BRUSSELS Five hundred European Union cities pledged on Tuesday to exceed the EU's climate targets, signing up to do more to cut their emissions of climate warming gas.
The EU plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions to one fifth below 1990 levels over the next decade, but the coalition of cities signed up to the Covenant of Mayors which aims to outperform that goal by sharing knowledge and low-carbon strategies.
"Smart green buildings, smart transport and logistics and, in general, the whole concept of smart cities are job-intensive activities that contribute directly to the local economy," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
"Crucially, they also make a positive contribution to other issues, such as social integration, quality of life, well-being, and the attractiveness of our cities."
European lawmakers said they had persuaded the EU's executive, the European Commission, to redirect several hundred million euros of unused budget into energy-efficiency measures which would help the cities.
The money comes from the European Economic Recovery Plan, which is mostly targeted at gas and power infrastructure, as well as wind power and clean coal technology. But not all projects are starting as planned.
"We know 115 million euros of unspent budget will be available already, and this could rise to as much as 400 million euros by the end of the year," said Luxembourg politician Claude Turmes.
Almost half of the 500 towns and cities which have pledged to do more to cut their climate warming gas emissions are in Italy, with over 100 from Spain.
But only one British city, the North Sea oil industry hub Aberdeen and just eight German town councils have signed up.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Fineren, Editing by Michael Hogan)