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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Speech by Commissioner Arias Cañete at the Summit of mayors of EU capitals and large cities in Paris

Paris, 26 March 2015

Miguel Arias Cañete - Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy

Madame la maire de Paris,
Mesdames, messieurs les maires d'Europe,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are in a defining year. In a few months we will be back here in Paris to secure the most ambitious global climate agreement of our generation. And one month ago we set out our plan for a resilient Energy Union. Energy smart, climate resilient cities will be at the heart of both of those things.

I cannot be here today and talk about resilient cities without talking about the resilience this city has shown this year:

Chère Anne,

La solidarité, la dignité, le courage dont Paris a fait preuve après les attentats monstrueux de janvier est un exemple de votre unité et votre résilience. Je rends hommage à toutes les victimes et je salue tous les Parisiens et les habitants de toutes les autres villes européennes qui ont marché avec vous.

And I want to say another thank you to all the cities here today for being world leaders in sustainability. Your commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2020 has already borne fruit. Along the way it has created thousands of jobs, reduced energy insecurity, and paved the way for the energy transition we need.

I am delighted that the Declaration that you are going to sign later today goes even further. The 40% reduction in emissions by 2030 that you will subscribe to is what we will bring to the table in Paris later this year. And a 27% share of renewables is what we are already working towards.

I want to use this speech today to set out a three point blueprint for how we can get there together:

In the first part, I will concentrate on what you can do for us. And on the role that cities can play in achieving our 2030 energy and climate objectives;

Second, I will describe what Europe can do for you. In terms of providingaccess to finance and simplifying the way the EU speaks to cities.

Last but not least, I will conclude with a call for action on what we can do together, in view of the Conference of the Parties that this city will host at the end of this year.

1. The role of cities to achieve 2030 objectives

Cities are where we consume most of our energy and it's where the greatest potential lies for decarbonising our economy. The progress being made under the Covenant of Mayors is living proof of that. Local action taken in more than 6,000 cities has led to a 23% reduction in CO2 emissions. That goes a long way to reaching our 2020 targets. But as we set more ambitious goals for 2030 and beyond we need a more ambitious Covenant post-2020. Your ambition is already shown in today Declaration and I look forward to seeing all of you on 13th of October in Brussels for the launch of the new Covenant for 2030, looking at our 40% objective.

Allow me to focus on three areas which, I think, can make the difference.

Firstly, energy efficiency.

20% of all residential electricity is used unnecessarily. It heats empty houses, lights empty rooms, and charges unused appliances. We can't afford to be energy inefficient. Consuming less energy means polluting less, paying less and sustaining more of our energy sources. That's why in the implementation of the Energy Union, I am determined to apply the energy efficiency first principle. But let me go even further: I pledge not to take any other measures if the same goal can be reached through energy efficiency. To improve our energy efficiency by at least 27% by 2030 we will focus also on the implementation of existing legislation. The building sector is particularly important. We spend 90% of our lives in buildings which are responsible for 40% of our energy consumption. Almost half of our building stock was built before the 1970s, when no energy performance standards were used! That is why we need to properly enforce the Energy Efficiency Directive and make sure that renovation rates pick up. The business case is clear – it will create 2 million local jobs by 2020 and save the public purse 39 billion euros!

But public resources alone will not be enough to bridge the investment gap. I know this is a concern for many of you. Under the Energy Union we will make it easier to access finance and will offer EU funding for housing renovation. The Smart Financing for Smart Buildings initiative will offer new financing schemes based on profit-splitting and help aggregate small-scale projects into larger programmes to drive down costs and incentivise private investment. I know this concept is a key part of your Declaration and I welcome it.

Turning now to renewables, another important element of your declaration.

You are leading the way and the Energy Union is there to support you. As you know, President Juncker wants the EU to be the world leader in renewables. To make that happen we need to collectively achieve the target of at least 27% of renewables by 2030. But this will not be enough. We also need a properly connected, flexible internal electricity market which is compatible with renewables.

This is why I will present a new electricity market design, with legislation to follow in 2016, in order to:

- pave the way for more renewables;

- ensure that national interventions don't distort the market;

- reform the retail markets so that consumers, not just producers, benefit from lower energy prices.

Besides, we will also need to be innovative in smart grid technologies and demand-response. Users should be able to charge their electric vehicle when prices are low and reduce their consumption when prices are high!

This is one of the fields in which we have to embrace the technology transition. That’s why we have doubled the funding for energy research under the new Horizon 2020 programme. Much of that money will be channelled to Smart Cities and Communities projects which have already received €460 million in co-funding, with a further €100 million year earmarked for future projects. I hope you will all sign up to the Humble Lamppost commitment to get 10 million smart street lights in Europe to improve the management of distributed renewable energy.

And thirdly, transport

This is an issue close to my heart. This is about the quality of air in our cities and the quality of life of our citizens. That means everything from congestion to infrastructure, use of alternative fuels, e-mobility and, finally, standards not just on CO2 but also on other pollutants. So to ensure that we take a holistic approach on transport, I am working closely with my colleagues Bulc and Bienkowska, responsible respectively for transport and for industry. Together, we will hold a Major Stakeholder conference on the 18th of June in Brussels on the decarbonisation of road transport. The objective is to kick-off the discussions to deliver further CO2 standards for vehicles and a new comprehensive road transport package to create the right market conditions for increased use of alternative fuels and the roll-out of intelligent transport solutions.

I look forward to seeing many of you there.

2. One-stop shop for cities

That spirit of cooperation brings me to the second part of my blueprint.

I have spoken with many of you who have told me how confusing it is to deal with different EU platforms, projects, schemes and initiatives. Today, I want to say that we have got the message. You speak to us with one voice and we have to speak to you with one European voice. I am happy to inform you that at the request of President Juncker, we are working to streamline the way we deal with cities. No mixed messages, no duplication and more coherence. I will start my bit by hosting back to back the Covenant of Mayors and Mayors Adapt in October to bring mitigation and adaptation closer to one another. I am also happy to note that the upcoming Dutch presidency will be making an "urban agenda for Europe" as one of their top priorities. You already know what it means to speak with one voice. For example I see in your Declaration that you are way ahead of us when it comes to joint public procurement and speaking with one voice to private investors. I welcome your commitment in this field and I underline the importance this has for some of the smaller cities who do not have the purchasing power of the big capitals.

I am also encouraged to see your Declaration make explicit reference to the Juncker Investment Plan; which is about using as little public investment as needed to unlock as much private funding as possible. Now we need to look at ways to facilitate aggregation of demand, particularly for cities, so that you can leverage private finance for the projects which will make a difference, for example on energy efficiency. Leveraging private finance will also be possible though European structural funds which now have an added focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy, low-carbon strategies for urban areas and resilience to climate change.

I urge you all to make the most of these opportunities and share your expertise with other cities and regions.

3. On the road to Paris

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Throughout this speech I have kept on coming back to one conclusion: European Cities are the most ambitious when it comes to climate and energy. The Energy Union, the Covenant of Mayors, Mayors Adapt, Smart Cities, the Juncker Investment Plan and your Declaration all show that Europe is the world leader.

We need to export this model across the world because global warming is a global fight. By becoming "Energy Union ambassadors" at home and abroad, European cities will continue to lead the fight against global climate change.

As we now enter the final stretch on the Road to Paris, I want to leave you with a promise: We will not let a lack of ambition limit what we can achieve.

What I see with this Declaration and this packed room here today shows me that European cities have that same commitment.

So let me finish by congratulating you for the ambitious vision which you have shown with this Declaration. We stand shoulder to shoulder on the road to Paris and I look forward to working with you, and the smart and resilient cities you represent, in the coming months and years.

Thank you!

SPEECH/15/4707

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