“Local-proofing” the European Green Deal: the make-or-break factor

Concrete suggestions from the Committee of the Regions to ensure the Green Deal is implementable at local level

Joško Klisović, a former diplomat with experience representing Croatia in sustainable development at the United Nations and the President of Zagreb City Assembly, embodies a unique blend of idealism and pragmatism. He envisions an all-encompassing European Green Deal, one that tackles not just climate change but also inequality, injustice, and poverty.

Klisović’s dream is for the European Green Deal to serve as a pilot agenda for a Global Green Deal, addressing all United Nations’ sustainable development goals and global climate change challenges. At the same time, he knows how to ground these visions into reality. His daily responsibilities as the President of Zagreb City Assembly involve implementing concrete Green Deal measures at the local level, including dealing with the aftermath of devastating storms the past summer. This practical experience enables him to offer specific recommendations for making the Green Deal a reality.

Josko Klisovic - photo for Covenant of Mayors

Klisović’s dual perspective makes him an ideal leader for the Committee of the Region’s Opinion on revising the governance of the European Green Deal, entitled “A multilevel governance for the Green Deal: towards the revision of the Governance regulation”. His recommendations aim to both broaden and “local proof” the Green Deal, ensuring its successful implementation. In our conversation with him, we explore his vision and the practical steps needed to achieve it.

The success of the Green Deal, in Joško Klisović’s view, depends on effective coordination, coherence, and the active involvement of local and regional authorities in the decision-making process.

An all-encompassing Green Deal

In the Opinion, Joško Klisović envisions the European Green Deal as a comprehensive framework and umbrella policy that incorporates economic development, environmental protection, and climate change adaptation while considering social impacts. This inclusive approach, in his view, should extend to neglected areas such as health, gender issues, and social justice.

Towards a wellbeing economy

In this optic, the Opinion defends the idea of the Green Deal becoming the framework for a “wellbeing economy”. This means the Green Deal, by becoming an umbrella policy can unify diverse policies into a harmonious framework to prevent regional and social disparities. The concept of “wellbeing” transcends GDP indicators, projecting an economic model that encompasses economic, social, environmental, and climate aspects. This is the only way to ensure that no one is left behind, and that progress in one area does not create damage in any areas.

Klisović’s Opinion stresses the importance of breaking down policy silos and reconciling different policies, especially through aligning the European semester with the Green Deal. He believes that an integrated approach is necessary to ensure a better life for all citizens in the European Union.

I don’t believe that Green Deal can succeed unless it embraces that economic component. And that’s why we are advocating and pushing for aligning the European semester with the Green Deal. Economic Governance with the governance of Environment and Climate Protection. Why? Because they can’t go without each other. We know how governments carefully consider recommendations which they get through the EU economic semester. So, let’s green the semester.

“Local-Proofing” for Successful Implementation

Klisović emphasises the need to “local proof” the Green Deal, as local and regional authorities are responsible for directly implementing 75% of its provisions. To make this happen, he identifies two crucial elements that are currently lacking: competent personnel and financing.

Administrative capacities in local governments are currently insufficient, and personnel often lack the necessary knowledge and training to implement modern policies effectively. Klisović stresses the importance of training to empower local authorities to be innovative and creative.

Projects require funding, and while there are national and European funds available, they are not always accessible to local and regional authorities. Klisović suggests that direct access to EU funding or other simplified funding mechanisms should be considered to help local governments implement the Green Deal.

Well, the Green Deal is really just a plan, just words on the paper, unless we have proper and strong implementation mechanism. What we need is implementation-proof Green Deal. Who is implementing it? 75% of it is directly implemented by local and regional authorities. So, we need to really ensure adequate resources for the local and regional authorities to effectively implement Green Deal.

Enhancing collaboration between different levels of government

The core of Klisović’s Opinion on revising the Green Deal’s governance is focused on enhancing collaboration and cooperation between local, national, and European levels. He highlights that local and regional authorities, responsible for implementation, are often not adequately consulted when defining policies, goals, measures, action plans, and strategies. This lack of consultation creates difficulties when local authorities are tasked with implementation. The current governance system, in Klisović’s view, falls short in this regard.

His recommendations for improvement include:

  • Establishing a permanent consultation mechanism between governments and local authorities.
  • Requiring National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) to include a specific chapter dedicated to implementation, outlining support for local authorities.
  • Creating a one-stop-shop where local authorities can access information and guidance.
  • Formally engaging the Committee of the Regions in consultations that shape policies and strategic documents adopted by the Council and Parliament.

For this to happen, local and regional governments should be considered as more than just stakeholders as they are now. They should be treated as representatives of public interest, positioning them as equals around the discussion table with Member States regarding the definition of these policies and strategies. He cites the NECPlatform project , in which Croatia is taking part, as a good example of dialogues providing us with guidelines on how to implement effective multilevel dialogues on energy and climate.

We are representatives of public interest; we are people elected by the people, just like national governments are, or the representatives in the European Parliament. So, once they start to treat us as representatives of people, and protector of public interest, and provide us with full respect in that context, it means we sit together around the table, that we are considered as equal partners. I think that we deserve to sit around the table when at least these important strategic policies are considered.

What’s next?

Joško Klisović acknowledges that the upcoming European elections and the subsequent Commission’s orientation will significantly influence the Green Deal’s future. They will determine whether this vision becomes a reality.

Fortunately, Joško Klisović perceives a rising interest from the current European Commission in the issues addressed in the Opinion, saying that they followed it closely. He feels that local governments are becoming more and more relevant for the EU as the shift of focus on the Green Deal turns to implementation. But of course, recognising this importance is just a starting point: it needs to be embedded into law. This is why revising the Green Deal governance is paramount. And the Committee of the Region’s Opinion provides specific and concrete recommendations to institutionalise the significance of the local level.

We believe we’ve been practical and realistic in our Opinion, utilising existing tools. It’s not about reinventing the wheel but ensuring a solid foundation for the Green Deal. If the next Commission is mandated to advance the Green Deal, our recommendations are precise: involve all levels in decision-making, consider all relevant actors, address administrative capacity, and ensure adequate financing. And we’re talking about the basis. We’re not proposing a sophisticated third phase of developing the Green Deal: just reviewing the foundation. If this is not sorted out properly, the whole edifice will eventually crumble.

Read the full interview with Joško Klisović on the Covenant of Mayors website.