Speech by President Charles Michel at the UN climate conference COP25

First, I would like to thank you personally, Pedro, for taking this initiative to host the COP25. You and Spain have done a great job at very short notice.

In 3 minutes, I would like to focus on 3 essential climate questions:
Why do we have to do more ?
How can we do more? and
What do we need to do?

Let’s start with the why. Why do we have to do more? We are in a climate emergency.  Right now. Today’s headlines are dramatic. Just two examples:

  • Sea levels are rising at their fastest rate in 3 000 years.
  • Biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in human history: one million species are threatened with extinction.

In the face of these alarming trends, How can we do more? For centuries, we have been unconsciously “at war” with Nature.  We have over-exploited our natural resources with no regard for the consequences. We have brought our planet to its knees.

Now we need to dramatically change how we do things and revolutionise our approach. We have had the industrial revolution, the technological revolution, now it is time for the “Green Revolution”. 

Across the globe, young people have shaken things up.  And they are right. Today we have a unique opportunity. Let’s be the caretakers of our planet while at the same time thriving economically creating jobs, innovation and a high quality of life. We refuse to oppose a healthy climate and a healthy development. We can do both. In fact, one is good for the other. Europe has shown it is possible to have a growing economy, while decreasing emissions. “Going green” doesn’t have to mean “going broke”.

As President of the European Council, I have a clear goal: to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent on the planet by 2050. So, we will be the champion of the Green Transition.

Many European leaders have called on the Commission to propose a New European Green Deal with concrete measures and this will be a “cease fire” with Nature, and even more, a “peace treaty” with Nature. We need also an ambitious Just Transition Fund and a significant part of the next European budget to be climate-related. I will prioritise these topics on the agenda of the European Council, because Europe has to invest massively in new technologies, research, and innovation.

One trillion euros, that is the ambitious amount proposed by the European Investment Bank to support with the private sector strategic, sustainable investments. By 2025, half of the European Investment Bank’s financing will be dedicated to Climate Action and Environmental Sustainability. And by the end of next year, the EIB commits to align all its financing activities with the principles and goals of the Paris agreement. But we must support our partners around the world. In 2018 alone, the EU and its Member States contributed 74.4 billion euros to development assistance with 21 billion for climate objectives.

So my last question is: “What do we need to do?” We are one planet, we need one approach. It will involve

  • providing sustainable, affordable energy
  • increasing energy efficiency
  • and building a circular economy.

This starts by implementing the Paris Agreement.

Across human history, obstacles have often generated enormous opportunities to create, to innovate and to build a better life. I believe climate change offers this same opportunity: to use science and technology to protect and develop our societies. We need to change how we see this Green Transition, not as a burden but as an opening and kickstart our economies with green technologies.

But we must never forget the people behind our policies.  We must be just and socially balanced. This means taking into consideration that not all countries have the same starting point. Protecting our planet is the right choice, the only choice. And the only way to protect our families, our communities, our humanity. Thank you.