Speech given by Federal Minister Gabriel before the Mini EP Plenary - EU monitor

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Speech given by Federal Minister Gabriel before the Mini EP Plenary

Source: Duits voorzitterschap Europese Unie 1e helft 2007 i, published on Wednesday, January 31 2007.

Gabriel - REGIERUNGonline-Fassbender

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Climate change is a reality. Scientists have been issuing warnings for a long time. And anyone who reads the newspapers attentively will have noticed that these warnings have become more and more radical. Alarming incidents are occurring with increasing frequency and intensity: floods, droughts, the dramatically accelerating melting of icecaps, disappearing species.

Since the publication of the comprehensive analysis by Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank, if not before, it has become clear: ambitious climate protection is the inescapable consequence of any sensible economic and energy policy. Taking action in climate protection is by far more cost-effective than inaction or delayed action. According to Stern's calculations, the costs of unchecked climate change would lie between 5 and 20% of GDP per year. Stern compares the effect with that of the Great Depression of the Thirties. Such a development would counteract all economic success in the medium and long term. In contrast to this, Stern estimates the costs for climate protection measures to be around 1% of world GDP, and thus significantly lower. This is a message which politicians, economists and representatives of trade and industry have understood - and must understand.

At the Climate Change Conference in Nairobi Kofi Annan impressively described the dire situation which the global community is facing due to climate change. He said: Climate change is not just an environmental issue. It is an all encompassing threat. It is a threat to health, to food security and to the foundations of life for billions of people worldwide. It is also a threat to economic development.

Kofi Annan takes it further: he describes climate change as a threat to peace and security. This was also underlined by the British Foreign Secretary in her highly regarded keynote address on climate and security at the end of October in Berlin. Following on from her speech we must say that being a credible head of government today means taking the challenge of climate change seriously as a challenge facing security policy. Heads of state and government all around the world should delay no longer in making climate change a priority topic now.

This is also the main conclusion I drew from the UN Climate Change Conference in Nairobi.

In view of the urgency of the challenge, I sympathise with all those who find the UN process for achieving global consensus too slow. However there is no alternative to a global response to the global challenge. The Kyoto Protocol is a pioneering achievement of international law. It must remain the backbone of an even more far-reaching agreement. The Conference of the Parties in Nairobi laid an important foundation to enable us at the next round of talks to adopt a comprehensive negotiating mandate on the further development of the international climate regime. There was broad agreement that we must reduce global emissions by 50% by 2050. We adopted a good working programme for further developing the Kyoto Protocol. We aim to conclude the review of the Kyoto Protocol by 2008.

However, in view of the urgency of the challenge it is also clear that this UN process needs a new political dynamic. We must accept the challenge at head of state and government level -- swiftly and specifically, so that we really do set the course within the next 10 to 15 years. The EU has a key role to play in this.

Federal Chancellor Merkel has put climate and energy high on the agendas of both our EU Presidency and our Presidency of the G8. During this year we can and we must set the decisive course for a multilateral climate protection regime for the post-2012 period. The crucial milestones for this are

  • the European Council on 8 March, prepared by the Council of Energy Ministers on 15 February and the Council of Environment Ministers on 20 February
  • the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm at the beginning of June, prepared by a meeting of environment ministers of the G8+5 countries in mid March, and finally
  • the Climate change Conference in December in Indonesia.

Climate change and energy policy are two sides of the same coin. 70% of CO2 emissions arise during the generation or conversion of energy. Optimally linking energy policy and climate protection is therefore the vital strategy for solving the problems. Thus, for example, an ambitious increase in energy efficiency is the most important measure both for effective climate protection and for reducing dependency on energy imports.

I fully agree with the Commission's approach of closely interlinking climate policy and energy policy. In my view we need a twin-track strategy in both Europe's domestic and foreign policy: improving energy efficiency and further expanding renewable energies. The energy package submitted by the Commission in December and the previously submitted Action Plan for Energy Efficiency are an excellent basis for discussions in the Council. While some details do still have to be reviewed and discussed, in my opinion the proposals are definitely pointing in the right direction.

In view of the growth dynamic in important emerging economies, the global challenges of climate protection and resource scarcity require "green" innovations. At European level we therefore need an ecological innovation and industry policy which systematically promotes environmental technologies such as energy and resource efficient processes and products, or renewable energies. In this way we can achieve the highest possible level of environmental protection, sustainable economic development, competitive advantages and, not least, employment. For this reason I have taken the theme "Environment, Innovation, Employment" for the German Presidency's environment programme. Building on the preparatory work previously undertaken in the EU, we want to generate new impetus in the context of the Lisbon Strategy at the Environment Council in February and the Spring Summit in March and elaborate more detailed contributions at the informal meeting of environment ministers in Essen.

However, all these efforts must be supplemented with a definite target for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. The EU must take on a pioneering role in international climate protection. Climate protection brings home the fact that only a strong alliance of states, like the EU, can be the driving force for achieving the necessary global progress. I am convinced that together we can succeed once again in strengthening public support for the EU, in particular with the issue of climate protection. This is why my friend David Miliband refers to the EU also as "Environmental Union".

I support the proposals of the Commission:

  • Without any ifs or buts the EU should endeavour to obtain a commitment from all industrialised countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30% by 2020.
  • In the - in my view unlikely - event that such an agreement cannot be reached, the EU should already make an unconditional pledge now to reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2020. This will strengthen our international credibility.

A 30% objective should thus be quite clearly set. Some press reports, however, have recently been giving the wrong impression that the Community is only pursuing a 20% target.

With this powerful message, the EU will help break the logjam in international climate negotiations.

The EU targets are a key component of the negotiation package which we are preparing during our Presidency and which builds on the successful architecture of the Kyoto Protocol. It ensures that we will not exceed the 2 degree limit which has several times been laid down as a guideline by the EU heads of state and government.

The climate-energy package will be the focus of the European Council in March, and the environment ministers will make their contribution to this at their February meeting. But I would also like to speed up the work on concrete climate policy instruments.

The EU emissions trading scheme undoubtedly holds first place here. Emissions trading is the key instrument of European climate protection policy. European (and national) climate protection policy must give high priority to the further development of emissions trading in the review process on the Emissions Trading Directive and the expansion of the scheme at international level. In the discussions on the German NAP it is not a question of whether this instrument should be used, but of how it should be used with regard to assessment criteria and transparent application. Last autumn the Commission submitted a communication on the future of emissions trading and it plans to make legislation proposals in the third quarter of this year. I believe it is appropriate for the Council's ideas to be incorporated as well. Discussions must be held in particular on the harmonisation of allocation procedures, the area of application and the use of project-based mechanisms. For our June meeting I am aiming for Council conclusions on this topic.

With regard to the inclusion of aviation in emissions trading the Commission has already tabled a proposal. This is a very important but also highly controversial topic. The German Presidency will initiate an intensive debate on this proposal and endeavour to progress as far as possible before the June Council meeting. It would be helpful if the Parliament would also swiftly elaborate an opinion on this. The Council and Parliament discussions should take account of competition aspects.

The German Presidency's commitment to climate policy goes hand-in-hand with our focal issue of sustainable mobility. We need clearer progress in reducing CO2 in emissions from passenger cars. To put it plainly, over the next few years the fuel-consumption of vehicles must be seriously curbed. The Commission has announced that it will submit a communication in the next few days. The voluntary restrictions imposed by the industry itself have failed. We now need clear legally binding targets. To this end we are planning Council conclusions in June as a first step.

In March 2007 the European Council will adopt an Action Plan on Energy for Europe, and thus lay down important elements of the new European energy policy.

In my opinion we need a twin-track strategy in both Europe's domestic and foreign policy: improving energy efficiency and further expanding renewable energies. The EU should consolidate and expand its pioneering role.

  • The Roadmap for Renewable Energies which was presented on 10 January in the framework of the Commission's energy package, envisages a binding overall target of a 20% share of renewables in primary energy consumption in the EU by 2020. We support this target, from which a binding national overall target for renewable energies should be derived for each member state, taking into consideration the different national conditions and the progress achieved to date. We call on the Commission to submit a proposal for a directive in line with the proposed EU Action Plan before the end of the German EU Presidency.
  • Furthermore, a separate target for the fuel sector of at least 10% in 2020 is suggested. We consider a binding EU minimum target for 2020 of a 12.5% share of biofuels in the EU's total fuel consumption in the transport sector to be appropriate. This must be introduced in a cost-effective manner. The prerequisite for achieving this target is that second generation biofuels are commercially available and the Fuel Quality Directive is amended accordingly.

Ladies and Gentlemen

I know that the majority of the European Parliament supports a higher expansion target for renewable energies of 25% by 2020, as well as timeframes reaching further into the future. However, especially in view of the positions of some member states, ranging from very cautious to adverse, I believe that the European Commission's targets represent a very good basis from which to start.

In the field of efficiency we support the 20% target of the European Commission. We will focus on measures in the buildings sector, industry and energy supply. Impetus for innovation, particularly in consumer goods, could be stimulated especially by a European Top Runner Programme, which would also help the most efficient technologies to become established on the market more quickly. We intend to foster the debate on this innovative policy instrument.

We must also quickly realise the considerable efficiency potential in the transport sector. To achieve this consumption must be reduced in all segments of the market. To increase energy efficiency in the transport sector a number of measures and policies are needed which, if necessary, could also include legal instruments.

The German dual presidency of the EU and G8 offers a special opportunity and obligation to canvass support for an ambitious, integrated climate and energy policy. The changed constellation of ecology and economy is leading to new alliances and new allies on the international stage as well.

I am sure that as Members of the European Parliament you will support us in our pursuit of these goals.

Thank you for your attention.


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Date: 31.01.2007