The Europe Union can be a powerful promotor of climate ambitions also because it can offer a model of a socially just Green Deal transition, which leaves no one behind. “We can share our experience of tools such as the Coal Regions in Transition Initiative, and the Just Transition Mechanism. We can show that economic and energy diversification is possible and can create better jobs and growth for societies,” Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said on February 1 at the EsadeGeo Annual Energy Meeting “Geopolitics of the Green Deal Month”.
Europe accounts for around 8% of global emission. “So, to address global climate change, we need others to follow the same path – to become our partners in the clean energy transition,” Simson noted.
“Europe has two assets to advocate here: our high climate ambition and our just transition policy model. The European Union showed leadership announcing its climate neutrality goal for 2050. Last December EU leaders also agreed to step up commitment to reduce emissions by 2030. This is now the EU’s nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement,” the Commissioner said, adding that several other major international partners have announced as well net zero commitments. “We can look at 2021 with optimism. As a year of global climate action. Thanks to the COP 26 but also the actions of G20 and G7 led by the UK and Italy, Europe will be a driving force of this collective effort,” she said.
“So, as I said, we want to be leaders, but we have important work to do as partners. The Green Deal is not just an agenda to transform Europe’s economy and society. It has an impact beyond our borders, and most of all, on our closest partners and in our neighbourhood. That’s why this must be a focus of our external energy action,” Simson stressed.
Transatlantic climate cooperation
Most recently, the change of administration in the United States allows the EU to expect for renewed cooperation on its energy and climate goals. US President Joe Biden’s immediate actions on climate issues – including rejoining the Paris agreement – are a positive sign for the clean energy transition, Simson said. “We hope to organise an EU-US Energy Council as soon as possible now that the new State Secretary and Secretary of energy is in office,” she said.
“We also need to seek new opportunities for cooperation with our neighbours East and South and understand their different challenges and ambitions. We need to support the uptake of the EU’s energy acquis, rules and standards, and promote energy market integration and interconnectivity with them,” the Commissioner said.
According to Simson, the clean energy transition is becoming a flagship in EU relations with the Western Balkans. By mobilising up to €9 billion for investment in the region with the Investment Agenda for the Western Balkans, the EU is supporting a green and digital transition. “Here, energy efficiency, renewables and regional market integration are firmly on the agenda,” she said.
The energy transition can also be a unique opportunity to reset our relations with the Mediterranean region and contribute to stabilisation and growth. We will soon present a communication on a renewed partnership for the Southern Neighbourhood. On the horizon is also the next Union for the Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Energy in April in Portugal. Here we can set a new decarbonisation ambition for the Mediterranean region. And we have a perfect opportunity to enhance our partnership and offer new perspectives for cooperation,” Simson said.
EU-African Green Energy Initiative
Turning to Africa, the Commissioner, said the EU-Africa is working jointly on a Green Energy Initiative, concentrating on increasing the share of renewables, supporting energy access
and energy efficiency and building an energy partnership with Africa is a key strategic interest for external relations.
Turning to energy security, Simson said leadership and partnership around the world should go hand in hand with strengthening Europe’s open strategic autonomy.
“The Green Deal transition, as any transition, will transform Europe’s and global economic and trade relationship. Building a climate neutral economy powered by renewables will help Europe reduce its energy import bill. But it will not make us an energy island. Even when we turn towards cleaner fuels, Europe will continue to be at the centre of a web of import and export flows. So, we must continue to promote cooperation and collaboration in the global energy system,”she said.
She highlighted the EU proposals on hydrogen, methane emissions reduction and offshore energy adopted last year. “With our hydrogen strategy being the one that exemplifies best our international projection of the Green Deal. As I speak, we have the political, the financial and the market conditions in Europe to become the global powerhouse of hydrogen. We have adopted a European approach by launching the EU Strategy for Hydrogen in July and with it the Clean Hydrogen Alliance,” Simson said.
The Strategy lays out our vision for quickly scaling up renewable hydrogen production, driving down the costs and boosting demand in hard-to-abate sectors. And that vision comes with a set of ambitious targets: 6 GW of electrolysers installed by 2024, and 40 GW by 2030,” Simson said.
According to the Commissioner, Europe is not alone is seeing the potential in green hydrogen. Interest is growing across the global arena. International cooperation will be key to build a global playing field for all. “What we are proposing is a global rules-based market for hydrogen. And at the heart of that market are harmonised safety and environmental standards,” she said, adding, “And it’s in this spirit that we plan on placing hydrogen high on the agenda of the structured energy dialogues with other countries in all positions of the energy trade: countries with great potential like Morocco or Ukraine or Chile, importers like Korea and Japan, and those countries with one foot on each side. We are also strengthening our engagement in multilateral initiatives related to hydrogen, such as the International Partnership for Hydrogen in the Economy, the Hydrogen initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial and the Mission Innovation on Clean Hydrogen”.