'The European environment - state and outlook 2010' (Soer 2010).
Dear Minister Schauvliege
Dear Commissioner Potocnik,
Dear Professor McGlade
Dear Mr. Jimenez-Beltran
Dear Mr. Chairman,
The European Parliament has a long expertise in environmental policy. We have a standing committee since the first direct election in 1979, when the issue of the environment was not yet the topic it is today.
I am therefore delighted that the European Environment Agency's is launching its flagship assessment, SOER 2010 here. I find particularly useful that you have provided both country assessments as well as a Europe wide assessment of the major trends we are currently facing. This is going to be a very good reference point for the work we are doing in Parliament.
I would like to focus today on one of your assessments and say a few words about climate change since the COP 16 has just started in Cancun.
The European Parliament has been very clear in its support for a multilateral deal on climate change. In our resolution voted last week we have reiterated the need to adopt a domestic greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for the EU of 30% by 2020 as compared with the 1990 level.
We are convinced that irrespective of the outcome of the international negotiations, it is in the EU's interest to pursue an emissions reduction goal of more than 20% because it will promote green jobs, growth and security at the same time.
The EU-27 is doing what it can. Our green house gas emissions in 2009 decreased by 6.9 % compared to 2008. Last year they stood approximately 17.3 % below the 1990 level and therefore very close to the 20 % emission reduction target. The EEA's own assessments for the state of the EU environment is that we are heading in the right direction but, we must do more and continue to implement our climate change package, and continue to reform our economies making them greener.
It is clear that we can not do this alone though. The current world trends are that we will stabilise the concentration of greenhouse gases at over 650 parts per million of CO2-equivalent. These figures mean that we may be facing temperature rises of more than 3.5°C in the long term.
This is why we need to find a worldwide agreement as soon as possible. The longer we wait, the harder it will be for us to slow this trend down.
This leads me to my second point which is that the only way we will be able to deal with climate change is by getting our energy policy under control. Without creating an energy policy which is safe and sustainable, we will not be able to reach our Kyoto goals. Energy is not just a European problem it is a world problem but we in the EU can lead by example. The policies we set up may serve as a model for other regions.
With Jacques Delors I have proposed that we should create a brand name called the "European Energy Community" which would be a political umbrella which integrates many of the existing policies to help them go forward. I am convinced that we need political momentum today to create mechanisms which will allow us to better coordinate among the EU-27 on energy policy.
Energy is a very important issue because we have to remember that 1.4 billion people around the world today lack access to electricity, and as they move up the economic scale we will be faced with more emissions.
Current estimates are that world primary energy demand increases by 36% between 2008 and 2035, or 1.2% per year on average. China - which overtook the United States last year to become the world's largest energy user despite its low per capita energy use - contributes 36% to the projected growth in global energy use.
This rising demand for fossil fuels will continue to drive up energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions through to 2035, making it very difficult to achieve the 2°C goal, as the required reductions in emissions after 2020 could be too steep.
But energy may also be an opportunity for us because it may allow the EU to be the leaders in the green energy revolution which is coming.
We have already agreed to increase the share of renewable energy sources to 20% of consumption by 2020. We have also agreed to a 20% increase in energy efficiency. Improving such ressource efficiency would significantly help limit emissions, save money and boost economic growth.
We must maintain the lead in the market for green technologies as a means of ensuring resource efficiency through out the economy, while removing bottlenecks in key network infrastructures, thereby boosting our industrial competitiveness.
The benefits of clean and efficient energy will have a long term impact on our economies. Simply by meeting our current energy goals could result in € 60 billion less in oil and gas imports by 2020. This is not only financial savings; this is essential for our energy security.
Further progress with the integration of the European energy market can add an extra 0.6% to 0.8% GDP. Meeting the EU's objective of 20% of renewable sources of energy alone has the potential to create more than 600 000 jobs in the EU. Adding the 20% target on energy efficiency, it is well over 1 million new jobs that are at stake.
My final point is that we also have to be honest, the costs of introducing climate change policies are not as expensive as people think. Even in sceptical America, the Congressional Budget Office concluded that the current proposals "would reduce the projected average annual rate of growth of GDP between 2010 and 2050 by 0.03 to 0.09 percentage points." That is, it would trim average annual growth to 2.31 percent, from the current 2.4 percent. This means that the US economy by 2050 would be smaller by between 1.1 and 3.4 percent than it would be otherwise. Similar figures exist for the rest of the world. These are not costs that we should be afraid of.
I think it is very important that the EEA has created such a report since it gives a very good overview of where we are in terms of our environment, and it makes information much more accessible to our citizens, our industries, and our politicians as we try and deal with the most pressing of our environmental problems - climate change.