EU plans to responds to climate change

Austrian Parliament, 19 November 2018

COSAC Conference in Vienna discusses climate policy and energy union

Vienna (PK) – The third session of the LXth COSAC meeting focused on Europe’s climate protection policy and the closely related goal of implementing an energy union. The Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union is currently meeting at the Austria Center Vienna, as part of the parliamentary dimension of Austria’s EU Presidency. The introductory statements to the discussion of the challenges, which the European Union has to face in its energy and economic policies on account of climate change, were delivered by Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission for an Energy Union and Monika Langthaler, representing the NGO “R20 – Regions of Climate Action”.

Šefčovič: Europe must strengthen innovation in the energy field in order to reach the climate change targets

EU Commission Member Maroš Šefčovič underlined that the project of an energy union is making good progress and will soon become reality. Major progress has also been achieved towards decarbonization of the energy system. According to Šefčovič, the goals of the energy union include not only increasing energy security but also increasing energy efficiency and climate protection. Work is currently underway to translate the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement into national strategies. Šefčovič expressed his optimism in this context and said that Member States showed themselves to be very ambitious, and that it is to be expected that the CO2 reduction targets set for 2030 could be surpassed by a considerable margin. However, scientists leave no doubt that efforts to curb global warming must be further intensified. The goal must therefore be a decarbonized Europe within the second half of this century. This will not be possible without a considerable increase in energy efficiency.

He noted that the EU must therefore promote innovation and development in many areas. Šefčovič gave the example of increasing demand for high-performance batteries. This is a strongly growing market for which Europe has to offer its own products. Europe must also be able to meet the expected demand for electric cars if it wants to keep up with competition. This means advancing technological solutions in all directions and investing in them. In connection with the conversion to renewable energies, Šefčovič warned against forgetting regions dominated by traditional energy sources, in particular the European coal-mining areas. It is important for them to develop new economic models, to secure investments and not to leave them behind. Industrial policy will be a decisive factor in making the 21st century as European as possible, Šefčovič said. However, in his view there are good prerequisites that Europe will be able to hold its own in international competition against the big players USA and China.

Langthaler: It is important to win the future

Langthaler is director of the R20 Austrian World Summit which is organized annually by the NGO “R20 – Regions of Climate Actions”. Langthaler began her presentation by referring to the three challenges facing energy supplies in the coming years: climate change, access to electricity and air pollution in the cities, which has become one of the greatest killers of mankind. While there is increasing instability on energy markets, there are also positive developments, as more people than ever before have access to electricity. However, energy consumption will continue to rise until 2040, and there is a great need for investments in the energy sector. In this connection, legislators play an important role, as the public sector currently provides a large part of the investment for energy production, says Langthaler.

Langthaler promoted R20, the NGO founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2011, which aims to promote the exchange of best-practice examples in climate protection projects. Her Austrian office therefore organizes the R20 Austrian World Summit every year. The goal of this summit is to actively promote the transformation of the energy system towards sustainability and, above all, to involve cities and regions in this process. First success can already be seen on the sub-national level in connection with renewable energy. It is important to bring “Smart Money” into contact with “Smart Projects” and to create public awareness for the challenges of climate change. Climate change is an undeniable fact, and it is important to take the decisive measures now to win the future.

Parliament members: Europe must take strategic decisions to transform the energy system

In their contributions to the debates, parliament members were agreed that the European Union must undertake major efforts to counter climate change. The challenges are enormous, and it is therefore necessary to set ambitious goals. Citizens expect answers, as was stressed several times. The EU must and can play a leading role in the fight against global warming. Although it is responsible for only a small part of global emissions, the EU can play an important political and economic role in the transition to a sustainable energy system, was the general tenor.

In this context parliament members wondered to what extent the EU and its individual Member States are prepared and ready to do this. The next decade will decide what response can be given to climate change, as this is not only an environmental issue but also a matter of economic competitiveness and security. The question is therefore which technological solutions should be promoted for the transformation of the energy system. In addition to developing alternative energy sources, it is therefore also important to strengthen energy efficiency. For parliament members the question of affordable energy supplies is therefore another issue in the context of the technical questions concerning renewable energies and energy networks. They said that transnational solutions are therefore needed. The call for more support from the European Commission came particularly from Member States in southern Europe.

Šefčovič: Europe has answers to offer but must invest strategically

In his reply to the contributions to the debate, EU Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič referred to the roadmap which the EU plans to present in 2020 to show how the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement can be achieved. He sees positive developments. Europe has many answers to offer, but it needs to invest more in research and development. Europe can offer inventions and innovations, but the challenge is to translate this knowledge into practical and economically successful applications. Europe must strengthen innovative financing models and risk financing. In this context, it is necessary to strengthen the framework conditions. All technological possibilities for sustainable energy generation are being pursued.

On aviation and shipping, which were addressed in the debate, Šefčovič stated that these areas would not be left aside either. Agreement has already been reached that aviation emissions should no longer rise after 2020. However, this poses major technical challenges. Many important decisions would have to be taken in the financial area. Coordination and long-term perspectives are necessary to ensure that the expansion of energy generation is also economically sustainable and that no mistaken investments are made.

Langthaler: Politics need a holistic approach

Monika Langthaler sees the EU in a leading role in the fight against climate change since the 1992 Climate Conference in Rio de Janeiro. Europe must continue to play this leading role and adopt a holistic political approach. After all, climate change is not only an issue of energy policy but also an important aspect of other policy areas such as health, agriculture or foreign policy. Langthaler appealed in particular to financial policy-makers to pay particular attention to the issue of investments in climate protection. Technical innovations are the key to technical change. This undoubtedly takes time and affects Member States differently. It is also necessary to keep an eye on the social aspect. However, the most important thing is to get the discussion about the necessary change out of its elitist communication bubble and to bring it closer to the people. The members of parliaments in Europe could play an important role in this context.

PLEASE NOTE: Photos of this event can be found at the website of the Austrian Parliament at

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