Addressing Climate Change is high on the CoR agenda. Our discussions today cover the Energy Union, the Paris COP21 talks & the importance of Ocean Energy lead by a Rapporteur from my own group Rhodri Glyn Thomas. This is high on our agenda because to us 'Think Global Act Local' is not simply a slogan , it reflects reality and Local Governments are in the front line when it comes to addressing and adapting to climate change.
The Paris COP21 talks will soon be upon us. For me I'm always pleased to see progress but the Intended National Determining Contributions from the Individual States falls well short of what is required to ensure global temperature increases remain below the critical 2 degrees Centigrade limit. We are in serious danger of coming to an agreement which risks all our futures. In the UK, in my local council, Kirklees, the 6th largest council in the UK we have had no contact from our own national Government regarding the carbon savings they submitted to the Paris COP21 talks. No request for ideas or even simply asking us what we are doing already to reduce emissions. The message is clear. For the UK at least there is a disconnect between those who make pronouncements on carbon savings and those of us in local Councils who to a large extent will have a role in delivering them.This is the UK experience and I wonder how common this experience is in other countries represented in this chamber.
Trust is going to be key to delivering the carbon savings we have agreed, let alone the savings we really need. That brings me to the powerful but unelected, the influential but too often unaccountable. I am of course referring to corporate power, to big business, multinational corporations. We need to be able to trust that when they say they have reduced emissions that they really have. The VW emissions scandal has shown how reality can be obscured by greed. It remains however reality and affects not just our local environment but the health of our citizens particularly the frail, the very young and the elderly. There are the very real financial costs of chronic Ill health on local health services and lost work time. I'm sure the Commissioner would agree with me that when fines are levied on VW and other vehicle manufacturers that those funds should be used to repair the damage they have done by improving our air quality, investing in in local projects to reduce emissions from transport through investment in public transport, electric vehicle and cycle infrastructure. The polluter should pay but devolved administrations like our own should deliver.
In the Committee of the Regions we should be able to look beyond narrow national interests and those of corporate power and put the interests of the citizen and their well being first. I'm sure no one in this chamber would disagree with that! Addressing climate change is the ultimate in terms of addressing well being as it doesn't just apply to current generations but also all those to come.
I finish with 3 asks for the Commissioner
1. please approach all EU member states and ask them to consult all their local and devolved administrations on what we can do to help help increase the ambition of their Intended National Contributing Savings for COP21 in Paris.
2. please work with us to ensure that any fines imposed on VW and other manufacturers are passed down to local and devolved administrations so we can repair the damage.
3. please seriously address the trust issue with large corporations more widely.
Climate Change is real. It cannot be hidden on a spreadsheet or disappear by falsifying an emissions test. If we cheat we only cheat ourselves but we cannot cheat nature.