Dear rector, Ms Mogherini,

Professor Dirk Buschle,

Faculty Members,

Students,

Good afternoon. It is such a pleasure to be here today. Thank you for the invitation to speak.

You’ve all heard about the Green Deal and the clean energy transition. Today I want to talk to you about the Green Deal and energy in a different way.

Let me start with three words: Purpose. Plans. And Partnership.

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So I’ll begin with Purpose.

Why the Green Deal? What’s its purpose? Well, the answer really is you.

The Green Deal is about extending our sight to future generations.

If we don’t act now, by the middle of this century you will be forced to live in a world very different from now. A hotter, drier world, with more frequent extreme weather events, large inhabitable parts of land, less biodiversity and more conflicts about scarce natural resources. Our changing climate will impact every aspect of your lives, your health, your safety, your society. And the same goes for the lives of the generations that will come after you.  

All of this can be avoided. This is the essence of the Paris Agreement, and keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees.  If we want to make good on this promise, we need to act. That’s why, the European Union has decided to:

  • push for climate neutrality by 2050.
  • And reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% in the next decade.

But before we even get to the middle of the century, the Green Deal will have another clear purpose: Recovery.

The last 15 months have not been easy for anyone.

And the longer lasting impacts of this pandemic on our economy could take more of a toll on your future than forcing you to attend lectures behind screens.

The Green Deal gives us an opportunity, not only to recover, but to build back better. Because our growth model was unsustainable, not only for our environment, but also for our industry. We can have an industrial future in the competitive global economy only if we switch to innovative, cleaner technologies. In this way only, we can regain an edge in global competition, reaping the benefits of being the first movers.

As part of the EU’s Recovery Plan, we have a total of 672.5 billion EUR to inject into the economy over the next four years. And at least 37% must be dedicated to the green recovery.

To help direct private investment to clean energy projects the Commission also recently adopted a set of criteria to identify sustainable activities driven by the “Do not Harm Principle”. This taxonomy – as we call it - is a ground breaking global benchmark. And it is designed to shift investment towards sustainable products and practices also pushing for changes towards clean energy technologies.

 

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So, that is the purpose of the Green Deal. It’s a vision, and a direction of travel to pave the way for generations to come.

That vision will only come about if we have concrete Plans in the energy sector to reach our climate targets.

Last year we launched a number of flagship strategies in the key energy sectors.

With  the Energy System Integration strategy , we set a new vision for a digitalised, integrated and circular energy system, driven by electrification, powered by renewables and relying on energy efficiency first and reducing energy waste.

We also made our bet on hydrogen, which some call the fuel of the future. It could decarbonise our society and remove our reliance on gas and other fossil fuels. Imagine a future where steel making, chemicals or cement are green and competitive productions, with a fraction of today’s emissions. Imagine ships or heavy duty tracks running on e-fuels. This is the vision of our

EU Strategy for Hydrogen adopted last July.

The Strategy lays out our vision for quickly scaling up renewable hydrogen production, driving down the costs, boosting demand in hard-to-abate sectors, making Europe the global hydrogen powerhouse.

And that vision comes with a set of ambitious targets:

6 GW of electrolysers installed by 2024, and 40 GW by 2030.

We also brought forward a Communication on a Renovation Wave for Europe.

Because energy efficiency renovation of our buildings is another area that will make the difference.

We know that the buildings we inhabit all over Europe are for the most part old and inefficient. Almost 75% of them by our calculation. We need to reduce their carbon emissions by 60%.

So, we want to kick start a Renovation Wave: doubling the annual energy renovation rate of Europe’s building stock by 2030. In real terms, that’s 35 million buildings.

And we estimate that an additional 160,000 jobs could be created in the EU construction sector as a result.

Important - now more than ever - as our economies open up again.

I also want to mention our plans for offshore renewable energy.

Only few know that we are undisputed global leaders in this area. The best technologies, the best engineering expertise, the best patents are all Europeans. That’s an advantage that we cannot afford to lose. There’s no room for complacency. So we have set our ambitions high as we did for hydrogen.

Our goal is 300GW of offshore wind capacity and 40GW of ocean energy capacity across our sea basins by the middle of the century.

Our strategy on offshore renewable energy that we launched last November brings a shift in thinking pushing Member States to think offshore renewable on a regional and collaborative scale and support the entire industrial value chain.

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The third word is Partnership.

Until now I’ve talked about the EU’s plans. But

we cannot do this alone. Not least because we are only responsible for 8% of global emissions. If we act alone, our efforts will be a drop in the carbon ocean.

And also because of the scale of change we need. We are looking at the biggest intentional societal transformation ever to take place. Success will mean working with partners across the globe.

We are already seeing the ripple effects of our leadership in Europe:

  • The clean energy transition is picking up pace and speed, everywhere.
  • G7 economies have all taken net zero commitments.
  • And many other countries across the globe are lining up their new national commitments.

The change of administration in the United States is a chance for renewed cooperation on our energy and climate goals. President Biden’s actions on climate issues beginning with his decision to rejoin the Paris agreement - are a positive sign.

We also need to seek new opportunities for cooperation with our neighbours East and South. And that means understanding their different challenges and ambitions.

The clean energy transition is becoming a flagship in our relations with the Western Balkans. By mobilising up to 9 billion EUR for investment in the region with the Investment Agenda for the Western Balkans.

The Green Deal also gives us a unique opportunity to reset our relations with the Mediterranean region and contribute to stabilisation and growth. We have adopted just yesterday a Declaration on energy with all our partners of the Union for Mediterranean. This was a real milestone. All Southern partners, from Jordan to Morocco, spoke about their renewable plans. We want to support these ambitions. The Green Deal is a way to reset our relations with the Southern Neighbourhood

If we look further south to our partners in Africa, we are working jointly on a Green Energy Initiative to increase the share of renewables and supporting energy access across the continent.

Beyond these efforts, we also need to perform a balancing act between partnership and open strategic autonomy.

With the Green Deal we  take our energy future into our own hands,. Butwe can’t risk moving from the dependency from fossil fuels to other forms of dependency, on critical raw materials or global supply chains.

The pandemic has shown us the importance of a shortened supply chain. At some stage, our offshore wind industries had to stop working because crucial components from Asia could not be supplied.

So, we are taking those lessons and developing concrete plans to diversify the supply of raw materials. We want to build shorter supply chains and strengthen partnerships with countries with whom we have “common dependencies”.

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Students, ladies and gentlemen, these are the three pillars of the Green Deal when it comes to energy: Purpose, Plans and Partnership. But I want to end with one final word.

That’s Potential

We are setting a vision for the future. But it’s up to your generation to carry that torch.

I was an 18 year old student when I first got involved in national politics.

And I did so because I knew that I didn’t have to accept the world as it was.

That there is always potential for change.

And that potential is something that all of you here today have.

Now, I’m not saying all of you should become politicians! But when you leave the College of Europe, no matter what you end up pursuing, consider that you have the potential to transform your society just like we are trying to do with the Green Deal.

This is where I will end my remarks. I’m looking forward to hearing your questions.

Thank you.