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Opening speech 'Road to Zero – Electric, efficient and clean Transport' at COP 23 in Bonn

Opening speech ‘Road to Zero – Electric, efficient and clean Transport’ at the at Conference of the Parties (COP 23) in Bonn. Germany. (CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY) Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here today. Yes, that’s what people usually say when they open a speech but it really is a pleasure because the COP summits have become gatherings of ambition, of optimism, of taking responsible action. Those who have attended these summits for many years remember well that this has not always been the case.

It used to be a sisyphic struggle of persuasion, of advocacy, and diplomacy. It used to be the voice of the few preaching the many. So we’ve come a long way in winning the hearts and minds of citizens, of decision makers, of politicians and businessmen and women.

This is to a large extent your success, civil society organisations who have been advocating for this cause since many years. We now know that this struggle was worthwhile, looking back at the success of COP21. Or looking around this summit as we see the level of enthusiasm remaining high to ensure the most effective implementation of the Paris Agreement.

But this sense of accomplishment shouldn’t make us complacent either. We all know how difficult the implementation of the Paris Agreement is and is going to be in the years to come. We recognise the tremendous levels of investment still needed, the regulatory reforms, the involvement of a large range of stakeholders who are critical for this success.

So the road from Paris is equally challenging as the road to Paris. We, in Europe, are lucky in that sense. Public opinion here is not only supporting our climate action; it is demanding climate action.

8 out of 10 Europeans want to see more EU support for clean technologies in Europe and around the world.

9 out of 10 support the increase in Europe’s energy efficiency and renewables targets by 2030. So we did. We pushed them high and we translated these targets into a set of legislative proposals.

This shows that when we say Europe is leading the global energy transition, we are not just talking. We are acting. We are pushing our clean industry forward.

And we are pulling the rest of the world with us. This week alone we saw two major milestones on our legislative proposals: First, last year’s proposal on the reform of the European Emission Trading System was adopted by the European Parliament and the Member States.

The current allowance price made it too low to be effective. Now, with the removal of allowances from the system, we will push the price back up. Emission has a high societal and environmental price; that should also be reflected in its monetary price!

The deal also closes the door to using ETS funds for investments in coal. Instead, we will now be able to fund more programme to help mitigate the transition of workers from carbon intensive regions. Redeployment and re-skilling will become critical components in order to smoothen the process.

Speaking of global leadership, ETS has already inspired similar emission allocation markets around the world which we are happy to support. The second major milestone was on Wednesday when we presented the Commission’s second legislative package on clean mobility. Currently, almost a fourth of Europe’s GHG is emitted by our vehicles.

We were therefore ambitious and we set the bar high: Both for new cars and vans, the average CO2 emissions will have to be 30% lower in 2030, compared to 2021. Europe was at the forefront of each of the previous industrial revolutions, whether they were led by steam, coal, or oil. Now it’s time for Europe to lead the new industrial revolution of zero-emission mobility.

But in order for this to happen we need to incentivise the automotive industry to take action, quick action. As my colleague, Commissioner Bienkowska, says: good drivers know that you need shift gears ahead of time in order to smoothen the acceleration. This is very true when planning the next production cycles of cars; they need to be planned well ahead.

That is why we now set targets for new vehicles – not only for 2030 but also for 2025. I am confident that the European co-legislators will maintain this high ambition. Our package does not concentrate only on the supply of cleaner European cars but also on the demand.

That is why we also set rules on public procurement of clean vehicles by public authorities across Europe. We also put forward financial support of 800 million euros for infrastructure of clean transport. This will not be sufficient but it will leverage more private funds and send a clear message to the market.

Ladies and Gentlemen, These are only two examples from the past week alone, from both the ETS and the non-ETS sectors. But they are indicative of our action across other sectors and policies.

We have been engaged with every decision-making level, from cities, through national governments and parliaments, to international fora. This summit is another excellent example of how Europe’s voice is loud and clear on our commitment to this topic. But Europe’s clear voice is not only that of EU institutions.

It is your voices, each and every one of you, representing Europe’s civil society, social partners, unions, academia and private companies. It is the combination of our collective voices which make Europe’s voice so well heard around the world. I therefore urge and encourage you to continue!

Bang on every table, march on every street, speak to every decision-maker. Petition, write letters, and advocate. Speak to the hearts and minds of Europeans and to citizens of the rest of the world.

Make them as aware and alert as we are that climate has no more time to wait. That the Paris Agreement has no more time to wait. That ratification happened a year ago and implementation must start now!

Thank you very much.

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