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Summary of the meeting of the environment committee – 14 Nov 03

Urban environment featured proeminently at CEMR environment committee met in Berlin on 14 November 2003. Members discussed the EU Commission's communication entitled Towards a thematic strategy on the urban environment due to be adopted end of 2003.
It is thought that although the future strategy will not include legislative actions, the EU Commission would consider imposing an obligation on all local authorities to adopt environmental management systems and mobility plans.
CEMR members were against obligations being imposed on local authorities, stressing that this was not the solution for urban environmental problems. They feel the strategy should rather focus on the concrete tools that are needed to address the problems, and on exchange of experience.
Local agenda 21
As a follow-up to the World summit on sustainable development, members of the environment committee heard representatives from several countries report on developments in their respective states.
In Finland, about 300 local authorities have implemented Local agenda 21 (LA21). The focus appears to be on three themes : climate change, public procurement and environmental accounts and auditing systems.
In Britain, 440 municipalities have developed LA21, the focus being on integrating energy, waste, water and transport policies through the development of specific plans. The objective is to work alongside business and to address differences between urban and rural environment.
135 Austrian local authorities have developed LA 21. The goal is to quadruple that number. The main focus is on energy, waste and water. Local authorities are also looking into the link between LA21 and employment.
in France, over 150 local authorities have developed LA 21 and more and more municipalities seem keen to follow suit. One of the problems is the lack of methods and tools to implement local agenda 21. Municipalities are putting a lot of effort into environmental problems, but not much is being done to link in the economic and social aspects.
Estonia is working closely with its counterparts in other Baltic states. The government is currently finalising a strategy for sustainable development, and the institute for sustainable development has produced a handbook for municipalities on LA 21. Municipalities can receive funds from the government as well as through the PHARE programme to develop LA21.
The Czech municipalities haven't adopted LA 21 en masse yet. The Czech association has translated CEMR handbook on LA21 and sent it to 3,000 municipalities (representing 75% of the population).
Forum on sustainable development
Finally, members discussed the first CEMR forum on sustainable development. It was agreed that it should take place in Brussels, in Autumn 2004, after the new EU Commission and Parliament are in place.
The forum should present the Commissionner in charge of the environment a list of priorities that CEMR would like the Commission to address.
The next environment committee meeting will be held in Brussels on 19 April 2004.