, the Covenant of Mayors has incorporated diverse actors to more effectively develop proper baselines for both mitigation and adaptation.
Part of this effort includes the work of a community of higher-tier Coordinators and Supporters who already successfully facilitate local authorities’ planning through their iterative Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP) cycles.
This alignment ensures that action plans harmonise with EU and national priorities, as well as opportunities and resources for funding. At this year’s European Week of Regions and Cities, we heard from regional representatives of the top three Covenant signatory countries: Belgium, Italy, and Spain.
They demonstrated how regional Covenant coordinators can be a driving force behind cities adhering to and going beyond the EU's climate and energy goals.
In Italy, for example, the region of Apulia has dedicated a budget of €1 million to support municipalities in their climate action endeavours, creating vouchers for municipalities to work on SECAPs jointly. As a result, in the region of Apulia, more and more municipalities have been adhering to the Covenant of Mayors and developed SECAPs. They also have developed complementary programmes at regional level for concrete actions such as setting up energy communities and addressing energy illiteracy.
In Spain, the region of Galicia created a coordination office for Covenant of Mayors in 2018, which coordinates with the EU level, recruits cities, gives them advice, and accompanies them in developing their SECAPs. Today of its 285 of its 313 municipalities have joined the coordination office and are working on their action plans.
In Belgium, the regional government of Flanders developed a Local Climate Pact as a complementary addition to the Covenant of Mayors, adding a tangible layer to cities' commitments, together with financial support to implement concrete measures. This regional Pact encourages municipalities to join the Covenant and in addition establish tangible targets to get citizens on board with their actions and accelerate their local ecological transition. Today, 296 Flemish municipalities are part of the Covenant, implementing concrete actions towards a more sustainable future.
You want to facilitate multilevel governance in your country?
Take advantage of all the Signatories, Coordinators and Supporters in Covenant Europe, which represent a ready-made pool of experienced public and non-public actors already familiar with multilevel governance. These actors have beneficial expertise on climate issues and are generally open to cooperation, including contributions to improve national policies.
Follow the campaign!
15 Years of Covenant of Mayors, connecting energy and climate action across Europe: Over the past 15 years, the Covenant has come a long way, evolving from an idea into a driving force for climate action across Europe. But the climate crisis has intensified, laying out urgent and difficult work ahead. As the Covenant of Mayors’ 15-year anniversary approaches, it's not just about celebrating the past but also setting the stage for an even more impactful future.
Join our 15-year campaign to celebrate cities’ bold action and garner the support they need for this new era of implementation!
Make your voice heard: What has the Covenant of Mayors brought to your city, region or country? What do you want to see going forward? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Publication date
- 17 November 2023