European Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič highlighted a series of decisive, tailor-made steps taken in support of Europe’s coal and carbon-intensive regions as well as the work carried out with cities to accelerate the deployment of disruptive clean technologies.

“We are offering targeted, tailor-made support to coal and carbon-intensive regions because it’s about people’s health as well as their jobs,” Šefčovič said at the press conference on September 26, following the One Planet Summit in New York.

The European Commission is at the One Planet Summit in New York on September 26 to present to global leaders the progress made on the ambitious initiatives it revealed in Paris last year.

The Commission noted that Europe is committed to leading the fight against climate change. To underline its leadership, the Commission presented a comprehensive set of 10 transformative initiatives, the Action Plan for the Planet, at the inaugural One Planet Summit in Paris last December.

In New York on September 26, Šefčovič, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, Financial Stability and Financial Services Valdis Dombrovskis and International Cooperation and Development Commissioner Neven Mimica updated Heads of State and Government, businesses leaders and civil society on the main achievements to date under these initiatives in support of climate action.

Coal production in the EU is expected to drop by 60% by 2050 and consumption by 70%. “The EU has set up the Platform for the coal regions in transition to help kick-start their modernisation and soften social consequences,” Šefčovič told the press conference after the One Planet Summit.

“We have to get it right, as coal is mined in 41 regions across 12 EU Member States and coal activities give job to about 240-thousand people. We are already working on the ground with seven countries in order to design their transition strategies, elaborate a pipeline of projects to kick-start the transition and prepare their implementation with the use of existing EU funds,” the Vice President added.

Europe has stepped up its game through a set of ten ambitious, even transformative initiatives. “We presented them at the One Planet Summit in Paris last year and today, we can already show how we are turning words into deeds and making a real difference on the ground,” he said.

Šefčovič reminded that the EU is facilitating investment in Africa and in countries neighbouring the bloc because some parts of the world are more vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

The EU has created an External Investment Plan that is expected to attract up to €44 billion of private investments, thanks to an initial contribution of €4 billion from the EU budget. “Less than a year after the EIP’s launch, the pace is remarkable. In July, we approved €800 million in guarantees and by November we expect to have approved €1.5 billion in guarantees,” he said, noting that the guarantees will cover projects focused on sustainable cities and on sustainable energy, such as bringing clean electricity or solar power kits to thousands of homes in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“We are also helping cities to adopt innovative clean solutions through Global URBIS because the power of cities to meet our climate targets is enormous and we continuously hear they want to do more,” he said, referring to the new dedicated urban investment advisory platform within the European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH). This innovative set of partnerships between the EU, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) the Global Covenant of Mayors (GCoM) and the World Bank is here to simplify cities’ access to climate financing, he said.

Over 9-thousand cities grouped under the Global Covenant of Mayors have already made commitments that, if fully realised, could collectively reduce nearly 1.4 billion tons of CO2e emissions per year from business-as-usual by 2030,” Šefčovič said, noting that this equals the emissions of all cars taken off the road in the US.

The EU’s draft budget for 2021-2027 foresees 25% of EU expenditures contributing to climate objectives, including the clean energy transition. “Moreover, we are set to beef up our research and innovation programme ‘Horizon Europe’ (€100 billion, the largest amount since the programme started in 1984), with climate, energy and mobility envelope amounting to some 15 billion euro,” Šefčovič said.

“Let’s make sure that today’s One Planet Summit, as well as the Global Business Forum, will lead to even more time-bound action. Because what we do today – not tomorrow – will define whether climate action will outpace climate change and whether our Planet is great again,” the Vice President said.

Meanwhile, Šefčovič said at the press conference Bloomberg Global Business Forum in NYC that climate action can be effective only with cities on board. “We witness an incredible pace of mass urbanisation, as up to 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050,” he said.

Cities consume 75% of global energy and emit 80% of greenhouse gas generated by human activity. “And I can assure you that you don’t have to convince mayors that climate change is real. They feel it on a daily basis,” he said. “At the same time, they are genuine engines of and incubators for innovative solutions. Just take e-mobility, energy storage, smart and efficient buildings or waste management – cities are often the first to dare to implement new solutions and test their impact,” he added.

“But a lack of urban-focused climate knowledge, data and technologies present real limitations. If we can collectively address these gaps, we will be able to optimize climate mitigation and adaptation strategies as well as incentivize much-needed private investment. Therefore, I am glad that we are gradually connecting the cities and innovation agenda,” Šefčovič said.

He reminded that in March, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Šefčovič launched a call for a Global City Research and Innovation Agenda. “In simple words, we committed to orient our research to cities’ real needs,” Šefčovič said.

“In May (during Mission Innovation), we brought together mayors, scientists, academics and business to have the first discussion about best ways to shape it for selected priority areas: renewables, e-mobility, storage, energy efficiency, and heating and cooling. This collective vision should define the next generation of climate science and innovation necessary to support cities under the Global Covenant of Mayors,” he said.

“In all priority areas mentioned, we need technological breakthroughs and to deploy them on a massive scale and faster than ever before. That’s why it is important that new technologies can be tested in the real world, in living labs,” he said. “So today, we are also making sure that this intersection between cities and innovation stays on everyone’s radar so we succeed in addressing those critical issues such as knowledge, data and innovation gaps,” Šefčovič added.

He reminded that Bloomberg mentioned that the large-scale penetration of clean energy tech would require smart investments by governments followed by smart investments by the private sector. “The roles of public and private actors – though different – are equally important. They complement each other,” Šefčovič said. However, he acknowledged that less than 25% of the counties in the world have a national urban policy and of those that do, less than a third of them are funded.