My task is to help you through your after lunch depression today. I’m looking forward to doing that because, as many of you know, I am a great believer in the potential of hydrogen to help us decarbonise our economy. And to make sure that we maintain a path of growth and that we don’t equate a transition into a society where we no longer depend on the element C as a society of poverty and decline. There is no need for that.
When I left for Glasgow last month, I asked my team to give me contributions for a playlist I made on Spotify of songs that make us think about climate and a better world. You can look it up on Spotify if you want. It has been listened to, it has quite some interesting music if you’re into music.
Of course there are so many more songs that could have been added. With this hydrogen week, I think about the Brussels duo “Hydrogen Sea”, and maybe you should invite them next year for the hydrogen week. They are committed young people and their songs like “cold water” and “If the stars grow dim tonight” urge us to take action and to turn the tide on the climate crisis.
I am deeply convinced that hydrogen will help us complete that transition in a positive way.
Here today, at the start of your afternoon program which focuses on the global dimension, I would like to say a few words about the international dimension of climate policy and hydrogen in particular. I want to share with you my dream and my ambition for a global hydrogen economy.
With the Glasgow COP just behind us, we have for the very fist time a shot at staying below two degrees Celsius of global warming. We have a shot at the 1.5 degree goal.
Two years ago it was a lonely position to be in Madrid as European Union. The US had as a leader somebody who just denied the climate crisis. China didn't want to do anything. But look at where we are now. They're all declaring carbon neutral, climate neutral goals. Even Russia has done that. Russia is even introducing the first pricing of carbon, which would have been completely unthinkable less than a year ago.
This COP embraced the highest level of ambition of the Paris Agreements as our common target. As I said, we now have a global consensus on the need to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Two weeks after COP26 this almost seems like a given but two weeks before we began, the mantra was still below two degrees, and some countries even challenged the fact that Paris ever spoke of 1.5 degrees.
For the first time as well, the parties of COP26 agreed to phase down coal and fossil fuel subsidies. Whatever you may think about the precise language that was necessary to get the whole package over the finishing line, this is a big win. The signal is clear: the era of coal is ending! And interestingly enough, this has also been stimulated by the fact that our ETS system is creating higher and higher prices which makes coal ever more unattractive.
And Glasgow has given a great push to the hydrogen agenda. President von der Leyen mentioned this morning already the new EU-catalyst partnership with Bill Gates that we launched with the EIB and that will mobilise up to $1 billion up to 2026 to rapidly commercialise innovative technologies with a focus on clean hydrogen.
I want to give you another example: together with France, Germany, the UK and the United States we also announced in Glasgow the set-up of a Just Energy Transition Partnership with South Africa. We will accelerate the decarbonisation of South Africa's economy with a prominent role for hydrogen. Can you imagine that, in that so coal-dependent country things can move so fast. The initial commitment of $8.5 billion for the first phase will help South Africa achieve its ambitious goals. This is the kind of partnership I believe that should inspire us to do similar partnerships with other third countries. It is only a start. Countries like Indonesia and India are interested to look for similar kinds of cooperation.
Of course of particular interest to the EU is cooperation with our sister continent Africa. It will be key, including with North Africa; with its geographic proximity, its existing infrastructure, solar energy resources and its average of 3.600 hours of sunshine yearly, the windy Sahara desert and hydropower, it offers green hydrogen opportunities which we should seize strategically. A dedicated call to cooperate with Africa is included in the 2021 – 2022 Work Programme of the new Clean Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, funded by Horizon Europe.
Besides Africa, other neighbours and Latin-America are excellent candidates for further assistance and we see indeed the rising interest of many of our partners to work with us on hydrogen and develop hydrogen valleys. I am happy to see also the energy minister of Chile as a guest speaker today .
While the dynamics are there, we still need to do a lot. Global trade in hydrogen does actually not exist today. Clean Green Hydrogen is still far too expensive everywhere, so technology cost reductions and scale-up are urgently necessary .
A global rules-based market for hydrogen, in particular renewable hydrogen, needs to develop with at the heart of that market, harmonised safety and environmental standards as well as a clear rules and suitable infrastructure.
I want the EU to take the clear lead in establishing such a framework for a global hydrogen economy. We are ready to work with all partner countries to establish the right conditions for the emergence of a global market for a secure and competitive renewable hydrogen supply.
I know the debate between those who are more hesitant about hydrogen imports and those who are more open to it, but our hydrogen strategy of last year foresees both, it aims for “two times 40 GW” for 2030. . 40GW of renewable electrolysers in Europe and 40GW in Europe’s neighbourhood with export to the EU. When we launched thisless than two years ago, it was seen as a pipe dream, it was seen as impossible. I think now it is realistic to say we will probably outperform it by 2030.
I think it is important that we engage internationally in renewable hydrogen because I think it will profit Europe in three different ways:
- we will benefit from wide supply diversification and thus from higher security of renewable energy supply which is the Achilles heel of renewable energy;
- it will support the global energy transition and
- it will strengthen our industry, and that seems to me clear as well.
When we went to Glasgow, the international press described Europe as “the best prepared pupil of the class”. That, ladies and gentlemen, is I believe our strength: with the European Green Deal and the “Fit for 55” proposals we have our own house in order and we can set the tone, influence others and take them along. I want to especially mention the Climate Law which sets into law the need to reduce our emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and to be climate neutral by 2050.
It is also clear that on our own we will never get there. But , as we speak, our example is being followed. China is introducing an emissions trading system based on our emissions trading system. Other major economies know they will have to put a price on carbon. They are all looking at systems such as CBAM and comparable systems to avoid the risk of carbon leakage.
The same path should be followed for hydrogen. We are busy getting our house in order by defining a European framework for the uptake of a European hydrogen-market.
Our ‘Fit for 55’ package is a first step to implement our EU Hydrogen Strategy and to provide the right regulatory framework and support to create a hydrogen ecosystem with more renewable power to produce hydrogen, more hydrogen production facilities, and the necessary infrastructure to transport and deliver hydrogen to end-consumers everywhere around Europe.
Our long-term priority is to produce renewable hydrogen, using mainly wind or solar energy. It is the missing part of the puzzle to a fully decarbonised economy. In the short term we will still need to rely on low-carbon hydrogen as well.
Especially if you see the speed with which we want to do the energy transition. I only have to refer to the plans of the new incoming German government where you see that if you step out of coal faster, you continue to step out of nuclear, you will have to compensate for that. And wen gas will be part of that, of course decarbonated hydrogen can also be, will also be, part of that.
Our Fit for 55 priorities include for instance certification for renewable hydrogen, additional renewables, sufficient hydrogen refuelling stations, CO2 reduction targets for ships arriving at European ports, support through the new taxation proposals and tightening of the European Emissions Trading Scheme.
In some areas we really see changes. Who would have thought in shipping such a change so quickly. A year ago it still looked hopeless and now they’re speeding up. And I’m absolutely sure that hydrogen, but especially also ammonia, will play a huge role in fueling ships of the future. I’m glad to see the shipping industry is coming to that analysis itself.
Next month, with the upcoming hydrogen and gas markets decarbonisation package, we will conclude our work and put forward a European regulatory framework allowing the emergence of a fully-fledged hydrogen market with a dedicated infrastructure.
Together with the new state aid rules, it will have the potential to produce and trade renewables and low-carbon hydrogen across the EU. This should then put us in a very good position to provide global leadership in developing an international hydrogen market with clear rules for international trading of clean hydrogen, especially certifying green transport and distribution means.
This is feasible, this is within reach. And let’s not forget, the stars are made of hydrogen, so let’s reach for the stars. Or as I used to say, hydrogen rocks.
Let me conclude that I am proud that the EU is a world leader in hydrogen technologies. This offers many opportunities, for our planet and for our people, in terms of jobs and in terms of the wellbeing of all in a safer, healthier and climate neutral world.
But, let us stay sharp and let us act swiftly and with foresight in view of the emerging international hydrogen markets.
Let’s not forget the painful experience in solar PV manufacturing, which was developed in Europe at high cost only to later move abroad. Let’s not take any chances with hydrogen. Let’s be open but competitive, let’s be ambitious but not naïve. Let’s reach out, be proactive and daring, the time is right for Europe to tap into the potential of hydrogen in a clean, secure and affordable energy future for all.
It will change the map of our energy world because you will see energy producers that have no natural resources other than sun and wind become energy producers for a global market. And I want that global market to function. Because some, who might air on the more pessimistic side, will say that Europe cannot afford to make itself dependable on production from outside of Europe. Others, and I belong to that group, say we need global interdependency for our stability, and especially for the enormous potential of our sister continent Africa hydrogen is an incredible opportunity.
I believe, especially together with Africa and the Middle East, that Europe should use those opportunities and should create patterns of cooperation that will benefit all sides. Thank you very much.