President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to address you this morning in this priority debate on climate change.
Your action and commitment has brought to wider public attention the necessity and urgency to act on climate change.
As the world's leading climate scientists told us in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on 1.5 degrees: we must act urgently and collectively now. And political will is vital in driving this action.
In this year of European Parliament elections, we should look ahead at what else can be done.
In Europe we can be proud of what we have achieved so far. The campaign for the European Parliament elections offers a great opportunity to tell our citizens what has been already achieved and have each European Political Party present their individual positions for the future.
As you know, but probably the majority of our citizens are not yet aware, we have adopted an ambitious legislative framework for 2030. This would not have been achieved without the excellent work, commitment and determination of the Members of this House. The Energy Union with a forward-looking climate action is now in place. This was one of the priorities of the Juncker Commission that you have endorsed almost five years ago.
The correct implementation of the European Union's climate and clean energy legislation should allow the European Union to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 beyond our current 40% target - to around 45% compared to 1990. But targets are not ceilings! With the right incentives we can reach even more.
This will be achieved thanks to the clean energy transition framework recently adopted, based on a greater deployment of renewable energy sources (at least 32% of our energy demand in 2030) and by putting energy efficiency first on the agenda: our target of 32.5% of energy savings by 2030 could even be revised upwards in 2023.
This shows our citizens that climate and energy issues are on top of the European Union agenda, that this priority is making real progress in Europe; then to our international partners that the European Union is leading by example, and that we turn our pledges into concrete action.
But now it is also the moment to look ahead to 2050.
We will have to upscale further our policies beyond 2030. The crucial thing is that we can only do it within a deep transformation of our model of economic development, one that delivers both climate neutrality and prosperity and fairness for European citizens. A model that is just for our citizens and fair for our industries.
That is why the Commission adopted in November last year its Communication "A Clean Planet for all: A European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy".
By proposing this vision, we have responded to the call by the European Parliament and the European Council.
The Commission's vision intends to set a clear direction of travel for the European Union's climate policy and contribution to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.
To see what the European Union should do we studied eight scenarios in detail. Five scenarios achieve at least 80% reductions by 2050 with varying different technologies or introducing circularity and energy efficiency. Let's be clear, these are not enough to meet the 1.5°C objective, and they are not what the Commission proposes to do.
To go to the 1.5°C objective we will need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. This is why we developed two scenarios that effectively reach this aim of climate neutrality. One focused on technology deployment. The other contains more elements of behavioural change, circularity and increased natural sinks.
The analysis clearly shows that a climate neutral economy by 2050 is possible, following different pathways, but that it will require an ambitious combination of technologies and action.
This is not only to protect our environment but also to modernise the European Union economy for a sustainable future, increase investment in competitive technologies, and to defend our citizens' better quality of life.
It means investing in a much more efficient economy, an economy that relies less on imported energy, an economy that provides for more local, higher quality jobs.
I am happy to see that the resolutions adopted in the Parliamentary Committees confirm this long-term ambition. I hope this is also the case on the Plenary vote tomorrow.
It is a big responsibility on all of us to lead and demonstrate that a socially fair transition to climate neutrality is not only possible but also that opens many economic opportunities.
A transformation on this scale requires an open and inclusive debate. We all need to engage widely with citizens and civil society across Europe to reach a common understanding on the way forward.
Together with my team I have already started our outreach to all European countries to launch the public debates, and I invite all of you to contribute to our 2050 vision for Europe.
Here is where the impulsion that our young Europeans are giving us comes in and is a fundamental part of this debate. It is really the moment to speak out.
We are all beginning to suffer the consequences of climate change, but most of us will not be there to see what a profoundly changed planet would look like in 2050.
The young Europeans that are taking to the streets - and are doing so in growing numbers and in more and more cities across Europe - will be in the prime of their adult life in 2050. I welcome their engagement, they have the biggest stake in the fight against climate change.
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. We 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. We must agree on the objective of a climate neutral, prosperous and fair Europe in 2050, and on that basis, take the measures and actions that we know can make it happen.
I would like to thank Members for engaging in this important priority debate in Parliament.
I am encouraged by your continued commitment and action on climate action and I hope that this continues through the European Parliament elections and beyond.
I welcome the wide support for the 2030 climate and clean energy legislation and for the Commission's Vision for a climate neutral Europe.
I encourage the European Political Parties and their “Spitzenkandidaten” to define and develop in their electoral programs their vision on these vital issues, seeking the views, the engagement and support of our citizens. I look forward to continuing the debate throughout the year until the submission of an ambitious long-term Strategy to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by 2020.