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EU Emphasises on CO2 Emission Targets

EU Commissioner Speech at the Energy Ministerial in Astana

Monday 12 June 2017, by Nazar TAMASHEVSKA

EU commissioner Maroš Šefčovič gave the following speech at the Energy Ministerial in Astana. He leads the project team Energy Union, Establishing a European Energy Union by connecting infrastructures, enforcing legislation and increasing competition to help drive down costs for citizens and businesses and boost growth.

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Maroš Šefčovič

Honourable ministers,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank Kazakhstan for hosting the Energy Ministerial Conference Meeting the Challenge of Sustainable Energy in the beautiful city of Astana. Let me praise in this context the Kazakh authorities for their determination in pursuing the clean energy transition. This commitment is manifested in the three month International Specialized Exhibition 2017, where the aim is to promote high-technologies for achieving a sustainable and low-carbon energy mix.

Hosting an event of scale and magnitude as Expo is a great honour. It is a sign of recognition and respect by the international community to the country and the city of hosting it. I think it’s enough to look around this magnificent futuristic site to appreciate the fact that the choice was well justified.

I am glad to inform you that, as part of the official programme of EXPO2017 Future Energy Forum, a dedicated EU energy day focusing on clean energy solutions for the buildings of the future will be held on 24th July, followed by another EU-sponsored conference devoted to fusion energy research on 25th July, dealing with latest developments in nuclear fusion.

I would like to underline the importance of Kazakhstan as a major energy supplier and contributor towards diversification of energy sources for the EU markets. Kazakhstan now supplies around 5-6% of EU oil demand and meets more than 21% of the EU uranium demand. Our fruitful cooperation in the energy field dates back to 2006 when the Memorandum of Understanding on Energy Cooperation was signed (the first one with a Central Asian country). It was further boosted by the signature of the new Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in 2015, which opens up further opportunities for mutually beneficial collaboration.

Nowadays, we are witnessing significant changes in the global energy market. It is a fact that, over the last years, the significant drop in oil prices occurred alongside an accelerating transition towards a more clean and sustainable use of energy sources. Never before the need to reconcile the objectives of meeting existing energy needs worldwide and to mitigate the climate effects of energy resources utilisation has been felt so strongly.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reflects the commitment of the international community to pursue concerted and accelerated action on energy and to combat climate change and its impact.

With the Paris Agreement, the global transition to a low-carbon economy has become a world-wide commitment, to be supported by extensive international cooperation.

One and a half years ago, 195 countries agreed in Paris on the first universal and legally binding agreement on climate change. Even before this, they submitted their national targets — the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) — to explain how they intend to contribute to limiting temperature increase to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels while pursuing efforts to limit it further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The ratification took place very swiftly and the Agreement entered into force already in November 2016 — much earlier than expected. Today, the vast majority of countries have ratified the agreement.

But even with the efforts which have been communicated so far, we will not be able to reach the 2°C target, let alone the 1.5°C. In fact with what is on the table we are heading to temperature increase of around 3°C or even more, hence there is still a large “emissions gap” which must be closed by more ambitious action.

This is why the Paris Agreement contains a mechanism which takes stock every 5 years of the collective progress towards achieving the objectives, and calls upon parties to scale-up their ambition to close the gap if required. The energy sector will have a decisive role in this context, as it is the dominant source of greenhouse gas emissions globally.

The current and coming years are crucial for the international climate negotiations. The detailed rules implementing the Paris Agreement are currently under negotiations and they are expected to be adopted at COP24 in 2018.

We deeply regret the unilateral decision by the US administration to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. Despite this, we are encouraged by the enthusiasm of many States, cities, and corporations to continue in the fight against climate change. The EU remains absolutely committed to the full implementation of the Agreement. The world can count on the EU for global leadership in the fight against climate change.

In parallel to the climate negotiations, we will need to step up our efforts to encourage the concrete implementation of the nationally determined targets, including through action by the non-State stakeholders, cities, business, investors and civil society.

Reducing CO2 emissions is closely linked to increasing technological progress in the fields of energy efficiency, and increasing renewable energy sources, which are crucial to ensure the clean energy transition. What is good for the climate is also good for growth and jobs, for business and cost efficiency.

We see the clean energy transition also as an engine for economic growth. The move to renewable energy sources and energy efficient buildings is already happening and it is creating new jobs and growth.

It is worth mentioning that the EU continues to successfully decouple its economic growth from its GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions. During the period from 1990 to 2015, the EU’s combined GDP grew by 50%, while total GHG emissions decreased by 22 %. Saving the climate and saving money go hand in hand.

The transition to a global energy-efficient, carbon neutral economy is well beyond its initial stage. It is for national governments and regulators to determine whether they want to be among the early movers or behind the trend.

The Energy Union, one of the key priorities of the President Juncker Commission, is the EU’s response to the global transition. It has the objective to make Europe resilient to external energy shocks while providing an ambitious climate policy. This will ensure that Europe’s consumers have access to secure, sustainable and affordable energy and reflects the enduring commitment of the EU to pursue a global clean energy transition. To that aim, we have defined five inter-related dimensions that we have been successfully implementing.

The Energy Union is not an inward-looking project. The external dimension is a key component of those five dimensions, as we strive to work with our partners and neighbours to enhance security of supply, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure affordable energy. This entails both the integration of physical infrastructures as well as the harmonisation of rules and standards. In particular, the EU can offer its expertise in a wide range of sectors, namely market integration, renewable energy, energy efficiency, storage and innovative energy technologies.

International cooperation in the energy field is gathering pace. The EU is pursuing its intense engagement with key global energy partners.

Over the last years, we have deepened our relations with the Caspian and Central Asian region covering a wide range of areas, including energy. Besides the deepening cooperation with Kazakhstan, the EU is involved in long lasting energy cooperation with all other Central Asian countries, under the framework of the EU-Central Asia strategy, which we are currently reviewing.

Major achievements in energy cooperation have also been attained with our neighbours under the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) framework, both at the bilateral and multilateral level. Eastern neighbours are included in the Eastern Partnership; bilateral cooperation mainly takes place through Association Agreements with a strong free-trade dimension. With Southern neighbours, the cooperation is carried out at the multilateral level through the Union for the Mediterranean as well as through bilateral commitments.

Significant progress has been reached through the Energy Community, which, based on its founding Treaty, aims to extend the EU internal energy market to South East Europe and beyond, on the basis of a legally binding framework.

Europe has a key role to play in the transition towards a low-carbon economy. We have already achieved significant results during the first two years since the launch of the Energy Union. Let me mention a few:

We are now at the stage that renewables are becoming cheaper than fossil fuels.

The average cost of solar panels has come down by 80% since 2008.

Wind and solar are undercutting coal or gas in terms of the costs, in an increasing number of countries.

Global investment in renewables in 2015 was 6 times higher than in 2004.

There are more than 1.1 million people employed in the renewables sector around the EU, with the number growing.

Now that a large part of the Energy Union legislative proposals are on the table, the time for implementation has come. We are delivering results to our citizens.

  • For the post-2020 period the Commission recently adopted the Clean Energy for All Europeans Package. It sets the regulatory framework for long-term energy and climate objectives, thus pushing further the transition to a cleaner economy, meeting our commitments under the Paris Agreement and achieving our overall vision for an Energy Union.
  • With its 8 legislative proposals, this is the largest energy legislative package ever presented by the Commission. The package completes the Energy Union, fulfilling one of the key priorities of the Juncker Commission.

About 90% of the total deliverables envisaged in the Energy Union are addressed in this package. This will help us be ahead in the clean energy transition, turn the Paris Agreement into concrete action, and make sure our energy system is fit for purpose.

With regard to the main elements of this package, we are proposing a binding EU-level target for energy efficiency of 30% by 2030. Greater energy efficiency is expected to stimulate economic activity and job creation in the construction and building sector and to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution, thus making our energy system more sustainable.

On renewables, the objective is to reach the EU level target of at least 27% renewable sources in our energy mix by 2030. This implies the setting of the right investment framework and a greater increase of sources of renewable energy usage in our economy. In this context a proposal to overhaul the EU electricity market has also been tabled in order to support better integration of renewables and strengthen the market price signals.

The package that we have tabled will provide the stable regulatory framework we need to deliver a more efficient, market-oriented and integrated energy sector. This, in turn, will stimulate further investments, bringing innovation, new jobs, and boosting Europe’s competitiveness.

To sum up, for achieving a low carbon and sustainable energy mix, both the climate change and the energy perspective are instrumental. The EU is on the edge of this process, thus ensuring secure, sustainable and affordable energy. To this end, we reiterate our willingness to cooperate with the international partners and share our expertise and best practices to pursue this common goal. Not only will this commitment stimulate investments, jobs creation and boost the EU’s economy, but will also have positive repercussions beyond European borders, involving all our international partners.

Before I conclude, let me applaud the work of the Kazakh Government on the Ministerial Declaration. I welcome the regional and cooperative approach which drove it and take note of its content with appreciation.

Finally, I’d like to thank UNECE for its result-oriented and focused approach of reducing GHG emissions through standardisation in the field of sustainable energy. We share the same objectives, as we expressed them in the EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework, the Energy Union Strategy and the Paris agreement. We would therefore like to maintain our efficient and pragmatic approach in our cooperation with UNECE.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Energy has a green future. Thank you for your contributions to the Astana 2017 Expo which illustrate just how green that future is.

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