BRUSSELS – International News – Mayors from across the European Union and China signed an agreement today signalling the next phase in co-operation as part of a joint effort in promoting sustainable cities. The Charter was signed at the end of the first EU-China Mayors’ Forum, held at the Committee of the Regions (CoR), which brought together EU and Chinese mayors, local decision-makers, city planners, businesses and NGOs who shared experiences as part of the drive to taking a more sustainable and integrated approach to the management of cities.
President of the CoR, Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, gave his backing to the initiative arguing that the collaboration underlines the crucial importance of “environmentally sustainable growth”. Valcárcel pointed to the significant growth of urbanisation where today 75% of the entire EU population and 60% of the Chinese population live in cities, though these numbers are expected to rise by a third by 2050. President Valcárcel argued that given the shared difficult economic challenges facing the world urbanisation offers, “us unprecedented opportunities for economic growth and social development”. The need to address climate change, create employment and growth and ensure an adequate supply of energy was, “one of the common ground which unites Europe and China, and therefore we need to join forces”. The President said the Forum offered the ideal platform to take a joint response to deal with these global challenges whilst also highlighting the need to engage all levels of government, including local and regional authorities, in creating a sustainable future.
Cui Hengde, Secretary-General of China Association of Mayors, supported this point noting that, “We have a common mission to improve the life standards of all our citizens and we are facing the same challenges”, before arguing that there was a need to, “make great efforts to make things happen”. Cui Hengde said that the Forum was an important channel to strengthen ties, share knowledge and cooperate on different projects between local representatives from both continents.
During his keynote speech during the closing session, Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development, referred to the Covenant of Mayors – which voluntarily encourages local and regional authorities to meet and exceed the EU’s 20% carbon emission reduction objective by 2020 – noting that its success demonstrates the awareness by cities to protect their environment and, “Their strongest motivation is to spark sustainable economic activity and create towns and regions worth living in”. He continued saying that, “In the era of increasingly complex problems, local solutions within a global vision are often the best way to tackle global challenges”.
Photo: © ComitÃ© des RÃ©gions / Committee of the Regions