Uk mayors join European pledge on energy targets

Mayors and senior officials from 15 UK cities this afternoon signed a pledge to help meet EU energy and climate change targets.

Coventry, Nottingham, Durham, Northumberland, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, North Tyneside, Gateshead, Leicester, Stockton Borough, Hartlepool, Sunderland, Darlington, Newcastle, and Redcar & Cleveland Borough were the authorities represented at a ceremony in Brussels.

Seven more - Belfast, Bristol, Leeds, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes and Sheffield - have expressed an interest in signing the EU's so-called 'Covenant of Mayors', which now has the backing of more than 200 cities in the 27 EU countries.

The ceremony was hosted by the European Parliament and welcomed by UK Europe Minister Caroline Flint. "In December EU leaders agreed to an ambitious plan to tackle climate change and it's only by working at the national, regional and local level that we'll succeed," she said.

"That's why I'm delighted that mayors from cities across the UK have today embraced these commitments. Their efforts will not only improve the lives of local citizens by ensuring a better environment in which to live, but will also help their local businesses to benefit from Europe's drive to become the world's first low carbon economy."

Flint will attend a similar signing ceremony in Newcastle on Thursday when she said she would be congratulating the North East for being the first region in Europe to have the plan signed by all of its local authorities.

Meanwhile the European Investment Bank (EIB), the EU's long-term finance arm, used the Brussels ceremony to announce a £13m grant fund to back the development by European cities and regions of energy efficiency and sustainable energy investment programmes.

EIB president Philippe Maystadt said urban areas could contribute hugely to overall energy saving schemes, and thus help directly to combat climate change.

"Urban areas account for as much as 70 per cent of EU energy consumption," he said. "Most of this is related to buildings, urban transport and small firms. We believe that cities have a substantial potential to both reduce this consumption and to make significant progress in the adoption of renewable energies solutions such as solar photovoltaic technologies."

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told the gathering: "I have always rather envied mayors for the directness of your mandate from citizens, and your capacity to respond to local political challenges. As such, mayors are ideally placed to tackle climate change. And it is impossible to overstate the importance of your commitment to this Covenant of Mayors."

He added: "Our political generation may finally be remembered as the one that began to tackle the climate change challenge. We are in this together, and - just like the short-term challenge of fighting the economic crisis - we cannot afford to lose."

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