EU regions and cities call for compensatory payments to tackle industrial pollution

  • 2022-10-14

The European Union's regions and cities keep pushing for an ambitious energy and climate agenda that would accelerate a sustainable and just transition towards climate-neutrality while protecting the environment, reducing pollution and improving citizen's health and living conditions. In an opinion on revising the Industrial Emissions Directive, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) stresses the need to adjust its environmental and competitiveness objectives to avoid unfair competition from third countries. CoR members point out at the lack of consistency in the implementation of the Directive across Member States and call for penalties to be re-directed to the benefit of cities and regions as a form of compensation for the impacts of industrial pollution.

The industry sector accounts for a considerable share of greenhouse-gas emissions (GHG) and overall pollution in the EU. Reducing emissions and pollution from large industrial installations is crucial to achieve the EU's energy, climate and environmental objectives, including the EU's zero pollution ambition, under the European Green Deal.

Contributing to the ongoing revision of measures to address pollution from industry, the CoR has adopted the 'Industrial Emissions Directive (IED)' opinion.  Around 50,000 industrial installations in the EU are subject to the rules set by this Directive, the revision of which aims at reducing emissions, promoting resource efficiency and curtailing the use of hazardous chemicals by setting agreed standards for different industrial activities.

The CoR rapporteur Jean-Noël Verfaillie (FR/Renew Europe), mayor of Marly, said: "Industrial emissions are certainly a highly technical yet no less sensitive aspect for the competitiveness of European businesses, which are subject to a global competition in all its different sectors. We must improve the Industrial Emissions Directive with caution, encouraging innovative industrial processes that contribute to the EU's green transition while ensuring a regulatory landscape that is favourable to the industrial and strategic autonomy of the European Union, the lack of which was clearly exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic."

EU regions and cities recall that pollution hits locally first, endangering the environment as much as citizens' health and their quality of life. Local and regional authorities therefore ask to receive compensatory payments from penalties to tackle the environmental, health, social and economic impacts of pollution.

The CoR stresses that any extension of the IED to new sectors needs to be based on a cost-benefit analysis. CoR members call on EU co-legislators to make the implementation of the IED more consistent and to take into account the costs and challenges of the transition in the context of the EU's trade policy in order to avoid unfair competition from third countries.

EU regions and cities welcome the establishment of the Innovation Centre for Industrial Transformation and Emissions (INCITE) and propose to include local and regional authorities in its future activities.

One of the main proposals of the revision of the IED is to require by 2030 that operators include in their environmental management system a Transformation Plan containing information on how the installation will transform itself during the 2030-2050 period in order to contribute to a sustainable, clean, circular and climate-neutral economy by 2050.

The opinion on the IED revision is part of the CoR contribution to accelerate climate mitigation in the EU and the reduction of air pollutants, discharges and waste that contaminates European waters, soils and air, with drastic effects on citizens' health.  

The energy and climate crisis has been at the forefront of discussions at the CoR's October plenary session and the 2022 European Week of Regions and Cities.

During a plenary debate on COP27, the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC), CoR members called for the EU's response to the energy crisis not to undermine the EU's climate ambition. The 3rd meeting of the Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform also took place this week, with cities and regions recalling their key role in reducing pollution across the EU. The need to decarbonise transport to reduce carbon emissions and improve citizens' health was amongst this week's key concerns.

Following the publication of the 8th Cohesion Report in February, CoR members recalled the paramount role of cohesion policy in reducing disparities between EU regions while helping the Union to achieve a just transition, reducing the dependence from fossil fuels and becoming more energy-independent.  Through the adoption of an opinion on a 'Just and Sustainable Transition in the context of the coal and energy intensive regions' by rapporteur Sari Rautio (FI/EPP), members stressed the need to support the energy and manufacturing sector, industries and SMEs in their conversion towards climate-neutrality.

The European Committee of the Regions 2022 EU annual report on the state of regions and cities indicates that local and regional authorities are facing unpredictable and extreme weather conditions more frequently and increasingly complex climate-change risks, due to global warming deregulating the climate. The climate crisis is listed amongst the current biggest challenges for local and regional authorities, in addition to the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the energy and inflation crisis.   

The 2022 CoR annual report specifies that global warming has a severe direct impact on GDP growth. In a 3°C scenario, net losses for countries north of the Alps are estimated to be 0.2% to 0.6% GDP while southern and southeast European countries' net loss may total up to 2.8% of GDP. Between 1980 and 2020, economic damages from climate-related events amounted to at least €419 billion in the EU (economic loss average of €12 billion per year) and affected nearly 50 million people. Over 80% of losses and 95% of fatalities can be attributed to natural disasters caused by weather and climate-related extremes. Climate damages could reach €170 billion per year, warns the CoR's annual report, since floods, wildfires, and extreme heat are increasing rapidly.

The Zero Pollution Stakeholder Platform is a joint initiative of the CoR and the European Commission. Supporting local and regional authorities deploying concrete measures to reduce pollution is a key objective of Green Deal Going Local, the CoR flagship initiative to place cities and regions at the heart of the EU's transition towards climate-neutrality.

The European Committee of Regions