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European Commission - Speech - [Check Against Delivery]

Speech by Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete: The role of innovative, environmentally-friendly technologies in EU climate policy

Brussels, 03 June 2015

Roundtable debate on the environmental goods agreement - promoting the EU environmental objectives through trade

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be with you.

This event is very timely. Let me tell you why:

In 6 months' time we hope to conclude a strong and ambitious global climate agreement in Paris that will kick start the transition to low-carbon development worldwide.

Today, I want to talk about how innovative environmental technologies can help us achieve both our domestic and global climate goals. Green technologies are already part of our daily lives. Some are invisible to the eye, concealed beneath the bonnet of our car or inside our fridges and dishwashers, quietly saving us energy − and money. Do you know just how much money energy efficient products have saved us in the last 5 years alone? Let me tell you: 100 billion euros. Perhaps more importantly, we estimate that they have avoided the equivalent of around 360 million tonnes of CO₂ emissions over this period.

Other more obvious symbols of sustainability, like solar panels and wind turbines, are very much part of our city, country and coastal landscapes. These energy efficiency and renewable technologies are not only contributing to our 2020 climate and energy goals, but also to Europe's competitiveness and long-term sustainable development. The green economy is proving to be one of the most promising areas for job creation in the EU, even seeing a 20% increase during the recession years.

Today, the environmental goods and services sector provides jobs for more than 4 million people in Europe.

Our 2030 climate and energy targets could create a further 700,000 jobs. And if we raise our ambition further on renewable and energy efficiency, this could reach 1.2 million.

However, while we have been leading in clean technologies including renewables, others are catching up – and, in some cases, even overtaking us. So, I'd like to focus on three specific questions:

  • Where we are now in terms of innovative and environmentally friendly technology in the EU?
  • How do we plan to maintain our leadership role? And;
  • How can our trade policies help us?


Where we are now?

So, where do we stand today? In short, we are doing well, but we need to keep up with the competition.

Europe is home to some of the best cutting edge technologies in the world. I got to see this first-hand just a few weeks ago, when I visited the HelWin Alpha converter platform in the North Sea. It connects the offshore wind farm to the onshore grid – bringing energy directly to customer homes. We also recently saw the launch of the German Verbiostraw project, which turns straw into biogas. Who’d have thought five bales of straw could produce enough energy to run a car for a year? And the best part is that it doesn't require the use of farmland. The biogas is produced from 100% agricultural residue. The project is co-financed through a special fund − called NER 300 − raised through the EU Emissions Trading System for large-scale demonstration of low-carbon energy technologies. This is exactly the kind of innovative technology the programme is aimed at. And it is creating agricultural and industrial jobs in the region and making use of a raw material source that has remained unused up to now.

Renewables are an essential part of the EU's Energy Union strategy for a sustainable energy and climate-resilient future. They will play a key role for all economies in the transition towards low-carbon development. They will contribute to decarbonising our economy, making our power system much more flexible, improving our energy security and lowering our energy bills. Over the last two decades we have seen renewables move from the fringe into the mainstream in Europe. We have 3 times more renewable power per capita in the EU than anywhere else in the rest of the world.

Today the sector has a turnover of around €130 billion and employs more than 1 million people.

Our policies have brought down costs and made technologies more accessible and widespread. But we are no longer the only ones seriously investing in renewables.

And I am not just talking about China (which invested 83 billion US dollars in renewable energy last year), and the US (which invested over 38 billion dollars). Brazil, South Africa and India were also in the top 10 investors last year. At the same time, renewable energy investment in the EU increased by less than 1%. Of course, competition is good. It helps bring down costs − the price of solar PV modules fell by 80% in the space of just four years.

And we mustn't forget that a lot of technology that is being installed around the world comes from Europe.

  • Every year we export 35 billion euros worth of renewable equipment.
  • Some 40% of the word's wind turbines are built by European companies.
  • Our companies lead the world in the number of patents for renewable technologies, with 40% coming from Europe.

But, as I said, we need to keep up with our competitors – and to do that we need to keep innovating. There is work to do to become the world number one in renewables – one of the priorities of the Junker Commission.

This brings me onto my second point - what we are doing to get there?

What are we doing?

If we are to succeed in becoming the world number one, we will need to be ready with the next generation of renewable technologies, and energy storage systems. We will need new grid management technologies that are fit for renewables and can transport power more effectively from one place to another. This will give consumers greater control over their energy use. And we will need intelligent transport solutions to meet our 2020 target of having 10% of the transport fuel of every EU country come from renewable sources such as biofuels. So we need to ensure that Europe remains a destination for world-class researchers and that we provide the right support to get their innovations to market.

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever, with some €80 billion available between 2014 and 2020. At least 35% of this is ring fenced for climate-related research. We need to get the most from every euro invested. This means combining EU and Member States programmes around common goals. And ensuring effective links between research and industry that will bring new technologies to the EU market. I will shortly be proposing a renewed Integrated Strategic Energy Technology Plan as well as a strategic transport research and innovation programme to sharpen the focus of our research and innovation efforts.

Our aim is to leverage as much private investment as possible. This is the thinking behind both the new €315 billion European Fund for Strategic Investments and the NER 300 low-carbon technology demonstration programme that I mentioned earlier. So far, 38 renewable projects and Europe's first large-scale carbon capture and storage project have been awarded NER300 funding amounting to €2.1 billion. This is expected to leverage a further €2.7 billion of private finance. These projects will bring huge climate benefits. Together with the CO₂ stored by the CCS project, the impact will be the equivalent of taking more than 3 million cars off the EU roads. The programme will be renewed under the 2030 climate and energy framework and extended to low-carbon innovation in the industrial sector.

On top of this, our policies, such as CO₂ standards for cars and Eco-design, as well as eco and energy labelling schemes are also driving technological innovation. Just one example: thanks to some of the toughest standards in the world, a new car today is 22% more efficient than in 2007. And by 2021 it should be 40% more efficient. What's more, the EU is already the world's second biggest market for electric cars – with 30% of global sales. We have a lot to be proud of in Europe and a lot to look forward to. The global green technology market is expected to increase to 4.4 trillion euros over the next 10 years. And we can expect to have a good share of this market.

So, this brings me to my third and final question. How can our trade policies support innovative environmentally friendly technologies and help us achieve our climate goals?

How trade policies can help our goals?

Ladies and gentlemen,

Climate technologies have an essential role to play in meeting the globally agreed below 2 degrees objective and avoiding dangerous climate change. As well as helping to reduce emissions and adapt to the adverse effects of climate change, these technologies will also contribute to job creation and sustainable economic growth in Europe and across the globe. Trade is an excellent tool to promote green technologies. In Europe, we have the technologies that are needed, so we should share them. For instance, the EU support the UN's Climate Technology Centre and Network which helps exchange of information about best practices to increase market uptake of climate technologies in emerging economies and developing countries. The network provides a good opportunity to promote European technological solutions worldwide.

The EU has a number of bilateral agreements with its free trading partners that promote climate goals and the use of innovative energy technologies. These include Canada, Singapore and South Korea, with negotiations currently ongoing with the US. Globally, Europe needs to keep the world's leadership in green innovation as major exporter of clean technologies. For that end, we are also working with our trade partners to speed up the dissemination and uptake of climate-friendly technologies and create a level-playing field.

We hope to conclude a significant international agreement on the liberalisation of trade in environmental goods and services before the end of the year. You will hear more about this from my colleague Commissioner Malmström shortly.

One conclusion we can already come to is that it makes good business and climate sense to make it easier to trade green technologies internationally. This Commission is working very hard for the timely conclusion of the tariff negotiations and a political agreement that will contribute to the Paris climate deal.

Ladies and gentleman,

To be successful, Europe must play to its strengths. The world's most competitive economies are the most innovative and energy-efficient. For Europe, quality and innovation are the way to go.

This way, we can prove to the world that green growth is not just a utopian vision. It is the smart answer to many of the challenges the world is facing: more intelligent ways of producing, less pollution, energy efficient homes, lower energy bills and cleaner sources of energy.

Thank you for your attention.



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