Thank you so much,
It really is a pleasure to be here dear Commissioner Abou-Zeid, it is always great to see you, especially now on this fascinating topic.
Ramadan Kareem to you and to everyone who is now celebrating Ramadan.
I’m really happy that we can have a discussion about what I believe is an essential topic for our two continents.
We might not have the same starting position, but we certainly have the same destination and I would say the same destiny. We are two sister continents that depend on each other for each other’s future.
2021 is going to be a critical year in determining that future because of the COP conferences in China and in Glasgow, on biodiversity and on the next phase in how we deal with the climate crisis. We need to raise our global ambitions and we need to secure a good outcome of these COPs. And when we do that, we need to make sure that everybody is part of this. This means not just talking about emission reductions but also about adaptation and mitigation. About enhancing technology transfer, enhancing the transition to new energy resourcing and leapfrogging some of the developments that would lead to higher emissions rather than to more sustainable energy systems.
We can already see, both in in Africa and in Europe, climate change has a huge impact already: On weather patterns, we have seen disastrous floods, severe droughts, the locust infestations we have seen in Eastern Africa for instance are a clear indication of that, completely unpredictable seasons, also in Africa. It is impacting food systems, water systems and I don’t want to overdramatise but it is hardly possible to overdramatise if we don’t fix this, if we don’t start fixing this right now, our children will wage war over water and food. It is that dramatic, I have to say.
We have a global commitment; we have a United Nations Secretary-General who has convened a high-level dialogue in September to promote the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. So we know what we have to do.
That is why this year we need to do everything we can, not only on climate but also to launch a decade action on universal energy access
The EU and its Member States have more than doubled their contributions since 2013 to support partner countries opting for a sustainable development path, by limiting greenhouse gas emissions and coping with the impacts of climate change. Over the coming seven years, 30% of our cooperation budget will go towards tackling climate change.
In the energy sector, Africa is facing a paradox: while African countries are among the world’s richest in sustainable energy resources, around 600 million people do not have access to electricity today.
And living in energy poverty severely constrains human development as it limits the development of economic activities, compromises health and hygiene conditions and hinders the possibility of education. If you have all this incredible talent in this very very young continent, it is just a shame if that talent is not allowed to flourish. Just think how you could study if there are no lights, how you could distribute vaccines if there is no refrigeration! So these are the things we need to address urgently.
What we propose, from the European Union, is to make energy access one of the main pillars of Green Deal cooperation between Europe and Africa. But we cannot limit ourselves to energy access based on 6 hours of electricity per day which is barely enough to plug a fan, a radio and a TV. We need to think big. We need access on a scale, which can truly help the economic development and the industrialization of Africa.
For many years, the African Union and the EU have contemplated a strategic energy partnership.
This year we want to enter a new phase with the Africa-EU Green Energy Initiative.
The initiative we will propose would transform the prospects of African families and help the economy grow by addressing three priorities :
- first of all, increasing the number of African people, businesses and industries having access to affordable, modern and sustainable energy services;
- second, it will also support investments in renewable energy generation ;
- and third promote energy efficiency.
Africa can become a major global market for renewable energy, as technology solutions are abundant and ready to be deployed. Across the world, renewable energy is becoming the most cost-effective option to generate electricity and address the needs of a rapidly growing population.
Going renewable used to be a climate action. Today it’s simply smart business.
If you looked at the map of the world 10 years ago, coal was the cheapest option to produce electricity everywhere, with a few small exceptions. Today, in competitive procurements, renewables come out cheaper than the cheapest coal plants. Last year we have seen record-low auction prices for solar energy in Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Chile. Imagine! Only 3 cents per kilowatt hour! And if you wanted to build a new coal plant it would cost you three times more (over 9 cents).
Fossil fuels are not a good business and we would never try to convince our partners in Africa to buy second hand fossil fuel technologies.
Ladies and Gentlemen
We have an opportunity to make this a socially fair industrial change.
In the wake of the first industrial revolution access to coal gave a handful of countries huge competitive advantage. But we can all win in the industrial revolution which is happening right now, because it is based on the energy from the sun and from the wind.
For this to happen, public sector must play a greater role in catalysing private investments and in addressing the technology gap.
We are ready to work together with our African partners on these challenges;
- We are ready work together to improve business climate and to unlock the huge potential of renewable energy technologies.
- to support reforms of the energy sector and carbon pricing policies.
- to support financial instruments such as guarantees and blending, and to leverage private investments in sustainable activities.
We are also already supporting technology development and innovation in key strategic areas such as hydrogen, offshore wind and batteries. I think, these are really important sectors.
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to open this discussion together with Commissioner Abou-Zeid and to welcome companies, financial institutions and government representatives who are present here today.
I wish you all a very fruitful dialogue and look forward to working closely with all of you over the coming months to make our energy partnership a success.