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EU research and innovation supports delivery on COP21 commitments

Brussels, 8 December 2015

The European Commission announces a new Research, Innovation and Competitiveness Strategy of the Energy Union at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.

The Commission would like the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21), currently underway, to make the transition to decarbonisation irreversible and kick-start a low-carbon innovation race. The EU should take the lead in this race through research and innovation (R&I). This is what the Commission is proposing through the Research, Innovation and Competitiveness Strategy of the Energy Union, announced today by Maroš Šefčovič, Commission Vice-President for the Energy Union, and Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, at the COP 21 flagship event on "Research and innovation: Our energy for a low-carbon future".

Commissioner Moedas said: "Limiting the warming of the world's climate to below 2°C from pre-industrial level may be the defining social and scientific endeavour of this century. Our view is that investment in energy research and innovation is still far too low. It is now time for swift and coordinated action. To make low and inconsistent public and private investment in European energy research and innovation is a thing of the past."

R&I will be critical for achieving global climate goals. The EU is expected to invest at least 35% of its €77 billion research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, into climate-related activities. This is a substantial increase on previous EU programmes, especially as regards investment into clean energy research and innovation.

The research, innovation and competitiveness strategy is a crucial part of the Energy Union, the EU's key energy policy initiative. It will be launched in 2016, and aims to ensure public support for innovative low-carbon technology as well as support the creation of the right policy environment to stimulate innovation and competition. It will also include an "open science – open innovation" initiative on pathways for decarbonisation by 2050, since the low-carbon transition does not only concern the energy sector, but rather society as a whole.

The High-level Panel that will steer the initiative will be chaired by Commissioner Moedas and will comprise personalities from academia, business and society. Among those are also the three guest speakers of today's event: Lord Nicholas Stern, Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, Professor Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber, Founding Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Peter Bakker, President and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The objective is to build and deepen our knowledge on feasible post-2030 decarbonisation pathways and their implications, and to create a public discourse informed by science and broadly discussed with stakeholders. It will support the definition of cost-effective ways for Europe to achieve its longer-term climate objectives while maximising societal benefits and economic prosperity. This can mean market opportunities for European industry, both within Europe and globally, and therefore growth and jobs.

Background:

Through Horizon 2020, the EU is expected to invest at least 35% of its €77 billion budget in climate-related actions, representing a substantial increase of investments, in particular in low-carbon technologies. Research and innovation actions under Horizon 2020 will play an important role in mapping out possible decarbonisation pathways, which are economically and environmentally sustainable, socially and politically acceptable and technologically sound.

For several decades, the European Union has supported climate science to understand the nature of climate change, the magnitude of its impact and the required scale of mitigation to limit global warming. Around 250 multidisciplinary pan-European research projects underpinning various climate challenges have been funded by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration Activities (2007-2013), for an estimated budget of €800 million. This contributes to the European leadership in climate change research: almost one over two publications worldwide comes from Europe. In the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCCAR5), over 1000 key citations from EU-funded projects can be found. Several of these projects (e.g. AMPERE, LIMITS, Carbon-CAP) provided useful insights for the COP 21 negotiations, assessing for example the costs and benefits to the transition to a low-carbon economy and supporting the definition of optimised mitigation policies.

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