Speech by Commissioner Arias Cañete, in charge of Climate Action and Energy, in Brussels
Good afternoon everyone.
The European Union has now in place the world’s most ambitious and advanced climate and energy framework.
And we have built it in record time, tackling one of the greatest challenges of our time: the gradual transition away from fossil fuels towards a climate-neutral economy.
With today’s State of the Energy Union report, we look back at the actions we have taken over the last few years. But the report is also a good reminder of how far we still have to go.
Four years after the October 2014 European Council, we can now say that we have completed the Energy Union.
The October 2014 Council conclusions gave us an extensive technical manual to achieve our climate and energy goals by 2030.
On this basis, President Juncker made the Energy Union with a forward-looking climate policy a top political priority and a positive agenda of this Commission.
We started by translating the European Council conclusions into action points, and we have now agreed all the necessary legislation to meet our 2030 targets.
With 71 trilogues and more than 350 hours of negotiations on my shoulders, I can say that it’s been quite a ride!
So, the legacy of the October 2014 European Council is done. But we have done much more than implementing European Council Conclusions:
· We brokered the Paris Agreement, ensured its quick entry into force and agreed its implementing rulebook in Katowice;
· Thanks the Juncker Plan, we mobilised over € 70 billion investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy infrastructure;
· We further integrated the European energy market:
o the Baltic states’ electricity markets are now on the way to be synchronised with the Continental Electricity Network;
o the interconnection between the Iberian peninsula and the rest of Europe has being enhanced;
o we have increased gas diversification and ended dependency on a single supplier in many Member States;
o And with energy being traded more freely across borders, we wholesale electricity prices decreased by 6% between 2010 and 2017.
· We created an enabling framework for industry to innovate and for clean investments to flow. From the 25% climate-mainstreaming in the proposed next EU budget, to the sustainable finance initiative, the batteries alliance or the coal regions in transition platform.
· We agreed on higher targets for renewable energy (32% by 2030) and energy efficiency (32.5% by 2030), which would allow the European Union to reduce emissions by 2030 beyond our current 40% target – to around 45% compared to 1990.
· And since this is not sufficient for the EU to contribute to the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals, we set a long-term vision for a prosperous, modern and climate neutral economy by 2050.
Now, if we want the Energy Union to deliver results, we have a number of urgent priority actions for the next few years:
First, the Energy Union framework is only as good as its implementation and proper enforcement:
· We need to finalize the swift adoption of the remaining legislative proposals for an effective implementation of our strong and ambitious regulatory framework;
· We need to complete key infrastructure projects to deliver on an integrated European energy market for solidarity. Chief amongst them, the Baltic synchronisation, France/Spain/Portugal interconnections, energy hubs in Central and Southern Europe, and the North Sea Grid;
Second, we need to keep up the deployment of renewable energy across Europe and step up efforts to save more energy.
Together with the State of the Energy Union report, we have published today two reports on the progress on our 2020 renewables and energy efficiency targets.
As for renewables, the EU is on track to reach its target for 2020. In 2017, the share of renewable energy in the EU energy mix reached 17.52%. This is above the indicative trajectory of 16%.
11 Member States have already achieved their 2020 target, 10 Member States are already on, or above, their interim trajectories set for 2017-2018, and 7 Member States would need to step up efforts to comply with their 2020 targets.
Turning now to energy efficiency, we need to intensify efforts to reach the 2020 target. Following a gradual decrease between 2007 and 2014, energy consumption has started to increase in recent years, and is now slightly above the linear trajectory for the 2020 targets.
To prevent this, we have taken an early action. In 2018, the Commission established a dedicated task force on energy efficiency with Member States to fully exploit energy efficiency potentials and look both short-term and long-term solutions.
For the period 2021-2030, the Energy Union has been structured with the new Governance Regulation, which will allow Member States to achieve their energy and climate targets in a coherent and most efficient way.
All Member States have now officially submitted their draft integrated National Energy and Climate Plans.
The Commission is currently assessing them with a view to issuing potential recommendations in June.
In doing so, we are looking at elements such as the completeness of the plan, the ambition of objectives, targets and contributions, the adequacy of supporting policies and measures, the coherence, policy interactions and investment needs, and the opportunities for regional cooperation.
As a preliminary overall assessment, I would say many Member States have included headline figures and goals in their plans without detailing the measures and policy tools necessary to meet their objectives. We will be seeking more clarity and information from many Member States as we draft our recommendations.
Third, we need a more efficient and democratic decision-making in some energy policy areas, including in the nuclear area.
It is absolutely essential that our taxation framework gives the right incentives to consumers and facilitates the deployment of key emerging technologies for a climate neutral, energy-efficient and circular economy.
Today’s energy taxation framework, which is 16 years old, is clearly outdated in this sense.
At present, there is just not enough policy coherence between the energy taxation framework and the energy and climate policies and objectives.
One of the reasons is the unanimity requirement in the area of energy/environmental taxation, which prevents Member States from finding swift agreements on Commission proposals.
Also, the European Parliament should, in our view, have the same role in decision-making as for all other energy and climate policy legislation.
This would be possible without a treaty change by means of activating one of the so called “passerelle clauses” which would allow us to pass to the ordinary legislative procedure.
So today we have adopted a communication which makes a clear case why activating the passerelle clauses would be important to complete the clean energy transition.
As regards the Euratom Treaty, the Communication we have adopted today recognizes that the treaty provides the most advanced legal framework for nuclear, in particular in the areas of nuclear safety, waste management or radiation protection.
But the Euratom Treaty was signed in 1957, and it has never been adapted. We believe it needs to evolve in line with a more united, stronger and democratic European Union.
That is why we propose to reflect on ways to enhance the involvement of the European Parliament and of national Parliaments in policy-making under the Euratom Treaty.
In this regard, the Commission proposes to establish a High Level Group of Experts assessing how to increase democratic accountability and transparency in the implementation of the Euratom Treaty.
Last but not least, it is essential to make a quantum leap for investments and innovationto continue the momentum created by the completion of the Energy Union.
Modernising and decarbonising the EU’s economy will require significant additional investment. Today, around 2% of GDP is invested in our energy system and related infrastructure. This would have to increase to 2.8% in order to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
We will need to continue our work on sustainable finance, putting capital markets at the service of the climate.
And we will need to make the best use of new financing mechanisms, including the 35% climate-mainstreamed Horizon Europe, the new approved LIFE and Connecting Europe Facility, as well as the InvestEU programme.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As we stand today before you to present the results of our work over this mandate, please allow me a personal reflection.
Europe has faced, and is still facing, a number of crisis: a social crisis, a migration crisis, an internal security crisis, an economic and financial crisis, or a Brexit crisis for that matter.
But despite these crises:
· We have forged on with our positive agenda.
· We have created an Energy Union that unites and not divides.
· We have given hope to many inside and outside Europe with our ambitious, forward-looking climate and clean energy policies.
Looking back, I never thought we would be able to accomplish so much within this mandate.
Now, as we embark uncharted territories with the upcoming European elections, it is really the moment to speak out.
We must embark in a process of transformation with a much greater sense of urgency than I see today. We have a little time left to stabilise climate change and fulfil the goals of the Paris Agreement.
We have not yet run out of time – but cannot afford to hesitate anymore.
The actions and the words of these young Europeans are a precious spur to action now, and we have a duty to act.
With our climate-neutral strategy by 2050, have sketched out how this can be done, and presented a solid analysis of why and how Europe can achieve climate neutrality; why this model can be replicated by other countries in the world; how climate neutrality, economic prosperity and social fairness can and must go together.
We must listen to what the very great majority of Europeans – and especially our future generations – are telling us.