• Mayors, unions and the IEA vow to work together as spiralling fossil fuel prices threaten living standards and risk pushing millions more Europeans into energy poverty.
  • European mayors and union leaders say to tackle the energy poverty crisis we need to dramatically reduce gas dependency by boosting renewables and retrofits that will also create good, green jobs
  • An emergency plan for European cities was put forward by mayors to protect vulnerable residents by scaling investment in relief, retrofits and renewables in cities, with national support needed.

The Mayor of London and Chair of C40 Cities, the Mayor of Barcelona and Vice Chair of C40 Cities, and the Secretary General of the International Trade Union Confederation convened a group of Europe’s leading mayors from the C40 Cities network, international and European trade union leaders and the International Energy Agency (IEA) today, to agree upon the emergency actions needed to avert the looming energy poverty crisis facing their cities. 

Mayors warned that poor historic decision-making has contributed to the energy poverty crisis and proposed an emergency action plan for Europe to cut household energy bills and accelerate a just energy transition. C40 analysis shows that 55% of gas consumption in C40 member cities is used for heating and cooling in residential buildings, tying residents to volatile fossil fuels, and there are three times more jobs in European energy efficiency and retrofit markets than would be created by investment in fossil gas.

Mayors of Barcelona, Glasgow, Heidelberg, London, Milan, Oslo and Warsaw vowed to work together with unions, governments and the IEA to double down on delivering their science-based climate action plans. 

Noting what the IEA deems necessary to solve the crisis, mayors put forward a comprehensive emergency plan that can accelerate the delivery of actions and policies to help residents and workers living in cities, and called on national governments to step up their ambition and support cities with the funding and powers they need. Mayors called on national governments to scale up their emergency response to the crisis, including prioritising recovery funds and ‘windfall taxes’ on energy companies, to deliver emergency measures and devolving the powers cities need to deliver and accelerate action.

City and union leaders declared the opportunities in the retrofit and renewable revolution must be seized now, to create good paying jobs for those who need them most, with training and green jobs programmes for people to access roles and deliver results for residents. 

Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), endorsed emergency interventions from city and union leaders, saying city-led action is a vital component of the IEA’s own recent 10-Point Plan to Reduce the European Union’s Reliance on Russian Natural Gas, including faster deployment of residential solar to reduce consumer bills and accelerating the shift to heat pumps in homes.

The emergency plan embraces the IEA challenge and aims to accelerate relief, retrofits and renewables in cities.

Workers installing solar panel on roof framework of new home, Netherlands
© Mischa Keijser / Getty Images

Mayor of London and C40 Chair, Sadiq Khan, says, “The climate emergency is the biggest global threat we face today, and our reliance on fossil fuels has left us vulnerable to sky-rocketing prices. Moving to clean energy will not only help save our planet, but create many highly skilled, well paid green jobs. We must all play our part in helping cities around the world become greener, fairer and more prosperous for all. The time to act is now.” 

Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau says, “Many families are torn between eating or paying for energy bills because of the lack of energy-efficient housing, together with the rise of house and energy prices. The invasion of Ukraine and sky-rocketing increases in energy prices are worsening the social crisis created by COVID-19 and thrusting vulnerable European households deeper into poverty.” 

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, ITUC says, “Shockingly, energy bills are set to rise 14 times faster than wages this year in some European countries. There is an urgent need for investment in European renewables, their supply chains and building retrofits with well paid jobs in the region, one of the best ways of preventing people falling into poverty. Unions are ready to work with cities on relief, retrofits and renewables to keep energy bills down, to help millions of households facing energy poverty this winter and to help reduce dependency on natural gas.”

Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency (IEA) says, “We are witnessing the first truly global energy crisis – broader and more complex than the oil shocks of the 1970s, which the IEA was established to address. Pump prices and energy bills have shot up as a result of Russia’s aggression, but we can reduce both the harm being faced by vulnerable consumers and Russia’s fossil fuel revenues if we take action to cut demand for oil and gas imports today. Countries, cities, households and businesses must prioritise energy conservation, energy efficiency and low carbon technologies now. Mayors and national governments must support them by unlocking clean energy policies and investment on an unprecedented scale.” 

Mark Watts, Executive Director, C40 Cities says, “Collective government failure to act faster on low carbon transition has left our elderly and most vulnerable dangerously exposed to air pollution and energy bills they can’t afford. To free European cities from their reliance on gas and coal we need joined-up, emergency action to insulate every home and office, and power them with renewable energy, while making it cheaper, faster and safer to cycle or take the bus than drive a car. Mayors and trade unions have today established the foundation for a plan to deliver just that.

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