Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
I’m very happy to be speaking with you today.
Especially as today carries a lot of significance for transatlantic relations: this evening, President Biden will address the European Council. And together, both sides of the Atlantic will share views on our future cooperation.
That cooperation touches all areas. But our changing climate is one of the most vital.
When we talk about climate change, the difference between one degree or two doesn’t mean much to most people.
But when you see the images of forest fires in Europe last Summer, or the winter storm in Texas a few weeks ago, what climate change really means is immediately obvious.
That is the reality we are facing.
Earlier this month, the European Central Bank identified climate change as “a major source of systemic risk” in its economic stress test for 4 million companies and 2,000 banks in Europe over the next 30 years.
Looking at all of this news combined, you realise that it doesn’t matter if your flag has the 12 stars of the European Union, or the 50 stars of the United States: climate change is something we all have to face.
And that’s why it’s such a good thing that the US is strongly back in the game.
It is a positive thing for the strength of transatlantic relations. The EU and the US have a long track record of cooperation in energy and climate. But there were times in the past, when one could fear that our Green Deal ambition could become an element of divergence with the US. Today, I can say that climate neutrality is an element of strength and union between the two sides of the Atlantic, because the overall objectives and the areas we want to tackle are very similar.
On our side of the Atlantic, the European Green Deal is the absolutely priority of this Commission.
We are aiming high: a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in one decade, by 2030. And becoming the first climate neutral continent by 2050.
Getting there means putting our full efforts behind boosting renewables across the European Union.
At the same time, we are leading with the message that green equals growth.
And that’s important, now more than ever because of the pandemic.
IRENA, the International Renewable Agency, estimates that investments in the energy transition will add 5.5 million jobs in 2023. And at the same time, technologies in the renewables, power grids and energy efficiency sectors will have an employment intensity three times that of the figures we see in the fossil fuel sector.
So, the opportunities are there for the taking. We need to seize them if we are going to build back better after the pandemic, and build towards 2050.
As we know where we want to be by 2050, we are working full steam ahead to shape the regulation and policies we need for this new world.
In 2020 we identified what we needed to change across the entire system, from energy efficiency, to renewables, to boosting established markets, and how we create new low-carbon ones.
So, we brought forward strategic documents on hydrogen, methane, energy system integration, offshore energy, and wave of renovation for Europe’s buildings. We also brought forward a revision of the Trans-European Networks for energy – essentially a new vision for the European energy infrastructure holding our system together.
And if 2020 was the year of strategies, 2021 will be the year of action.
Right now we are working on concrete legislative proposals for June to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Our Fit For 55 package will include revising our legislation for energy efficiency and renewables in line with our new ambitions.
It will also provide for measures to support sustainable mobility and propose the extension of the Emission Trading Scheme to sectors such as building and road transport. The proposal will be complemented by a review of energy taxation, and a carbon border adjustment mechanism to address carbon leakage.
Altogether, these strategies and proposals give us the direction and momentum we need. But the changes we are willing to make are some of the biggest in history. So we need some of the biggest investment in history to match.
In the EU we are talking about an increase of around 350 billion euros per year compared to the past decade.
This year, EU leaders have agreed on the largest long term budget in the history of our Union, 1.1 trillion euros. At least 30% of this will be dedicated to climate mainstreaming.
On top of that, as part of our Recovery Plan post-COVID, we have a total of 672.5 billion euros to inject into the economy over the next four years. And at least 37% must be dedicated to the green recovery.
That brings the total available financial firepower to 1.8 trillion euros.
All told, this is a positive signal, but public funding can only be part of the solution. In parallel, we are finalising our rules to guide private capital towards sustainable investments. The European Union is working on the world's first ever classification system of environmentally sustainable economic activities with what we call the EU Taxonomy.
That said, we have always known how hard it is to make change happen, the toughest challenge would be to make the Green Deal a lever to bringing about change at global level
And now, that the US is back on the Paris Agreement track, we have an opportunity to make this change happen, if we lead together, with the same purpose.
Part of that purpose is making sure that no one is left behind in the transition. Change will not affect everyone in the same way or at the same pace.
There are real people and communities behind the numbers.
If the only job you’ve ever had relies on fossil fuels, it’s unimaginable to see it going away.
That’s why we launched the Just Transition Initiative so that no one is left behind. We want to export this approach and propose a people-centred global transition and phase out of coal.
This is what I mean by leading with purpose. And we can be united in doing this.
Now is the time to for a renewed EU-US global agenda and ambition. The starting point is of course strengthening the way we work together, bilaterally. I see, technology, innovation, climate and energy as the best areas for redefining our cooperation.
I’ve already had a very friendly conversation with Secretary Granholm, and it’s clear we see eye to eye on the key issues.
We have agreed to relaunch the EU-US Energy Council. We want to make it a dynamic ground where business will be able to share their experience, network and develop new projects. We will look at opportunities to accompany our political discussion with business-to-business events.
Similarly, we are getting ready right now for COP26 to move the discussions forward on energy and climate, including on methane emission reductions and a just transition out of coal.
With the US, we share the vision that innovation and breakthrough clean technologies are needed to make the transition faster, cheaper and more capable to generate growth. So, we’re also looking into a new green tech alliance. The idea here is to create lead markets and cooperate on clean technologies, like renewables, batteries and clean hydrogen. This would pave the way for investment to the benefit of green companies on both sides of the Atlantic. We could create more opportunities for business, remove barriers, and share knowledge, experiences and best practices for all.
At the same time, our international cooperation with the US could extend to ways to support partner countries in Africa, Asia and in the developing world, to meet their own climate commitments. We need to offer practical, viable alternatives to fossil fuels, which can also open opportunities for our technologies and companies in third countries.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Voices for a sustainable transition are getting louder and louder. We see an increasing number of countries committing to net zero objectives. Something has shifted across the world, a growing awareness of the need to embrace a clean energy future has emerged.
The US has returned as a leading player in the push to net zero. Their re-joining the Paris agreement gives me a great sense of hope that we have strong allies.
I do believe that, together, we can be a driving force.
Fighting climate change is a zero-sum game: either we all succeed, or none of us do.
So, I am committed to building a renewed transatlantic cooperation in the energy field. You are the best placed to understand the need for such an enhanced transatlantic cooperation. I count on your support and your active contribution to make this happen.