Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Speech at Athens Summit on Climate Change and Energy Security

ADDRESS of Minister dr. Žiga Turk
at the Athens Summit on Climate Change and Energy Security
Athens, 5. – 7. May 2008

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the beginning allow me to thank the organizers for bringing this summit together and congratulate for such excellent organization.

There is mounting evidence, that humanity has been affecting the climate not for the last 100 but for the last 6000 years. We are here in Athens, Greece, which is the cradle of western civilization. But to build the ships that ruled the Mediterranean and to smelter the iron and copper, the forests on the coasts of the Mediterranean had to fall. The last oaks in the Slovenian Cars fell to build the fleet of the Venetian Republic. Two industrial revolutions have been fueled by fossil fuels, releasing into the atmosphere the carbon that has been captured by biological processes below the surface of the earth in millions of years.

The effects of climate change are being felt now: temperatures are rising, icecaps and glaciers are melting. Yet, for most of the developed world, adaptation to climate change means installing more air-conditioning, snow making machines, irrigation systems and dealing with a few extreme weather events. These industrialized countries account for 75 percent of the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions during the past 150 years. But for the developing world, climate change is literally a matter of life and death - sea levels rising, droughts, extreme weather events. They may also be a victim of bad market distorting policies, where, for example over-subsidized food production meets over taxed car fuels.

Ladies and gentleman,

The development that was fuelled by energy captured under ground over millions of years need to come to an end. We need a new industrial revolution that will be based on above ground rather below ground energy - sun, wind and water rather than oil, coal and gas. This revolution needs to be global, the developed countries facilitating the introduction and dissemination of new and clean technologies world-wide.

A major building block of this revolution is the Strategic Energy Technology Plan, as endorsed by the EU Heads of State and Government at the Spring 2008 European Council. Its aim is to accelerate innovation of energy technologies, and subsequently push the European industry to turn the threats of climate change and security of supply into opportunities to increase its competitiveness.

This SET plan is part of the Energy Action Plan that was adopted by the European heads of state at a landmark summit in March 2007. The Action Plan aims to move forward with the EU’s ambitious objectives to slash greenhouse-gas emissions and boost renewable energies by 2020 in a bid to reduce the EU's dependency on imported fuels and set the pace for "a global industrial revolution". The Climate and Energy legislative package presented by the Commission this January provides the means to meet these objectives.

The Slovenian Presidency to the EU has been making every effort to facilitate the deliberations within the Council of the EU and make it possible for an agreement between the Member States, as well as between the European institutions, on these proposals to be reached before the end of 2008 and consequently allow for their adoption within the current legislative term.

Climate change cannot only be dealt with political measures, taxes, incentives, by technological progress. It also calls for a change in the mindsets, in the value systems of the people. It was also because of this that the Slovenian presidency asked the member state governments and the EU institutions to set an example and increase the energy efficiency of government buildings and car fleets. And at the spring European council the EU leaders agreed.

But there is little use if Europe acts alone. The ‘Bali roadmap' adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference last December in Bali includes the key building blocks of a future global agreement. It is this global agreement that we should aim at. The credibility of EU climate policy, and thus its international leadership, depends on our ability to bring discussions in Parliament and Council on this package to a successful conclusion before the end of 2008.

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When it comes to the more practical issues of energy supply and availability, Slovenia believes that a fully liberalized energy market, combined with the appropriate mechanisms such as public-private sector partnerships, where governmental incentives are matched by private investments, or where governmental incentives can stimulate greater R&D expenditure by the private sector, will guarantee a favorable environment for long term strategic investments in energy infrastructure and energy R&D. If we want to succeed, we must make climate change mitigation a viable business! We should make it into a business opportunity! We must create favorable investment conditions!

The issue of securing energy supply by diversification of transport routes and energy mix also needs appropriate attention. The EU is the second largest energy consumer and the world’s largest importer of energy. If present trends continue the EU will be 90 percent dependent on imports for its requirements of oil and 80 percent dependent regarding gas by the year 2030. Therefore we need to nourish and further develop our relationship with the countries and regions that provide us with energy. To guarantee energy security Slovenia advocates the diversification of energy suppliers, sources and transit routes.

Slovenia’s efforts in addressing climate change will not cease with the end of our Presidency. In this context Slovenia is providing a forum for the continued debate on climate change and energy security at its traditional Bled Strategic Forum. This year’s conference entitled “Energy and Climate Change: Si.nergy for the Future” will bring together high-level government representatives, EU officials, enterpreneurs and senior representatives from think tanks and NGOs. I would like to take this opportunity to invite you all to Bled, Slovenia on 31 August and 1 September.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We know the task in front of us: We must slow down global warming without derailing economic growth. It will not be easy. On earth we only have two renewable resources: the power of the sun and the power of the human spirit. The third industrial revolution that is staring is in the combination of these two - a massive r&d and innovation into renewable energy sources. This will, in pespective, drive our carbon footprint down not by 20% but by 100%. The sun and the human spirit!