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European Commission

Connie Hedegaard

European Commissioner for Climate Action

Building a world we like, with a climate we like

Campaign launch "A world you like. With a climate you like"

London, 8 October 2012

Good morning and welcome to the launch of our awareness campaign A world you like. With a climate you like. Welcome to you here in London and also to, hopefully, many of you who are following this on the web.

I know that, for some people, fixing the climate is not a priority now that we are all struggling with an economic crisis and record unemployment. For some people, that can wait. First we take the economy, then we look at jobs and the social crisis, and some day, when we have time, we can look at climate, energy, resources and environment.

For some people addressing climate change just spells costs. It is not seen as an investment; it is not seen as an opportunity. Some people simply seem to believe it will cost us nothing to continue business as usual. I believe that is the very big mistake of our times. Definitely, it costs to address climate change, but we must understand that continuing business as usual also comes with a heavy price tag.

We do still have a choice.

Building a world we like, with a climate we like is an intelligent way out of the current economic and social crisis. We must tackle all crises in a coherent manner. Unfortunately, climate change will not disappear by itself while we are addressing the economic crisis. On the contrary, last year saw the biggest increase in emissions we have ever seen. Meaning the biggest increase in the bill we pass on to future generations.

Therefore, the big challenge for us in Europe today is how to combine the economy; job situation; and the resource-environment-climate crisis. And I would argue – and that is the main message of this campaign – that it is doable, and not only in theory.

For example, here in the UK, the market value of the renewable energy industry has increased by 11% over the last two years - and that was in the midst of an economic crisis, where overall growth was only 1.4%.1 Renewable industry supports 110,000 jobs in the UK – a figure that the sector estimates will quadruple by the end of this decade.2 You would see the same trend in Germany, in many of our member states – it is a general European trend.

The green economy has also been identified by the European Commission as one of the three main sectors that can generate a substantial number of new jobs, together with ICT and health.3

These are very important findings at a moment when more than 25 million4 men and women across the EU are without a job.

Building a low-carbon economy is not a luxury; it is an opportunity to boost economic growth and create jobs in Europe, while creating a world you like. With a climate you like.

Also take a look at UN figures: by 2030 – only 18 years from now – this planet will need 50% more food; 45% more energy and 30% more water. These are the kind of challenges we are facing in the very short term.

***

So we need growth. But it is about smart economic growth, where we get more out of less, where we reduce the footprint of our production and consumption, and where we lower our energy bills.

Through this campaign we want to bring those smart, climate-friendly solutions to the fore. We want to show what you can do as an individual, what businesses can do, and what we can achieve jointly in Europe, if we learn from each other.

That is one of our big challenges in Europe. We have many good examples out there, but we are not good at bringing these to the scale we need, at the speed we need and to learn from one another. So spreading the best practices is part of the solution.

A lot can be done through politics: setting targets, getting the pricing right, regulation. Business has their role: with innovations, smart solutions, bringing it to scale. As individuals, we also have a responsibility in our daily choices.

How we get around for instance.

Did you know that in big European cities drivers spend an average of 8 full days a year being stuck in traffic jams? That is more than one and a half working weeks! Better go by bike; it saves time; it saves money; it saves CO2. And it will make you fitter too.

And the car you drive – how efficient is it? And the way you drive it – is that eco-efficient? If you really want to be smart and climate-friendly, go for a hybrid or an electric car. Send a clear signal to car manufacturers the next time you are buying a car.

Or take a look at your house – how much energy is wasted there?

The solutions are well known: install double glazing; use energy-efficient lighting; wash your clothes at low temperatures.

Did you look for the energy label the last time you bought a TV, computer or fridge?

And when you go shopping, consider that:

  • Producing a kilo of beef generates more CO2 emissions than driving a car for 3 hours.

  • Fresh, seasonal produce grown locally consumes as little as one fifth of the energy needed for produce transported from further away.

There are many things each of us can do – things that will make you save money, make you save time, while saving the climate at the same time.

Many citizens will consider these things for economic reasons. But it also makes sense from a macro-economic perspective. Last year's combined trade deficit in the 27 EU member states was €150 billion; but the combined bill for oil imports was €315 billion – more than twice as big. And if we take oil, gas and coal combined, we paid €573 billion – that is money that we paid to someone outside the EU, instead of spending it in our own economy. It would be better to do more for increasing energy efficiency inside the EU; and get some of the jobs it brings along.

***

Building a world you like, with a climate you like won’t make our lives dull and grey. Are we going back to the stone ages? Are we giving up our comfortable lives? No, we don't. It is about appealing products, which are climate friendly and improve the quality of life at the same time; it is about healthier cities with better mobility and cleaner air; it is about smart and creative solutions. It is simply about using the knowledge we already have.

There are already many inspirational solutions out there. On the website of our campaign, a world you like. With a climate you like, we have collected examples from each of the EU's 27 member states.

Let me mention some:

  • A train station in Stockholm transforms the body heat of train commuters into energy that is used to heat a nearby office building - cutting energy bills significantly.

  • A Greek entrepreneur has invented a solar-powered lift for apartment buildings that can operate day and night.

  • In Germany, houses are being built that produce enough surplus energy to power an electric car for a whole year.

  • In Denmark, the Gedved school has installed solar power panels and now saves money on their heating bills – money they can spend on education.

  • And here in London, there is an organisation which allows you to use your neighbour's car when it is standing idle.

The list of examples is long; this campaign is about getting these to scale.

***

Dear entrepreneurs and creative minds here in the room, we depend on your solutions to build the world you like, with the climate you like.

Through this campaign, the European Commission wants to offer a platform for dialogue and a showcase for existing, smart initiatives. We hope that many other companies and communities will follow by uploading their success stories on our website. And next year, the most effective or innovative solutions will be rewarded with a low-carbon award.

We also need all of you here in the room to talk to your customers, pupils and members about the multiple benefits of these low-carbon solutions.

The campaign we are launching today is about raising the public’s awareness about the low-carbon way of life. Because awareness is the first step to action.

That is why we are teaming up with businesses, environmental groups and universities across the EU for this campaign. There is a role for all of us; there is a responsibility with all of us. We, the politicians at all levels – European, national, regional and local. Business – by doing the innovation and mainstreaming climate into the whole thinking - don't wait to be regulated in detail before you act. And finally, the citizens: in our democratic societies we cannot achieve a lot without the backing of our citizens.

That is what this campaign is about: about our responsibility to act; to act NOW in order to get a world you like. It is not too late to fix the climate.

1 :

Report on employment and skills in the UK renewable energy sector published by UK Renewable Energy Association in April 2012

2 :

ibidem

3 :

Towards a job-rich recovery, April 2012.

4 :

Eurostat, 1 Oct 2012.


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