Webinar on “Implementation of Low Emissions Development Strategies (LEDS) and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) at Local and Regional Levels” organised by the EU4Climate brought together 59 experts and representatives of different municipalities from Eastern Partnership countries on 13 June 2023 to enable conditions for the implementation of NDCs and LEDSs also on regional and local levels and thereby support not only the horizontal but also vertical mainstreaming of climate actions.

The targets set in the NDCs and the long-term ambitions set in the LEDSs are referred to as national targets. The underlying policies and measures are mostly referring to actions at the national level using various policy instruments. In parallel, climate action is also taking place on local and regional levels with great potential in making a difference. The workshop aimed to raise awareness of the importance and benefits of climate action at regional and local levels and guide how to engage at different levels on the development of sustainable energy and climate action plans (SECAPs) and on accessing finance and developing bankable projects.

“The invasion of Ukraine and the response to the crisis by the international community through sanctions against Russia have impacted significantly the EU and its neighbouring regions. The EU will continue supporting the Eastern Partnership countries in resisting the weaponisation of energy by Russia by accelerating the decarbonization of their economies. Despite a short-term need for alternative fossil fuel supplies, the EU Green Deal is instrumental in addressing some of the implications of the war in Ukraine”, mentioned Erwann Martin (DG NEAR) in his welcoming remarks.

To achieve decarbonization, it is essential to integrate communities and local territories in climate change policy planning and realisation. The role of businesses, cities, regions, investors, civil society groups, and other non-state and subnational actors is increasingly important in achieving the ambition and accelerating implementation.

“In that sense, the European Commission has been supporting the EU4Climate project implemented by UNDP to assist Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia in preparing their LEDSs, including developing scenarios and analyzing mitigation options among others. Moldova was supported in developing the draft updated LEDS 2030 and carrying out the stakeholder consultations. Ukraine has already prepared its LEDS before the EU4Climate project started. EU4Climate is also helping our partners in mainstreaming climate in the sectors as well as raising interinstitutional awareness and providing sectoral guidelines for implementing the Paris Agreement”, Erwann Martin said.

“With the efforts by our countries and with the help of EU4Climate, Eastern Partnership countries are starting to move to the new phase when the countries are becoming leaders of climate policies”, noted Yevgen Groza (EU4Climate Regional Coordinator) bringing examples of all EaP countries’ achievements in preparation of the NDCs and LEDSs. “Moldova was one of the first countries to present their updated NDC, Georgia recently approved the LEDS with a target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. In the case of Azerbaijan, the new NDC is prepared with the advanced target”, mentioned Yevgen Groza adding that in Armenia the preparation of both the NDC and LEDS was done through the EU4Climate project, and Ukraine has prepared its first-ever adaptation strategy with the help of the project.

According to his words, the webinar was to present the methodology of how to prepare a local climate action to implement locally the targets set in national policies and work together with the long-term partner – the Covenant of Mayors – to move from national planning to local and municipal implementation.

“Current Local Engagement in EaP Countries and Entry Points” arising from NDCs and LEDS was presented by Elisabeth Kampel (EU4Climate expert) providing details on vertical mainstreaming of climate change, the current status of engagement and entry points for implementing NDC/LEDS on the local level for energy and heat production, transport and agriculture sectors, forestry and land use, etc. Emphasizing cities as key action areas for mainstreaming, Elisabeth Kampel shared her views on the challenges and opportunities of local action.

Maksym Vereshchak (Covenant of Mayors CoM) introduced the evolution of the initiative of the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy currently having around 500 signatories, its main objectives. He presented “Developing SECAPs – Practical Use of the Guidance Material” by sharing the details of the political and practical document – SECAP – a plan for reducing emissions in the territory of a city that is supported by the CoM through training and consultations.

Best practices of SECAP development and benefits received by municipalities by Oksana Kysil (Covenant of Mayors) illustrated the importance of SECAP at the national and local levels with objectives to foster sustainable development by promoting low-carbon strategies for all types of territory, in particular urban areas, creating relevant adaptation and mitigation measures. Tools and ideas used by different Ukrainian cities for the reduction of GHG emissions comprise reducing gas consumption or exploring water supply-climate change connections and tourism-health-water influences realised with different funding opportunities.

While funding is crucial for local projects, municipalities often face challenges in accessing finance. Andreas Biermann (UNDP) shared “Funding Opportunities and Development of Bankable Projects” – different funding routes and sources that municipalities can consider to finance their projects effectively, noting that by leveraging funding opportunities, municipalities can accelerate their development and contribute to the well-being of their communities.

Recommendations for vertical integration of climate actions by Elisabeth Kampel (EU4Climate expert) were specifically tailored for national and local/regional institutions with a focus on knowing local strengths and weaknesses, ensuring coherence in policies, engaging local stakeholders, etc.

Overall characteristics of the Cantemir and Lozova towns of Moldova were presented by the mayors alongside the municipal SECAPs. Roman Ciubaciuc, the mayor of the youngest city in Moldova – Cantemir town shared their SECAP ambitions of reducing emissions by 30% by 2030. While financial issues remain one of the main obstacles in the way of decarbonization, small steps ensure the realisation of plans – green lighting, “green jobs”, energy-efficient buildings, etc.

The latter is part of SECAP in Lozova town as well with its SECAP ambitions of reducing GHG emissions by 40%. According to Lilian Botnaru, the mayor of Lozova, to serve the plan, the approaches such as the thermal rehabilitation of public and residential buildings, renewable energy sources for energy production, energy management system introduction are used.

High interest in possible synergies and support from EU4Climate for the development of plans regionally and locally through consultations, direct support, or any other ways were discussed in response to questions from participants.

The next step will be more practical work with the “Covenant of Mayors” initiative not only on climate mitigation and adaptation capacities but also in the preparation of piloting climate action plans like SECAPs where EU4Climate support as an added value will ease the identification of bankable projects within municipalities and presentation of the plans to the financial institutions.