Viewpoints

‘The Low-Carbon Transition Needs Active Players, Not Observers’

EU commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič. Photo: YouTube
EU commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič. Photo: YouTube

Europe needs active players – not observers – to make sure it can keep competing in the global energy transition, EU energy chief Maros Šefčovič has said.

“There is no way back,” he said about the low-carbon transition. Šefčovič, the EU commission vice-president in charge of integrating Europe’s energy market, made his remarks at a major wind energy summit in Hamburg, Germany, this week (27 September).

He also pointed out that Europe is not waiting for the Paris Agreement to enter into force. “We are already implementing it!” he stressed.

Active Players

But the Slovakian diplomat emphasised that policymakers need “active players” to drive the energy transition, “not observers.”

Earlier this week he told students the European Union is one of the best places in the world to live because of the way of life, religious freedom and cultural values.

But Europe’s ability to compete in the low-carbon economy is under pressure, with countries like China and the United States ramping up their efforts to counter climate change, and benefit from the opportunities for growth and jobs.

US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she want to make America the world’s clean energy superpower.

“Some join this race out of responsibility for future generations, others because they recognise the tremendous business case in clean energies,” he said in Hamburg, “or because they find the energy transition the most exciting scientific adventure of our time.”

But whatever the reason, “this has now become a reality, a global reality,” he said.

Also See: ‘The Low Carbon Transition Has Won The Hearts And Minds of Millions’

Luxury vs. Necessity

Just a few years ago, environment protection was perceived as a marginal field, Šefčovič  pointed out, saying that it had few supporters because it was perceived as a “disrupting economic activity.”

“For so many years, it seemed a luxury rather than a necessity to discuss the quality of our air, water, or natural resources in our public discourse,” he said.

Instead, societies measured themselves by how much they could produce and consume, according to Šefčovič.

But now “the transition is here to stay,” he stressed, and “inspires the best minds around the world.”

Huge Economic Gains

Today – led by new, innovative technologies – the transition to a green economy is “omnipresent” in areas of our societies ranging from diplomacy to popular culture and the industrial sector, Šefčovič said.

He pointed out how the huge economic gains of investing in the emerging green industries are now recognised as a major opportunity.

“The political will is there, the business case is clear,” stressed Šefčovič, who said Europe now needs to put in place a “future-proof policy framework” to get the job done.

He recognised policymakers might need to step up their game to meet renewables targets “in case we see in the early 2020’s that we are ‘off track’,” he said.

But businesses and entrepreneurs also have a crucial, active role to play.

Addressing the wind energy audience in Hamburg, Šefčovič said their sector has a vital role to play by sharing knowledge and expertise, and joining the discussion about new policy proposals.

“We are therefore counting on you” to help the European Union retain its position as a global leader in the low-carbon transition, he concluded.

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