Thank you for this opportunity to greet you at the annual European Energy Award ceremony.
At this very moment, the eyes of the world are upon Glasgow, where governments have gathered for COP26. You may have heard these words said about COP26:
“Never before has a responsibility so great been in the hands of so few.”
We don’t know the outcome yet. But bold, practical commitments must be made in Glasgow. And it’s clear that these commitments on the world stage must then translate into local climate action. Not just at a continental or national level, but in every region, in every city, and even in every small village, every household across our planet.
Cities play a crucial role in this transition. 75 per cent of Europeans live in cities, and this is where 80 per cent of climate legislation is implemented. This is why it was so important to me to join you today.
The transition to an economy that is fully in harmony with our planet begins in each one of our cities. It begins with empowering people to choose public transport or bikes instead of private cars. It begins with smart systems for waste management. And with solid strategies to change the way we heat or cool our homes. Climate action is a responsibility that we all share.
This idea has been at the heart of the European Energy Award for over 25 years. This Award is not just a one-off prize. Quite the contrary, it accompanies cities year after year, to help you reach your climate targets and improve your citizens’ quality of life. It is an initiative with great potential for all cities and local authorities, including those that have to make a bigger leap towards climate neutrality.
You can see the results of this work in the beautiful city of Ravensburg, where you meet today. The “city of towers and gates” joined the European Energy Award fifteen years ago. And last year, it agreed on an innovative Climate Consensus. The city of Ravensburg brought together businesses, NGOs and citizens to draft a joint roadmap towards climate neutrality by 2040. This is an excellent approach and just one of thousands of success stories under the European Energy Award.
Let me congratulate all the cities that have taken part in this process over the years. Those that have already made it onto the list of Award winners, and those that are about to receive this recognition for the first time. You stand on the frontier of climate action. It is vital that you speak up and that you are heard. This event is spreading the word and celebrating you for this.
For a quarter of a century, the European Energy Award and the European Union have very often walked side by side. Because we share the same mindset and we share the same big goal. To stop global warming and make Europe a better and more sustainable place to live.
Our new Mission for 100 Climate-neutral cities by 2030 and the European Energy Award are natural interlocutors. Your network of gold cities is ideally positioned to contribute to this mission. We want to encourage and mobilise local authorities to take part, as well as businesses, universities and research centres, citizens’ associations and national authorities. We are asking all of them to come together and draft a Climate City Contract that will chart the path towards climate neutrality.
The European Union stands ready to support you with technical and financial assistance. There is a wealth of new European funds to support the transition. In recent months, I saw so many positive efforts in cities across Europe. I hopped on a new hydrogen-fuelled bus in Riga, Latvia. I learned about energy efficient social housing in Luxembourg. And I saw the plans to create new car-free areas in Malta. This transition is an opportunity to make our cities climate neutral and more liveable. The new Cities Mission comes with a budget of 350 million euros to finance green research and innovation.
If you embark on this Mission, Europe will help you succeed. So this is the time to get involved and to shine with your ideas. This is the time to “act locally for the climate”.
In the coming days, the negotiations in Glasgow will reach their climax. We are working as hard as we can to achieve the most ambitious result, in line with our European Green Deal. But the responsibility for climate action doesn’t just belong to world leaders. It is a choice for every community and every individual. The road to climate neutrality runs through our cities and regions.
Thank you for your efforts. They are indispensable.
And let me welcome all of you to this ceremony for the European Energy Award.