(Evropská komise)
European Union  |  February 11, 2024 17:21:00, updated

Keynote speech by Executive Vice-President Šefčovič on the European Green Deal at the European Conference of Harvard University

Speech by EVP Šefčovič at Harvard University Conference

Thank you for this warm welcome,

and good afternoon, ladies, and gentlemen.

It is a real pleasure to be here talking with so many young people – students, about to embark on your professional lives.

And it is an honour to be doing so at Harvard University – one of the most prestigious centres of learning and research in the world.

It is quite special for me to be here today.

It reminds me of the first trip I took to “the West”, having grown up behind the Iron Curtain.

I know there are many young Europeans studying here, and like you, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study in the United States, once the Cold War had ended.

I know that Collegiate rivalry is taken very seriously here in the United States. So, let me just say that I very much enjoyed my time at Stanford, but I am also extremely happy to be here in Cambridge today.

I want to say a few words of thanks to Harvard, especially to those who organise this wonderful event every year.

It gives us a chance to discuss and exchange – a particularly valuable opportunity for those of us longer in the tooth to hear what the next generation has to say.

Such dialogue is particularly important at a time when the polarisation of political thought, of political narrative, has become an unfortunate feature of many democracies.

It is a trend which drives the extremes, a genuine danger for any free society.

To move forward, we need to do everything we can to forge better understanding between different outlooks, talk to each other, discuss perspectives, hear out arguments, look for solutions.

The polarisation of narratives, including internationally, is only one of the many challenges of our time, amidst the resurgence of conflict, fierce – and often unfair – economic competition, in a world still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and of course, increasingly affected by climate change and environmental degradation.

In this context, the deep and lasting partnership between the European Union and the United States is perhaps more precious than ever.

I have often said that this transatlantic bond is the most natural for us, given our shared values.

I firmly believe that the U.S. could find no closer ally than the EU – even if we are separated by several thousand miles of ocean.

As I said when I addressed the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., last year, our joint support for Ukraine in its time of need, fighting off the Russian invader, has showcased the best of what our cooperation can achieve.

And, to quote the great American industrial innovator Henry Ford:

Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.”

This has never been Truer than today, as we stand face-to-face with transformative tasks of a truly gargantuan nature.

Global competition is fiercer than ever before, especially with regards to China.

So, we need to bring the best of our capabilities, and showcase our enormous potential, working together.

That does not mean shying away from competition with each other. Far from it.

In laying out the goals of the European Union's Single Market he helped create, Jacques Delors, a French statesman and towering figure in EU politics who passed away last year, once said:

Competition which stimulates, solidarity which unites, cooperation which strengthens.”

Applied to the central theme of my speech, we need, more than ever, to be allies on the green transition, while pushing one another to make the most of our full potential – and even taking green innovation beyond our borders, to third countries.

In the climate and biodiversity crises, we face an existential challenge that we cannot ignore.

That requires a profound shift from a business-as-usual approach to a fully, systematically transformative mode.

2023 was the hottest year on record – by far.

According to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, 2023 has been confirmed as the hottest calendar year in global records going back to 1850.

Every day exceeded 1°C above the (1850-1900) pre-industrial level. Close to 50 percent of days were over 1.5°C warmer, and two days in November were over 2°C warmer than that pre-industrial level.

We don't need to look very hard to see the impacts these crises are already having on our everyday lives.

In the Spanish province of Andalusia, due to an unprecedented drought, basins are at 21% of their capacity, with some water reservoirs at just 4.5%.

Around half of Europe's pollinator-dependent crops face pollination deficits.

Here in the United States, I am sure those of you, who were in this part of the world during the frigid conditions last month, will not forget them in a hurry.

And this past week, flooding has caused devastation in California.

These are just a few examples of how this challenge is affecting us all in a very real way. Over half of global GDP is dependent on nature and the services it provides.

In response, a profound green transition is needed globally.

A little over four years ago, we launched what we called the European Green Deal, an overarching, umbrella plan to help us manage this transition in Europe – more precisely, to become the first climate neutral continent by 2050, while growing our economy.

Over the first phase of the Green Deal, we have steadily put in place the credible targets and regulations necessary to bring about the required change.

We have unleashed the largest funding scheme in our history, to mobilise at least 1 trillion euros in sustainable investments over the next few years.

Our focus has now shifted to action. Turning the measures we have agreed upon into reality.

The challenge is monumental. And we need everybody on board.

Now, we will apply a new working relationship with industry – so that its transformation and competitiveness go hand in hand.

We work on a new consensus on the future of agriculture – so that it is sustainable and generates decent incomes for its workers.

And social acceptance – by making green solutions accessible to everyone, and by creating quality jobs at all skill levels.

So, what will Europe's journey look like in the coming years?

First, many of you will be familiar with the EU's Single Market. This is perhaps the biggest asset we have, our greatest tool for investment, and a catalyst for economic growth for more than 30 years.

It brings together the national markets of our 27 Member States, and certain close partners, and enables seamless, border-less economic activity.

This is precisely the vision I have for a True Single Market for the Green Deal – something that would help create a sizeable domestic market and an innovative, sustainable, and globally competitive industrial base for clean tech.

For example, we need to – and want to – make full use of the power of our Single Market through the joint purchase of strategic commodities.

We have applied this approach successfully when securing vaccines against Covid-19.

During the past year, in response to Russia's aggression, we have developed a massively successful blueprint for joint purchasing in the form of the EU Energy Platform to secure supplies of natural gas at reasonable prices.

US LNG companies have been a key part of that success.

Now, we are working towards expanding this mechanism to hydrogen and critical raw materials.

In addition, we need to massively step up funding levels. The average investment needed for the EU to reach its 2030 climate targets – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – is equivalent to some 700 billion dollars per year.

We also need to frontload this financing, and ease access to it to ensure a level playing field for smaller companies. These are make-it-or break-it conditions for the green transition.

Standing on U.S. soil, I want to highlight a blueprint for public-private support for large-scale green tech projects based in Europe – the EU-Catalyst Partnership between the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, and the founder of Breakthrough Energy, Bill Gates.

This partnership is now supporting two projects – one pioneering green fuel for the shipping industry, one the CO2 battery energy storage.

Together, at the MIT, we also work on making fusion power a reality.

At the same time, it is vital – and I underline vital – that Europe's future green economy is built in Europe. Just as the United States is seeking to build its own future here.

Neither of us can afford to outsource the green transition.

That is why I am also an avid proponent of a transatlantic green marketplace.

This would help massively in scaling up these industries. Indeed, we need to team up, work together, rather than try to press forward alone, at the risk of hurting each other's economic interests.

Securing critical raw minerals, powering our future economies, is, in my view, the single most important area to collaborate in.

So, I am glad that work has now started to craft this joint marketplace, making transatlantic supply chains stronger, more sustainable, and more resilient, and creating high-quality jobs in both the EU and the U.S..

Second, Europe needs a new deal for infrastructure, one of the potentially biggest bottlenecks when it comes to the green transition.

For example, it means investing in the necessary energy infrastructure, especially when it comes to grids.

By 2050, between 50 and 70% of the energy consumed in the EU should be in the form of electricity.

At the same time, in the aftermath of the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow tried to weaponize energy, by blackmailing Europe over our reliance on imports of Russian fossil fuels.

Instead of yielding to that blackmail, we launched a far-reaching effort to increase efficiency, accelerate the roll-out of renewables, and diversify supplies.

In 2022, this effort helped us, for the first time, to produce more electricity from renewables (standing at 40%) than fossil fuels (amounting to 38.6%) or nuclear (close to 22%).

But it is no use accelerating this energy transition if we do not have the right infrastructure in place to manage it.

The intermittent nature of renewable energy means it has different storage and transmission needs than the consistent flow of electricity from fossil fuel-burning power plants.

This is a big ask.

But if we approach this challenge the right way, we can build electricity grids in a decade that will be fit for climate neutrality by 2050.

That is the only way to maximize return on investments in green energy.

Third, we need to be more pragmatic about powering the green transition.

Yes, the future of energy lies in renewables. Homegrown, indigenous, green energy. But the best way to get there is to make full use of all low carbon technologies – and not just renewables – to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels.

For example, several European countries have expressed their serious interest in building Small Modular Reactors.

This could usher in a nuclear renaissance in efforts to decarbonize our energy sector, ensure the stability of the energy grid, and boost our energy security.

All that while providing valuable high-skilled job opportunities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is clear that the climate and biodiversity challenges we face are too big for any individual actor to overcome alone. Even for economic powerhouses like the EU or the U.S..

So, while fair competition is healthy, we can also work together to create global standards for emerging clean technologies.

I am also convinced that cooperation between us, as allies, could open significant opportunities for industries on both sides of the pond to succeed in other markets.

We could bring – export, if you will – innovations and solutions for tackling climate change to the developing world, while teaming up for large projects, such as those in the sphere of critical raw materials.

Later this year, the world will gather once more in Azerbaijan for COP29, focused on scaling up climate finance.

The EU has a big success story to tell, with our emission trading system (ETS) that on one hand, reduces emissions, and on the other, raises revenues for the green transition.

We are keen to share our experience for other countries to replicate, in view of developing a global approach to carbon pricing.

Because if, by 2030, the EU is only responsible for 3% of global emissions, it will not matter very much if not enough is being done about the other 97%.

Therefore, it is important that we help others to continue the green transition journey with us.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The world is going to the polling booth in 2024. More than 40 elections are being held around the world this year, in what some have dubbed the ‘Super Bowl of democracy'. Including, of course, here, in the U.S. on November 5th.

In Europe, meanwhile, elections for the European Parliament take place in early June, while 2024 will also see national elections in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, and United Kingdom.

While I can be confident, given my Stanford past, in predicting a 49ers' win on Sunday, there is no way to foresee the outcome of these elections. That is the very essence of democracy.

My hope is that Europeans vote for a politically strong, globally competitive, and socially fair Europe. We all have to work to help make it happen.

But whoever is elected, and whatever happens in geopolitics, I stand firm in my belief that the EU and the U.S. can only benefit from working together on our common challenges.

As the closest of allies, in the green transition as in all areas of our strong and strategic transatlantic partnership.

It will be your job, as the next generation, to take forward this collaboration in the coming years.

So, let me finish by underlining the promise that your future holds.

I am looking forward to our Q&A, as I am always inspired and energized when I talk with young people.

I know that you have the ideas, the motivation, the optimism, to cope with the challenges that we face and that lie ahead.

It will be your brilliance and your solutions that will help us live in harmony with our planet.

So, it is imperative that you help to shape the decisions we are making today. Decisions that will have a lasting impact on the European Union, the United States, and the whole world.

You need to be involved now, because achieving the green transition is a moving target.

I need to finish with an ice hockey metaphor, as the most known Slovak to Boston is Zdeno Chara who played for Boston Bruins.

So, as ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said:

“We need to skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been”.

The European Union and the United States are global leaders in doing this.

I am sure you will carry on the proud tradition.

Thank you.

EbS video link: EC AV PORTAL (

Was this article: 10 | 8 | 6 | 4 | 2 | 0

Zobrazit sloupec