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Livestream report - High-level Public Conference on Implementing the European Green Deal – The European Climate Law

Green deal

ITALIAN VERSION

On the 28th January 2020, the European Commission (EC) has held a high-level public conference on implementing the European Green Deal – the European Climate Law. The aim was to gather together all the relevant stakeholders and give them the opportunity to have their say in the discussion for the finalisation and adoption of the European Climate Law.

Key-note Speech

Mr. Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President of the EC, hosted the conference, with an opening speech calling on all participants from the various sectors to intervene and contribute, so as to give full meaning and effectiveness to the upcoming Climate Law. He recalled the main goal ahead, namely to make the EU the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, implement the Fair Transition Mechanism and to necessarily act in this sense in a collective manner.

His main point was that achieving the goal is possible as today, contrary to the past, we have scientific knowledge, technology and the money to make this Just Transition happen.

 

Session I – Becoming the World’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050: benefits from the Green Transition 

The Introductory speech was given by Mr. Grlić-Radman, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia, who stressed the importance that growth and sustainability go hand in hand in the path towards attaining climate-neutrality. In this regard, he stated that the benefits that we will reap are many, including a climate-friendly industry, smart technologies, an effective circular economic, and green and healthy agriculture. He concluded by indicating the required next steps, from creativity in designing new approaches in the use and role of technology, to the guarantee that no one – whether a region, Member State or society category – is left behind.

 

Panel discussion, moderated by Mauro Petriccione, DG for Climate Action, European Commission

The panel was held by Marco Mensink, Director General, European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic); Pascal Canfin, Chair of ENVI Committee, European Parliament; Wendel Trio, Director, Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe; Alexander Canal, Secretary General, Generation Climate Europe; Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO, SolarPower Europe.

This has been indeed further developed during the panel discussion, for instance by CEO of SolarPower Europe Mrs. Hemetsberger. She enthusiastically mentioned that solar energy might be the game-changer in the fight against climate change: this innovative technology in fact would allow the EU to drastically cut emissions as well as costs in the energy sector.

Other experts added that with such a revolution – dubbed as Europe’s IV Industrial Revolution – the EU would be set free from its dependency on imported fossil fuels, while remaining the leader in the manufacturing sector. On a final note, more job opportunities for its citizens would be created and make regional development thrive, as solar energy requires high-skilled workers and has the potential of transforming former coal areas in more competitive ones.

 

Session II – Contribution of all policies to climate-neutrality and a just and socially fair transition 

The second section was opened by Mr. Kurtyka, Minister of Climate of Poland, and revolved around the issue of making all policies contribute to the aims of climate-neutrality and just transition. The Minister underlined the fact that, while the vision is clear, what remains to be determined is how to reach the climate-neutrality destination. He hence suggested creating a comprehensive and internally consistent policy, involving all the sectors of the economy.

From energy to transport, the leading motto must be the ‘need to change the way we produce, communicate and consume and treat our environment, energy, transport, waste management, society and agriculture’. Defined as a Copernican revolution, there is, in short, the compelling need for a new strategy, which pays special regard to the social issues.

 

Panel discussion, moderated by Céline Gauer, Deputy Secretary-General, European Commission

The panel was held by William Todts, Executive Director, Transport & Environment (T&E); Eric-Mark Huitema, Director General, European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA); Pekka Pesonen, Secretary General, Copa Cogeca; Monica Frassoni, President, European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE); Ed Daniels, Executive Vice President Strategy and Portfolio, Shell; Luca Visentini, Secretary General, European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC); Cecilia Bonefeld-Dahl, Director General, DigitalEurope.

The discussion went on with two experts, Executive Director of Transport & Environment Mr. Todts and DG of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association Huithema, agreeing on the fact that transport remains the only sector where emissions are still growing, but simultaneously offers the biggest opportunities that can be drawn from a renovation. Electrification of cars and other means of transport is actually illustrative in this sense and arguably represents a triple win: it would stop pollution and import of oil, beside halting the crisis of the transport system.

Mr. Huithema however warned that, in order to accomplish this revolution, a clear legal framework governing the way to create zero-emission technology is strongly needed, and should be matched with legal disciplines for other sectors such as aviation and shipping, which are currently still excluded from any EU-level relevant policy. Secondly, material interventions are warranted: from the simple establishment of charging infrastructures in the case of electric cars to the set-up and development of new modes of transport.

Energy efficiency has also been at the core of the debate. Mrs. Frassoni, President of the European Alliance to Save Energy for example affirmed that, so far, the EU legislative discipline on improving energy efficiency has been successful but more needs to be done, and so the new Climate Law is a perfect chance to adjust the current legislative and financial framework and integrate it with such a goal. She underlined the importance of setting clear priorities and clear indication as to where the funds go, in order to give the final push to achieve energy efficiency. Her remarks have moreover called for a substantial renovation in this field – something examined more in depth by DG of DigitalEurope Bonefeld-Dahl.

Mrs. Bonefeld-Dahl indeed presented the digital as an enabler of the desired transformation, since it has the potential of heavily reducing emissions via the innovative use of new technologies. At the same time, she called for massive investments in R&I to make this happen, for instance in the deployment of existing technologies into energy-efficient grids, to change producers’ and consumers’ behaviour.

To conclude, she proposed to reform the European Trade System (ETS) – the flagship of EU’s Climate and Energy Policy – in a twofold manner: first, by integrating renewable and low-carbon powers. Secondly, the development of a strategy to both maintain the competitiveness of EU industries and retain social justice and fairness in the shift towards the transition.

The closing speech of the session was delivered by Secretary General Visentini from the European Trade Union Confederation, who praised the Conference’s intent of enabling all the various stakeholders to contribute to the design of the European Green Deal. In this respect, he essentially claimed that ’the transition – to be socially just and inclusive – must take into consideration the hardships faced by workers, especially the low-skilled ones’. Indeed, this category is the first one at risk of facing job deserts as a consequence of the Green Transition, as it has happened in the past for other changes in the economic model. Accordingly, the Secretary General has repeated the need for the European Green Deal to carefully include the diverse positions coming from the various sectors and from the different local communities – with a view to ensuring a proper management of the Transition.

 

Session III, Introduction: Vladis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice President, EU Commission 

The introductive speech was given by Vladis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice President of the EU Commission. He said that in order to make green transition sustainable we need a solid financial plan, starting from extra money (260 billion a year) to finance projects, help people reduce emissions, and build a low carbon transport system. The plan must also be sustainable and will involve both private and public sectors because, although the European Bank is going to invest more money, there is no way the public funds can meet all those needs and we need to rely also on private sector. Public sector will lead the way, while private sector will provide the scale. 

Investments will be supported by an improvement in terms of policies and legal acts. A new taxonomy system will be adopted, with a guide for enterprises and companies, and a new EU labelling system for green products will be set up. However, not every single detail can be fixed in Law. This is why, Dombrovskis said, we need experts’ assistance. Finally, he underlined that as much as the role of the EU is important in this green transition, we cannot do this alone and working together will hence be crucial. 

 

Panel discussion, moderated by Marco Buti, European Commission

The panel discussion was introduced by Marco Buti, European Commission, Head of Cabinet to Commissioner Gentiloni. He underlined the objectives of the EU, and said that while the EU budget will do its part, the private sector will also need to mobilise. Finally, various European policies are going to be changed, like the fiscal policy. 

The panel was held by Ester Asin, Director, WWF European Policy Office; Emma Navarro, VP, European Investment Bank (EIB); Luiz Awazu Pereira da Silva, Deputy General Manager, Bank for International Settlements (BIS); Guntram Wolf, Director, Bruegel; Pierre Wunsch, Governor, National Bank of Belgium.

Ester Asin made some general points and principles about financing. She said that the current level of investment is low, and the WWF advocates that 50% at least of EU budget should be deployed. This notwithstanding, the commitment of the EC is not enough: The European Sustainable Plan is a good starting point, but some criticalities remain, such as who is going to guarantee coordination and consistency. The task is therefore to make sure that all the instruments are going towards the same direction and aiming at the same goals. She concluded by saying that the road is not going to be easy, especially at the national level, and that cooperation between Member States will be vital to ensure consistency.  

Emma Navarro, on her part, recalled the past commitment of the EIB within the European Green Deal. The Bank has been an efficient tool to help investments in this sector, and helped in a twofold way: first, the financing of several projects around the world since 2012. Second, the mobilization of billions of sustainable investments within the realm of a policy framework. Such commitments will continue in a synergy with the EC and the MS.

Luiz Awazu Pereira da Silva started by mentioning the growing awareness about climate change also in the financial and industrial sector. The Green Deal – he stated – is an opportunity to align hitherto different policies and improve them via coordinated strategies of cooperation. The European Bank will contribute with actions in the financial sector, such as by identifying better pricing and new instruments of investments towards a more sustainable transition for both investors and the society. He concluded with a mention to fairness: This transition warrants a compensatory system for those who are not necessarily prepared from a social policies perspective.

Guntram Wolf raised awareness on 3 main critical aspects of the proposed plan: public money is not enough, uncertainty still prevents private investors from committing themselves to the cause and, finally, MSs need to be encouraged as well to put more money in the green transition. Likewise, Pierre Wunsch, added that by focussing so much on investments, the real problem is being overlooked, notably correcting prices.

Furthermore, he underlined the importance of public support in profitable investments. Investing in green energy, for example, has helped to reduce prices in the last 15 years.

The discussion was followed by lots of questions and interesting insights.  

The Conference was concluded by Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President, European Commission. He showed a positive attitude about the future: even if there is no perfect solution, EU will be able to find the optimal one, working together with the shareholders. The best the EU can do is to guarantee predictability to investors, and encourage them to commit in this transition. Climate Law can be helpful, for example, to establish a mechanism of correction. A real change for the future is what we need and it is a challenge for all of us. However, President Timmermans is certain it is goal we can achieve all together.

Margherita Trombetti & Jasmine Faudone

Europe Direct Emilia Romagna

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