President Solana, Vice-President Ribera, Mister Pavia, ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon from Brussels.
It’s a pleasure to be speaking with you today. You have chosen one of the most fascinating aspects of the Green Deal. The geopolitical context of our energy relations is more pivotal than ever.
Energy is fundamentally about power. That might seem like an obvious statement from a Commissioner for Energy. And it goes without saying that energy powers our homes and our economies. But what I mean is that it is also about power dynamics. Energy has always contributed to the rise and decline of great powers, it has shaped alliances and it has even triggered conflicts. As a strong global power, Europe must consider the implications that this new Green Deal world has in the relationships with other global actors.
With the Green Deal, we will spend the next 30 years on the road to climate neutrality. We will work with both - allies and those with competing interests.
And like all relationships, it will be complex.
Today I want to speak to you about that complexity.
To begin with, the Green Deal project foresees Europe to be a front-runner.
In the context of the Green Deal, what we want for Europe is quite simple: to be the first climate neutral continent by 2050.
We set ourselves this goal because it is urgent to address the climate emergency. And because we want to benefit from the first mover advantage that will give our economy and industry an edge in the global competition of the future.
Yet, being a front-runner does not mean playing solo. Europe accounts for around 8% of global emission. So, to address global climate change, we need others to follow the same path - to become our partners in the clean energy transition.
Europe has two assets to advocate here: our high climate ambition and our just transition policy model.
The European Union showed leadership announcing its climate neutrality goal for 2050. Last December EU leaders also agreed to step up commitment to reduce emissions by 2030. This is now the EU’s nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement.
Several other major international partners have announced as well net zero commitments. We can look at 2021 with optimism. As a year of global climate action. Thanks to the COP 26 but also the actions of G20 and G7 led by the UK and Italy, Europe will be a driving force of this collective effort.
But Europe can be a powerful promotor of climate ambitions also because it can offer a model of a socially just Green Deal transition, which leaves no one behind. We can share our experience of tools such as the Coal Regions in Transition Initiative, and the Just Transition Mechanism.
We can show that economic and energy diversification is possible and can create better jobs and growth for societies.
So as I said, we want to be leaders, but we have important work to do as partners.
The Green Deal is not just an agenda to transform Europe’s economy and society. It has an impact beyond our borders, and most of all, on our closest partners and in our neighbourhood. That’s why this must be a focus of our external energy action.
Most recently, the change of administration in the United States allows us to expect for renewed cooperation on our energy and climate goals. President Biden’s immediate actions on climate issues - including rejoining the Paris agreement - are a positive sign for the clean energy transition.
We hope to organise an EU-US Energy Council as soon as possible now that the new State Secretary and Secretary of energy is in office.
We also need to seek new opportunities for cooperation with our neighbours East and South and understand their different challenges and ambitions. We need to support the uptake of the EU’s energy acquis, rules and standards, and promote energy market integration and interconnectivity with them.
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, we are supporting a green and digital transition. Here, energy efficiency, renewables and regional market integration are firmly on the agenda.
The energy transition can also be a unique opportunity to reset our relations with the Mediterranean region and contribute to stabilisation and growth. We will soon present a communication on a renewed partnership for the Southern Neighbourhood. On the horizon is also the next Union for the Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Energy in April in Portugal. Here we can set a new decarbonisation ambition for the Mediterranean region. And we have a perfect opportunity to enhance our partnership and offer new perspectives for cooperation.
If we look further south to our partners in Africa, we are working jointly on a Green Energy Initiative. We are concentrating on three main areas:
- Increasing the share of renewables
- Supporting energy access
- and energy efficiency
Building an energy partnership with Africa is a key strategic interest for our external relations.
I’ve spoken about leadership and partnership around the world. All of this should go hand in hand with strengthening Europe’s open strategic autonomy.
The Green Deal transition, as any transition, will transform Europe’s and global economic and trade relationship. Building a climate neutral economy powered by renewables will help Europe reduce its energy import bill.
But it will not make us an energy island. Even when we turn towards cleaner fuels, Europe will continue to be at the centre of a web of import and export flows. So, we must continue to promote cooperation and collaboration in the global energy system.
The EU is a green tech global leader, in areas like offshore renewables. Our external energy policy must seek to ensure a level playing for EU businesses in third countries. We need to integrate more climate and energy considerations into our trade policy.
At the same time, we will invest in strengthening cooperation with partners on innovation and research - bilaterally or through global fora such as Mission Innovation and the Clean Energy Ministerial.
We must also adapt to new challenges in our energy security and resilience. Until now, Europe has been a major oil and gas importer. But in the future, our concern must shift to ensuring a secure, transparent and diversified access to the critical raw materials necessary for our new energy system to function.
It’s quite simple: we cannot fall into new dependencies if we are to take our energy future in our own hands.
Europe has concrete plans to diversify the supply of raw materials and also, focus much more on the recycling of what we already have. We aim to decrease our dependency even when the demand increases.
Looking into trade, I want to mention the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism. This is where our internal and external Green Deal agendas come together.
The objective of the Mechanism is to reduce the risk of carbon leakage and make sure that the price of imports reflects their carbon content. We want to safeguard the EU economy from unfair competition and encourage our partners to adopt a level of climate ambition similar to the EU. Our external partners are free to choose their own paths but we need to be able to count on their fair engagement.
We have reflected these international dimensions in all the flagship strategies we adopted last year, such as our proposals on hydrogen, methane emissions reduction or offshore energy. With our hydrogen strategy being the one that exemplifies best our international projection of the Green Deal.
As I speak, we have the political, the financial and the market conditions in Europe to become the global powerhouse of hydrogen.
We have adopted a European approach by launching the EU Strategy for Hydrogen in July and with it the Clean Hydrogen Alliance.
The Strategy lays out our vision for quickly scaling up renewable hydrogen production, driving down the costs and boosting demand in hard-to-abate sectors.
And that vision comes with a set of ambitious targets:
6 GW of electrolysers installed by 2024, and 40 GW by 2030.
Europe is not alone is seeing the potential in green hydrogen. Interest is growing across the global arena. International cooperation will be key to build a global playing field for all.
What we are proposing is a global rules-based market for hydrogen. And at the heart of that market are harmonised safety and environmental standards.
And it’s in this spirit that we plan on placing hydrogen high on the agenda of the structured energy dialogues with other countries in all positions of the energy trade: countries with great potential like Morocco or Ukraine or Chile, importers like Korea and Japan, and those countries with one foot on each side. We are also strengthening our engagement in multilateral initiatives related to hydrogen, such as the International Partnership for Hydrogen in the Economy, the Hydrogen initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial and the Mission Innovation on Clean Hydrogen.
Currency also comes into the equation: we see great potential for the role of the euro as a reference currency in the international trade of sustainable energy. Now, we have the opportunity to develop the EU hydrogen economy into a reference market and establish a reliable benchmark for euro denominated transactions.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Green Deal brings with it a deep transformation unlike one we have ever seen. So we have upped the stakes.
Our relationships, partnerships and cooperation will change over time. This is the way of international diplomacy.
But we must make sure that as the power dynamics shift we are always clear in our intentions towards others. And that we shape a global energy system based on cooperation and partnership. A better, greener and more just global system that reflects Europe’s values and interests.