Speech for the High-Level Conference on the financing of clean energy
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The findings of the latest Eurobarometer survey confirm that unemployment, immigration and combating terrorism are the main concerns of Europe’s citizens.
In many parts of Europe, one young person in two cannot find work.
We must unite as Europeans to overcome these challenges. They call for a more political Europe which makes genuine efforts to bring the institutions closer to their citizens.
Only by offering prospects to the younger generation and by restoring growth can we defeat the populists and show up their political promises for the fool’s gold that they are.
If employment is the priority, we must focus on supporting the real economy, industry, agriculture and services, from which the vast majority of new jobs come.
As a result of the resolution the European Parliament adopted last July, industrial competitiveness is once again taking pride of place: from the internal market to the digital market, from the energy market to all the programmes which combine competitiveness and environmental sustainability.
Our experience here in Europe shows that it is not only desirable but essential to reconcile environmental and industrial considerations.
Without a strong industrial base, no genuine responses can be found to the challenges of climate change, air and water quality, waste management and population growth.
Only by means of substantial investment in research and development can cutting-edge technologies and solutions be developed to help us tackle these challenges.
Investing in these technologies will also create jobs and increase our competitiveness.
Measures to combat global warming, and our new energy policy, are excellent examples of the success of the European strategy.
I am grateful to Commissioner Miguel Arias-Cañete and to Committee Chair Jerzy Buzek for their work in preparing this high-level conference on energy, with its focus on the financing of energy efficiency.
The European Parliament has always been at the forefront of this battle. Its most recent contribution was the resolution of December 2015 calling for ever more ambitious measures in the fields of climate and energy.
This House has been an ardent advocate of a genuine single energy market, with no distortions, but with fair prices and proper consumer protection, just as it has called for greater investment in and ambitious targets for renewables and energy efficiency.
Thanks to these policies, Europe is the global leader in the areas of energy saving, clean energy, efficient resource use and cutting emissions, and it has been able to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
The figures speak for themselves. Since 2007, the sector has grown by 70%, creating employment for 1.2 million people and generating an annual turnover of EUR 138 billion.
Some 17% of the energy that we produce in the European Union now comes from renewable sources.
We are changing a key economic paradigm: growth no longer means higher energy consumption. Between 2005 and 2015, the European economy grew by 10%, while energy consumption fell by 11%.
We are seeing a radical transformation of the methods we use to manufacture goods and generate wealth. This is a real digital and energy revolution, which is profoundly altering the economy, the world of work and our lifestyles.
It is a process that the European Union must continue to steer, stepping up its role as a political, economic and technological leader and grasping the new opportunities created.
The reluctance on the part of other global players – starting with the Trump Administration – to take decisive steps to tackle what today is the greatest threat to our planet should give us a further incentive to continue on our chosen path.
We have demonstrated that we intend to do so by displaying unity and determination in signing the Paris Agreement and by continuing to move forward shoulder to shoulder to implement it, including at COP 23, which opened yesterday in Bonn.
I am convinced that the foot-dragging by the US Administration will not prevent cooperation – including technological and industrial cooperation – between ourselves and many cities and states in the USA.
For that reason, I should particularly like to thank the Governor of California, Jerry Brown, for joining us today. I see this as symbolic of a global alliance which looks beyond short-term choices and mistakes.
Like Europe, California is a role model. Emissions have been reduced by 36% since 1990, and more than 500 000 jobs have been created in the renewables sector. That state alone is the source of 15% of all the clean energy produced in the United States.
You only have to read the news wherever you are in the world to appreciate the seriousness of the situation: devastating hurricanes, huge fires, even in autumn, drought and desertification, the spread of epidemics, increasingly frequent floods and rising sea levels.
All this not only affects thousands of people and is a human tragedy for those who lose everything they have: the economic damage is also colossal. These disasters cost many dozens of times more than the most ambitious measures needed to slow down global warming.
And this is to say nothing of the concern felt by our societies and the tensions being generated in Europe by the rising numbers of migrants from Africa, a good many of whom have been compelled to move because of the loss of thousands of hectares of farmland and water shortages.
Every euro invested in reducing emissions yields a substantial return, both as a driver of the economy and by mitigating potential environmental disasters. For that reason we should encourage greater public and private investment, of the order of hundreds of billions of euros per year, in energy efficiency and clean energy sources.
It has been estimated that between 2021 and 2030 some EUR 177 billion per annum in additional investment will be needed to complete the transition to a low-emission economy.
We need to provide industries and operators with a stable regulatory framework which guarantees legal certainty for investments which yield results only in the long term.
We must therefore adopt as soon as possible the ‘Clean Energy for all Europeans’ package, whose measures, once fully implemented, will create 900 000 new jobs in the energy sector.
The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) has financed energy projects costing some EUR 10 billion.
Thanks to the new agreement on EFSI 2 which has just been reached between Parliament, the Council and the Commission, the amount of funding will be doubled.
We must also make more and better use of the EU’s regional funds. In the period 2014-2020, more than EUR 21 billion has been set aside for investment in the energy efficiency of buildings and for investment by businesses, in particular SMEs, in renewables.
This is not enough. As from the next budget, we must increase this funding, which is particularly effective in attracting new investment and creating jobs. It is enough to realise, for example, that refurbishing our buildings, which account for 40% of energy consumption, could mobilise hundreds of billions in investment.
This investment would pay for itself within a few years simply by reducing energy bills, galvanising the building industry and creating new jobs.
Joint efforts are needed, with EU budget funds being spent in synergy with loans from the European Investment Bank, savings and loan banks and other national sources of funding, so as to maximise private investment.
If we want to create a genuine European market, we cannot allow our energy systems to remain isolated.
Parliament has called for electricity interconnections to be increased to 10% in all Member States by 2020.
In order to achieve this, we must make funding available quickly for projects of common interest in the area of electricity infrastructure, with that funding also to be extended beyond 2020.
The challenge presented by climate change and the energy revolution also represents an opportunity for growth and employment, which Europe should seize with both hands.
In order to consolidate our leadership in innovative technologies, we must continue to work together on several fronts: on the one hand, by giving operators clear targets and a framework of predictable rules; on the other hand, by exploiting all available synergies among public resources so as to maximise private investment.
The European Risk Management Platform for the funding of energy efficiency projects is a good model, which we should continue to pursue. The information on more than 7 000 projects provides a major stimulus to investment in Europe.
At the same time, we must complete the negotiations on the ETS package and the Circular Economy package, in order to create a clear legal framework for investors.
The energy transition calls for the closest possible international cooperation.
European businesses are ready to do their bit in the fight against climate change. But they ask to be allowed to compete on equal terms on the world market.
Punitive solutions that go beyond what is technically and economically feasible for European industry would be counterproductive. Similarly, there is a risk that asymmetrical rules on emissions or energy efficiency may cause industrial production to be relocated from the most virtuous countries to those where environmental regulation is laxer. There is a danger that this will undermine the fight against global warming.
European policy-makers have a duty to give the people of Europe the right answers to questions concerning environmental sustainability and employment. For that purpose, an innovative and responsible industry is needed, which will continue to invest in Europe.