President Jahier, Honourable Members, ladies and gentlemen, it's a great pleasure to be here.
I am very grateful for the invitation, because I wanted to come here very early in my mandate.
For a simple reason – I think of this committee as a crucial relly. Today we're talking about the green deal, about the new climate measures, and the circular economy action plan, and it's absolutely vital that these things don't stay in Brussels. They have to become a reality for people on the ground in the Member States, as soon as possible, and you have a central role in making that happen. So, thank you for this invitation, and thank you for your interest today.
European Green Deal
The Sustainable Development Goals are always going to be a priority for this Commission, as they are for the whole of Europe. They are the fundamental backdrop to our work. We will always have them in mind, and they act as a kind of a check on our progress – we'll always be asking ourselves, 'how are we doing' against those seventeen targets.
Today I'm here to talk about the main roadmap that we will be using on the path. The start was slightly delayed, but when the Commission started work, we were immediately at full speed presenting the European Green Deal early. It's our path not just to sustainability, but to a Europe we can be proud of in the world. A Europe in line with the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, the Europe that people really need.
There is no doubting the need for change. The Deal was adopted just a few days after the European Environment Agency published State of the Environment Report 2020. That report was a wake-up call. It told us that Europe’s environment is at a tipping point, and that despite the significant progress of the past two decades, our efforts have been too little to reverse negative trends.
The Green Deal turns that around. It is a new growth strategy, with sustainability and social justice at its heart. That's really the key – it signals that it's time to rethink the whole approach. It won't be enough to change things at the edges. We need deep and transformative change, and we need it as soon as possible.
The Deal sets out the agenda for that, with a broad range of changes.
The climate law will be central, but there are many other elements, and I will single out three in particular.
The first one is the Biodiversity Strategy. What we want to see is ambitious and realistic commitments. Commitments like more nature protection, and a plan to restore ecosystems to health. It will come with an enabling framework to spur transformative change, and ensure that we integrate a concern for ecosystems and all they deliver across all economic activities.
We want Biodiversity Strategy to lead to a turnaround in the way we think about nature. ‘A new Hippocratic oath, for the twenty-first century’.
These are the principles that we will be taking to the Nature COP 15, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China in October this year. We need the world on board, and for that to happen, we have to lead by example.
The second element I want to single out is our zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment.
The biodiversity strategy rethinks our relation to nature – this one rethinks our relationship to the environment. We need to prevent pollution before it happens, and remedy the pollution that's already there.
There will be two major components. A self-standing Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, to improve protection for citizens and the environment, and to encourage innovation, so we can develop alternatives that are safe and sustainable. And an Action Plan for air, water and soil, setting out the steps we need to follow.
I said there were three elements, and the third one will appear in March. It's the new Circular Economy Action Plan, to be presented together with the EU Industrial Strategy.
The first plan, five years ago, was a huge success, with all 54 actions completed on time.
Now we're building on that success, with a drive to take circularity to the mainstream. The timing of adoption, together with the industrial strategy, sends that signal, because this really is a business agenda. We need widespread transformation, and we need it in the industries where the footprints are really large.
So the focus will be on sectors where the impact is very high, sectors like textiles, construction, plastics and electronics. The aim is to look at the whole lifecycle of products. At the top of the list is preventing waste generation – stopping it before it happens. And when it does happen, we look for ways to transform that waste into a useful resource.
We are also planning a new framework for sustainable products. The Green Deal is all about transformative change, and for that to happen, green products have to become the norm – at prices the people can afford. It has to become a part of life. So the framework will be very broad, addressing all products placed on the EU market, with a view to extending their lifetime, giving consumers a new right, a true 'right to repair' and reducing the impacts derived from manufacturing and use.
Consumers are a vital part of the transformation, but they need better information. We want to help by tackling misleading green claims. People deserve honest information about the reparability and durability of products, and I want to be sure that they get it.
Of course we aren’t just talking about consumers. The circular community is very broad, and I know that you helped us set up the Stakeholder platform in 2017. Three years later it's still doing a great job, building a community of practice, and I am very happy to confirm that it will continue being a priority for both institutions.
As I said at the beginning, I am looking to you at the European Economic and Social Committee because this new Commission is all about reaching the people.
Oceans and Fisheries
Green always goes with Blue. The IPCC special report on the Ocean and the Cryosphere is clear: oceans are at the heart of the climate emergency, it’s the first victim in line. Sea levels rise, temperature increases, acidification, migration of fish stocks, dying of coral reefs, destruction of fragile ecosystems.
Our fishermen and women communities is on the top of this emergency.
Nevertheless oceans are also be a solution. As a part of the European Green Deal oceans will co-write this success story with all the capacity.
Take renewable energy, for instance. Already by 2030, renewables should provide at least 32% of the EU overall energy consumption. Marine renewable energy has an incredible potential. The offshore wind sector is growing strongly enough to compete with traditional energy sources. The emerging technologies such as wave and tidal energy will take the same pathway.
Blue bioeconomy brings us many opportunities. For example, algae are the ‘ocean gold’. It can bring high nutritional value at a low environmental impact, processed as biofuels or bioplastics, they turn their petrochemical alternatives obsolete.
The marine food sector can contribute to a net zero economy. Fish from aquaculture has in general a much lower carbon footprint than animal proteins from land sources. I find hope in fisheries and our fishing communities.
Thanks to the efforts made by them we already see that sustainable fishing pays off. Sustainability in fisheries serves both our planet and our fishing communities who deserve a chance to reap real economic rewards.
Many success stories show us that stocks that have been overfished can recover thanks to the ambitious actions taken. The latest efforts will have an impact already in the following year. In December we agreed on a number of substantial increases for more than 25 valuable fish stocks. The more sustainable we are, the more prosperous European fishermen and women will be, the better planet we will leave for future generations.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have made a great contribution to shaping the circular economy agenda, and we're counting on your commitment to help delivering the Green Deal.
President von der Leyen called it our "man on the moon" moment, and it is time to think in those terms. The Green Deal has the potential to unify Europe, in a common drive towards a different sort of society. We aren't going to the moon, we are staying here on Earth. But we need to treat the Earth in a radically different manner, with genuine transformative change.
The deal can deliver – provided we sell the dream. And for that to happen, we also need you. I'm sure you too can deliver.
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