Climate Action: Obama And Mercedes Bresso To Discuss Trans-Atlantic Cooperation


Mercedes Bresso, President of the Committee of the Regions, will take her message of greater trans-Atlantic cooperation on climate action right to the very top on Friday when she joins a delegation of US mayors in a meeting with US President Barack Obama. President Bresso is in Washington at the invitation of the US Conference of Mayors (USCM), at whose Winter Plenary Session yesterday she presented a series of concrete measures aimed at helping mayors on both sides of the Atlantic to tackle the issue of global warming, based on the model of the EU Covenant of Mayors.

Among the topics to be discussed by the delegation of mayors will be the role played by local government in the US in promoting energy efficiency, developing renewable energies and generating green growth and jobs – a role that is mirrored by their counterparts in the EU. The recent agreement between the CoR and the USCM to share best practice and collaborate more closely on tackling global warming will also be discussed.

Among the measures proposed by President Bresso at the USCM meeting are a town-twinning and visit programme that would facilitate direct knowledge sharing between mayors on key climate actions. Speaking to over 200 American mayors gathered in Washington, President Bresso said: “Across the Atlantic, we share similar challenges and goals: fighting climate change, improving the quality of life in our cities; boosting the ‘green economy’ to create jobs; engaging more with our citizens. We know how tough these challenges are, but also how great the rewards will be if we succeed, and how much more effective we will be if we work together. That is the spirit behind the Memorandum we signed in October. We have a great deal to learn from each other, and that is why the town-twinning and exchange programmes will be so important: they will help us to learn from each other’s ideas, and to take them back home with us for the benefit of all.”

The exchange programme aims to connect the Covenant of Mayors and the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and is expected to start later this year with a visit to the USCM’s Summer Plenary Session by a delegation from the Committee, with the return visit by US mayors expected to coincide with a key date in the Committee’s calendar, such as the OPEN DAYS Week of Regions and Cities in October, the annual signing ceremony of the Covenant of Mayors or the Summit of Regions and Cities in Copenhagen in early 2012.

President Bresso was invited to take part in the USCM meeting by its President, Elizabeth B. Kautz, who signed the cooperation agreement with her CoR counterpart last October in Brussels, under the auspices of the EU Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard. The Washington meeting will also give President Bresso a chance to share her vision of trans-Atlantic cooperation with a wide range of dignitaries, including USCM Vice-President and mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Caroline Kennedy, who will lead the celebrations commemorating the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration.

President Bresso will also meet with other senior figures from the White House administration, including the Secretary for Urban Development Shaun Donovan, the Secretary for Energy Steven Chu, and the director of the White House Office for Urban Affairs Derek Douglas, who will discuss issues as diverse as housing, energy efficiency, transportation, broadband access and local jobs schemes.

Following her October meeting with the US’s Ambassador to the EU in Brussels, William E. Kennard, President Bresso will also meet with the EU’s ambassador in Washington, João Vale de Almeida, to discuss how the CoR’s initiative will help develop EU-US relations by facilitating more direct contact at the grass-roots level, for example through the development of the town-twinning programme. The US visit also marks a new chapter in inter-institutional relations, with the CoR benefitting for the first time from the support of the EU Delegation in Washington and the new European External Action Service, created earlier this month.

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