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Opening remarks by EVP Timmermans and Commissioner Simson at the press conference on the 2030 climate target plan

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op donderdag 17 september 2020.

Executive Vice President, Frans Timmermans

Hello everyone,

I am very honored and pleased to be able to introduce to you today the Commission's climate target plan for 2030. It details with great precision how the EU will reach a 55% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in ten years' time, compared to 1990 levels.

Let me say upfront that this is not something we do to save the planet, because the planet is perfectly well capable of taking care of itself. It did so for ages without human beings on it and it could do so for ages, if we don't take care of ourselves.

This is about creating a future for humanity, creating a balance between our natural environment and ourselves, so that we have a sustainable future.

We have conducted, as you know, a thorough impact assessment before presenting this proposal. I am so proud of our services who made this. I strongly encourage you to read it because it is a balanced document, it doesn't avoid the difficult issues and it gives you an idea of what needs to be done and what can be done. I really want to pay tribute to the staff of this organization who have prepared this.

Under Kadri's guidance, we have also adopted today a first analysis of the National Energy and Climate Plans submitted to us by the Member States.

This is really a crucial moment. Over the next year we will spend an enormous amount to rebuild our economies in response to this terrible pandemic and its economic consequences.

At the same time, we need to continue our fight against climate change, and steer our societies through an industrial revolution. All this is happening at the same time. By the way, we are also faced with a very, very serious biodiversity crisis.

If we get this right, and if we get this right now, we can create new jobs and save jobs for decades to come and give future generations a healthy, secure life on this planet.

Only two months ago, I held my first grandson. Looking at this tiny little baby, I was the happiest grandfather alive. But I also worried. What sort of world will he live in when he reaches 20 years of age? He's only two months old, he can't do very much himself. His entire future depends on what we are doing, his entire future depends on whether we get it right, now.

Emissions are not going down fast enough, and we see the devastating effects of climate change every day - just take a look at California and Oregon, take a look at the droughts that are affecting Europe, take a look at the locust infestations in the east of Africa. This is all absolutely linked to climate change, there can be no denying this. It will not go away, it will not just at some point cool down by itself. We need to act if we want to prevent the temperature from rising even more.

We need to step up our ambition. An EU reduction target of at least 55% will give us - and our children - the possibility to find a smooth path to climate neutrality. It provides certainty for investors, and a clear timeframe for sectors with a longer lead-time for their transition. If we are serious about wanting to be climate neutral by 2050, we have to start mapping this out from now, from day one. Those who assume that by some sort of miracle, we would all of a sudden end up with climate neutrality without doing anything are really, really misguided.

That is why, we are also presenting an amendment to the proposed European Climate Law. The new 2030 target of at least 55% needs to be included as part of our transition to climate neutrality. By June next year, we will present legislative proposals to deliver concretely this 55% reduction.

We will revise and expand the EU Emissions Trading System. We will adapt the Effort Sharing Regulation and the framework for land use emissions. We will reinforce our energy efficiency and renewable energy targets, and we will continue to strengthen CO2 standards for cars.

Let me briefly go into some of these topics.

In our transition to climate neutrality, carbon pricing will continue to play a key role. The ETS is a proven, effective tool to bring down emissions. It gives a strong price signal for green investments, and spurs the market to develop cost-efficient solutions. It also raises revenues that can be used to address social impacts or to finance innovation. And it has been prove to be quite resilient even during this pandemic.

We will also look at expanding the ETS to road transport and buildings. Emissions trading will be an extra incentive for change, especially in transport, where emissions have steadily increased over the past years.

At the same time, we will need stronger CO2 standards for transport. They guarantee that enough clean cars are available and affordable for everyone.

Shipping and aviation are two other big sources of CO2 emissions. We will continue our work to bring down aviation emissions inside the EU and include shipping in the ETS.

For sectors outside the ETS, the effort sharing regulation sets the necessary CO2-reductions. To keep the right incentives for reducing emissions in all sectors and to ensure a fair distribution, we will review it together with the ETS.

Finally, the land use, land change, and forestry sector needs to step up too. It absorbs CO2 but our land sink has been shrinking. To reach climate neutrality and preserve biodiversity, the sink has to grow back to previous levels. We really have to take care of our forests, it is not enough to say that we will plant 3 billion trees, we need to make sure our forests stay healthy and this is going to be a monumentous task.

This is how we'll deliver our target. It is an ambitious target. We plan to achieve the same reductions in this decade as we have over the past twenty-five years.

I am confident that this can be done. We have the policies, we have the commitment, and we have the funds to support it.

But fairness is key. Our ambition should help, not hurt the most vulnerable in society. This transition will be just, or there will be no transition.

We have to act in time, so we can still manage the transition. That is why it is so important that we start now, no time to waste.

The world's eyes are upon us. Every signatory to the Paris Agreement needs to update its Nationally Determined Contribution this year. Our first target was an important benchmark. We can again set the bar for the rest of the world to follow. Only this morning UN Secretary General Guterres made a very strong plea to the European Union to stick to this and to show at the international level that we can do this.

Let's make this a race to the top, so that everybody wins.

With this, Kadri, over to you, so you can go into the energy-related aspects of today's package.


Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson

Thank you, Frans.

To match the challenge of the century, we need both long-term vision and immediate action.

We cannot wait until 2050 is at the doorstep to act on climate neutrality as if we are cramming for an exam at the last moment. And we cannot leave the responsibility and consequences of climate change to the next generations.

The Climate Target Plan we present today is not just a plan to cut emissions faster and deeper. It is also a plan for transforming the way we produce, consume and transport energy across all sectors of our economy.

The energy sector has a key role to play in achieving the 55% reduction in greenhouse gases, as it accounts for 75% of EU's emissions.

By 2030:

  • electrification needs to reach 30%;
  • the rate of building renovation has to double;
  • the share of renewables in transport needs to reach around 24%;
  • and oil consumption has to go down by almost a third and gas consumption by a quarter.

We know that each of these mean massive change, but our careful assessment shows it's doable.

Europe's power generation sector is already the most decarbonised in the world. Now we need to focus on transforming all sectors, transport and buildings in particular.

More than a third of emissions come from buildings, especially their heating and cooling. There is huge potential in improving the energy efficiency of our houses. This is why in less than a month, the Commission will come out with the Renovation Wave initiative.

In the transport sector, we need to tackle every angle: strengthening the CO2 standards for vehicles, making clean fuels such as hydrogen more accessible, investing heavily in infrastructure and deploying smart traffic management systems.

My good colleague Adina Valean is working on the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy that will cover all these strands of work.

Together with the Climate Target Plan, the College adopted the assessment of the national energy and climate plans today.

I want to thank all the Member States for their efforts over two years. Each of them now has a forward-looking blueprint for clean energy transformation and investment.

Our assessment of those plans shows that, based on existing policies, we will overachieve our current 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target of at least 40% percent.

The picture is especially encouraging when we look at renewables: we are global technological leaders and the price of renewable energy in Europe is steadily falling.

The NECP assessment projects that we are on track to produce more than 33% of our energy from renewable sources with existing policies, beyond the current 2030 target of at least 32%.

We are going to build on that success and the market momentum by coming out with the offshore energy strategy later this year.

The EU is also moving away from coal. The majority of Member States have either already phased out coal or set a specific deadline for doing so. By 2030, the use of coal would decrease by 70%.

Today we also gave a further push to green energy: the Commission adopted the EU renewable energy financing mechanism that allows countries where producing renewable energy is challenging, to pool resources and invest in Member States with abundant wind or sun.

The NECPs also reveal where there are greater challenges, for example, in energy efficiency: there is still a gap of about 3% to reach our current target of 32,5%. But there is also new interest in the topic. And our renovation wave, eco-design and energy efficiency first initiatives will help us use that momentum.

There are still 40 million Europeans that struggle to keep their homes warm during the heating period. This is unacceptable. While renovation can reduce energy bills, the policies have to be designed in a way that makes it also possible for the less privileged to take advantage of them.

We will provide guidance to the Member States this year on addressing energy poverty.

The national plans were of course prepared with the current 2030 target in mind. To reach the 55% goal, we will need to do more. The impact assessment foresees the need for a 38 to 40% share of renewables in our energy mix and a 36 to 39% improvement in our energy efficiency.

In the Climate Target Plan we commit to reviewing the renewable energy and energy efficiency directives, including their targets, by next June.

A change of this magnitude requires serious investment - an additional 350 billion euro per year compared to the period 2011-2020.

NECPs will have a crucial role to play here, as they will provide input for the recovery and resilience plans and just transition plans of the Member States.

I encourage all EU countries to take advantage of the unprecedented funding opportunities available under the Next Generation EU and the long-term EU budget. I'm happy to see that Member States from France to Lithuania have already made green investment a central part of their recovery strategy.

Many of the choices we need to make are tough. Moving from 40% to 55% doesn't just mean changing a figure on paper, it means real impact on people and businesses. But we have the will, the technology and the resources - and still enough time - to become climate-neutral by 2050.

Every year, the EU gives away 50 billion euros in the form of fossil fuel subsidies. This is roughly the same amount of money we invest annually in wind and solar energy and energy infrastructure.

This is one example of where we need to rethink and reset. But Europe has proved time and again that we are capable of doing just that.

Thank you.


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