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Honourable Members of Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to be with you this afternoon, for the first time with this new House, which has the important task to represent the citizens of Europe for the next five years. I would like to congratulate all of you on your election, and I sincerely wish you every success in carrying out your work.
The European Parliament and its Members have always played a crucial role in shaping European Union policies and legislation that guide the EIB Group’s financing activities as the Bank of the EU. Hence, I firmly believe that these exchanges play an important role in further reinforcing the relationship between this House and the EIB, and I am grateful to the President, David Sassoli, for giving me this opportunity.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Humanity is at a crossroads. We must act immediately and swiftly if we want to ensure a sustainable transition to a “net-zero” emissions economy.
According to the Special Eurobarometer on Climate Change published last month, 93% of respondents think climate change is a serious problem, and 79% think is a very serious problem. A majority of respondents in 19 countries think climate change is one of the most serious problems facing the world today. These numbers speak for themselves. Citizens in the EU, and beyond, are asking us to stand up to the challenge.
The accumulation of greenhouse gases has caused average temperatures to rise by almost 1°C globally above pre-industrial levels. Two-thirds of this increase has occurred since 1975.
If business continues as usual, we will have stoked a rise in global average temperatures of 4°C by the end of this century.
That may not sound like very much but our climate is fragile and small changes in surface temperature have a significant impact. For instance, the last time average temperatures lay 4°C below pre-industrial levels, Brussels lay buried beneath several kilometres of ice. You can imagine then what 4 degrees hotter might mean.
Under such a scenario, heatwaves would become the norm. An average July day in Europe would see temperatures in excess of 40°C – the summer of 2019 has given us a foretaste of this. So drought, forest fires, crop failures, food shortages and disease pandemics would become commonplace events, potentially displacing millions of people.
We should remember that the present wave of migration in the Middle East, marked as it has been by human suffering and death, had its origins in drought and other climate-related problems.
The EIB is already green
Since 2012 we have provided EUR 150 billion of finance supporting EUR 550 billion of investment in climate action and environmental sustainability, making the EIB Group one of the world’s largest multilateral providers of finance for climate and environment.
Since we first set ourselves a climate action finance target in 2010, our ambition has been increasing. In 2015, we pledged to provide USD 100 billion for climate action projects in the five-year period to 2020. We are delivering on that target. Indeed, since 2016, we have invested approximately USD 71 billion into climate action projects.
In 2018, we invested more than EUR 16 billion in such projects.
Having said that, the EIB can and is ready to become even greener.
We have listened to the conclusions of the European Council on 20 June, which requested the EU Bank to step up its climate action activities.
…We have listened to the clear message by now President-elect of the European Commission, Ms Ursula von der Leyen, in her address to you at the European Parliament.
…And we have listened to the very vocal international calls for action. EIB is expected to be ambitious.
…And, ladies and gentlemen, I do not believe we should disappoint.
The EIB Group is currently finalising its increased ambition for 2030 climate action and environmental sustainability. Our approach builds around three pillars:
1) An increase in our own financing. Last year, nearly 30% of the EIB’s new commitments worldwide were dedicated to climate and environmental goals. I would like the EIB to be much bolder and aim for 50% for these objectives by 2025.
2) A commitment to grow sustainable finance from billions to trillions. By working with our public and private partners, we aim to help unlock at least EUR 1 trillion of investment by 2030. This will include a marked increase in support for climate adaptation and resilience.
3) Building on our 2015 Climate Strategy, we will align all the EIB Group’s financing activities with the principles and goals of the Paris Agreement by the end of 2020.
Alignment with the Paris Agreement will determine a change in EIB Group’s policies and actions, starting with a pledge to phase out energy projects that depend on fossil fuels.
The new EIB Energy Lending Policy, which is currently under discussion by the EIB Board, will be an important step in this regard. With a very strong focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy, power grids and research and development, the EIB believes the proposed Energy Lending Policy is well aligned with EU priorities and funding.
This builds on our 2015 Climate Strategy, which committed us to mainstream climate change consideration in “everything we do”.
Science tells us that transitioning to a carbon-neutral economy entails ending the use of fossil fuel as soon as possible.
Thanks to our emissions performance standard, we have not supported any coal-fired power projects for almost a decade – the first Multilateral Development Bank to do so.
In addition, we will position the EIB as an incubator for climate finance and expertise to mobilise others, helping our societies and economies transform to a low-carbon future.
EIB support to the just transition
But we must not forget that some countries are further advanced than others on the road to a low-carbon economy, and that some areas, communities and sectors will be more deeply affected than others by this transition.
While stepping up our role as Climate Bank, we further commit to working closely with Member States, the Commission and Parliament to ensure a just and fair transition.
We are fully aware that different Member States have different needs and we are committed to ensuring that no one is left behind. We need to focus in particular on jobs in these regions.
We note, for instance, that 41 regions in the EU are mining coal, providing jobs to about 240 000 people, most of whom have limited opportunities to find alternative employment. You cannot take a coalminer and turn her or him into an IT specialist overnight.
We have seen the detrimental effects on communities and regions in the past when a transition is not fair and just.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am confident that the EIB Group can greatly contribute to implement the ambitious vision of the European Green Deal, thanks to our proven ability to mobilise investment and support for EU priorities on climate action and environmental sustainability
As requested by VP Timmermans yesterday before the Parliament, you can count on the EIB to be a key partner in the implementation of the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan.
We stand ready to work with you and develop new products and ideas to make this vision a reality.