Southampton has joined thousands of European Cities by signing up to an initiative that pledges to cut CO2 emissions by more than 20 per cent.

Council leader Richard Williams, pictured, signed up to the European Covenant of Mayors initiative along with the chairman of the Town and Country Planning Association at a ceremony at the city’s SeaCity museum.

The council wants to reduce carbon emissions in the city by 34 per cent by 2020, compared to 1990 levels, and by 40 per cent across council buildings over the next ten years.

The signing comes as delegates from nine other European local authorities visit the city as part of a two day conference called leadership for energy action and planning (LEAP).

Delegates from Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Lithuania, Slovenia and the Republic of Ireland were given a tour of the four tower blocks in Inter-national Way to see the refurbishment works to improve insulation, introduce new heating system and roof top solar panels.

The £9m works, which were initially criticised by some residents and Cllr Williams himself as “shoddy”, have been largely funded by British Gas through a Department of Energy scheme to promote energy saving. Cllr Williams ordered an £10,000 inquiry into the work after the complaints.

The Covenant of Mayors is a European movement involving local and regional authorities who are voluntarily committing to increasing energy efficiency and use of renewable energy above national targets.

By signing up Southampton City Council will have to come up with an energy action plan within the next year to exceed the 20/20 target.

It will also have to publish progress reports every two years, organise city “energy days”, and otherwise spread the message of the covenant of mayors.

So far more than 4,000 authorities signed up to the initiative, mostly in Italy and Spain, but also including 34 in the UK.