About 400 representatives of local and national authorities from Eastern Partnership countries, as well as EU representatives, took part at the high-level conference “Municipalities for Sustainable Growth” which took place on 22-23 November in Kyiv. The meeting fostered dialogue on the role of local municipalities in identifying and addressing the complexities of sustainable development, economic resilience, and climate action.
The conference was opened by Peter Wagner, Head of Support Group for Ukraine (DG NEAR, European Commission), Hennadii Zubko, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, Ostap Semerak, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine and the deputy chairman of the Kyiv City State Administration Petro Panteleev.
“It is great to see that two key EU initiatives, the Covenant of Mayors and Mayors for Economic Growth, have joined forces to bring over 320 Mayors from the Eastern Partnership region to Kyiv: around the globe and in the EU, municipalities play an increasingly important role in making real changes on the ground with a direct impact on living conditions for the population,” – said Peter Wagner, Head of Support Group for Ukraine.
“Ukraine is in the list of the most financially decentralized European countries,” noted Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Hennadii Zubko. “Local budgets already make up over 52% of the consolidated budget of Ukraine. State support for regional development has increased 39 times in comparison with 2014. With the support of our European partners, Ukraine is pursuing reforms, changing and becoming a country where ensuring high-quality services and a high quality of life for citizens is the highest state priority,” he added.
Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine Ostap Semerak stressed that sustainable, green, low carbon urban development is already a global trend and the future that we have to build. “The tools that will allow us to move on to this model of growth are beginning to work in Ukraine as well. The law “On strategic environmental assessment” came into force this year, and the Government approved low-carbon development strategy of Ukraine until 2050. We have to learn how to use them properly to see the changes as soon as possible," – added Mr. Semerak.
Two major joint discussion panels of the conference focused on a comprehensive overview and recommendations how cities and municipalities of the Eastern Partnership can address such issues as an adaptation to climate change, improving energy efficiency, developing and implementing sustainable energy and climate policies at the municipal level, as well as stimulating economic growth and employment generation. The practitioners from the Eastern Partnership and Western European countries, as well as international institutions, shared their views on their respective roles, shared success stories from their countries, and provided recommendations on tackling global challenges with local solutions.
Special thematic sessions of the conference specifically explored pertinent issues and solution to sustainable local growth challenges. So, the question of energy efficiency in multistoried residential buildings was addressed by Nadja Vetters, a representative of the Joint Research Centre, who during a dedicated CoM East session presented the EU experience in energy efficiency in the residential sector, where the energy consumption of residential buildings had been reduced by 40 percent. She stressed that energy efficiency is not only about money, but also about the reduction of carbon emissions in the atmosphere, which improves the environment and health of people.
Deputy of Dolyna City Mayor, Volodymyr Smolii shared a story about a small city with a population about 200 000 citizens managing to reduce energy by 20% over the past three years. Dolyna is one of the two cities in Ukraine which has implemented a project aimed to reduce the energy consumption of residential buildings. The municipality has refurbished 30 multistoried residential buildings within Covenant of Mayors – Demonstration Projects program. Following this successful example, the city of Dolyna intends to renovate more buildings located in the city to further promote the implementation of energy-efficient solutions as well as renewable energy generation in owner-occupied buildings.
The Mayors for Economic Growth sessions explored such challenges as unlocking women’s economic potential through providing childcare services for mothers to be able to work and the role that the local authorities can play in this respect. A special session was dedicated to the importance of the recently approved Local Economic Development Plans being implemented on the ground, and the support available to M4EG Signatories to make implementation a success.
Finally, three thematic groups for the M4EG Signatories who wish to focus their economic activities on a) Tourism, b) Business Support Services, and c) Agriculture were established and started their work at the Conference to ensure knowledge and best practice sharing within the Eastern Partnership region. The participants were able to discuss major challenges in their respective spheres and propose a bottom-up driven agenda for cross-country networking and partnership building activities.
At the end of the first working day of the Conference, over 50 best-performing municipal administrations received commemorative awards, acknowledging their commitment and impressive results in making cities and communities develop in a dynamic, sustainable and resilient manner.
The high-level international conference “Municipalities for Sustainable Growth” was organised by two major EU Initiatives for the Eastern Partnership countries – the Covenant of Mayors and Mayors for Economic Growth.
Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy is a European initiative that brings together local, regional and national authorities, which have voluntarily committed to achieve the EU climate and energy objectives. By joining up to the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy the municipalities from the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries pledge to reduce CO2 emissions at least by 30% by 2030. As of today, out of 368 EaP Signatories of the Covenant of Mayors community, 239 are Ukrainian cities and towns.
Mayors for Economic Growth is an EU initiative that has mobilized over 260 local authorities in the EaP to commit to the implementation of smart local economic strategies aiming at local economic growth and more employment opportunities. Under both initiatives, the EU supports 48 pilot projects. The EU's financial contribution into their implementation is EUR 32 million.