Speech by President von der Leyen in the Plenary of the European Parliament at the debate on the European Green Deal

“Check against delivery”

Merci beaucoup Monsieur le Président,

Il y a deux semaines que j’ai fait une promesse à ce Parlement. Je vous ai promis que ma Commission ne perdra pas de temps. Et voilà, à peine deux semaines plus tard, nous sommes ici devant vous, avec notre proposition pour un Pacte vert pour l’Europe, the European Green Deal.

Ce sont les peuples d’Europe qui nous ont appelés à une action décisive contre le changement climatique. Les Européens ont fait entendre leur voix, dans les rues et dans les urnes. C’est pour eux que nous sommes ici aujourd’hui. C’est pour eux que nous présentons un Pacte vert pour l’Europe aussi ambitieux. C’est aujourd’hui que nous leur disons : nous vous avons entendus, nous vous avons entendus clair et fort – et voici la réponse.

Chers Parlementaires,

En juillet, immédiatement après ma nomination, j’ai placé l’action climatique au cœur de mon programme politique. Par votre vote, vous avez approuvé ce programme. Et je vous ai promis que vous auriez une place centrale dans les prochaines étapes.

Aujourd’hui Frans et moi, et tout le Collège, nous présentons à vous – et aux citoyens européens – nos idées pour le Pacte vert de l’Europe. Nous sommes aussi ici parce que nous avons besoin de vous. Cette proposition n’est pas le point final d’un travail – c’est le début d’un chemin commun. Et nous ne progresserons qu’avec votre soutien.

Honorable Members,

This is not just our vision for a climate-neutral continent. It is a roadmap for action – with fifty practical steps on Europe’s path towards 2050. It will take more than a generation to reach that goal. We know that this roadmap will have to evolve and adapt through the years. It will be a very long and partly bumpy road, without any question. But it is up to us, to set the pace.

It is up to us to leave no one behind. And we know that it is doable. We are determined to succeed for the sake of this planet and life on it. And so many European people, businesses and cities are already showing us the way.

Last Friday, 44 of Europe’s largest investors, representing EUR 6 trillion of assets, called on the European Union to adopt as quickly as possible a climate law for climate neutrality in 2050. They want that law! They say it will give them the confidence to make long-term decisions for modern investment. It is about accountability and reliability.

And therefore, a crucial building block of our European Green Deal will be in 2020 the proposal of the very first European Climate Law. It will set clear rules, so that investors and innovators can plan their long-term investment. It will make the transition towards climate neutrality accountable and reliable. And next summer, we will present a plan to increase our ambition in cutting emissions.

This decision on our 2030 target will not be left to chance. The plan will come with a thorough impact assessment, to better understand where we can be bold but also where we must be prudent.

We want to be as ambitious as we can, and we want to be as realistic as we can. All of this will be ready in time for next year’s COP26 in Glasgow. Europe will lead by example, but we also need more ambitious multilateral rules for the whole world. Of course, every continent has to find its own path – without any question – but the goal must be the same for everyone and positive change must be rewarded and not hindered.

We want to protect our planet. We welcome the change in production procedures. If companies invest in clean technologies, if they respect our environment, it cannot be that they face unfair competition from heavy polluters. And that is when we will apply a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, in full compliance with WTO rules.

Honourable Members,

The European Green Deal is not only about emissions. It is about boosting innovation. It is about quality food. It is about modern mobility. It will create new businesses and markets all across Europe.

The European Green Deal is our new growth strategy. And this time, it is a growth strategy that is not consuming – but it is a new growth strategy that is more giving back than it takes away. It is a growth strategy that is more caring. Companies from all across our continent are already turning the green transition into green opportunities and business opportunities. Some are converting plastic waste into modern furniture, for example. Farmers are using data from our satellites to adapt to climate change. ‘Made in Europe’ batteries for electric cars are finally becoming reality.

We must invest in Europe’s potential for innovation. Seventy years ago, Europeans invested in coal and steel. And it turned out to be a historic reconciliation, and an economic miracle. Today we are investing in renewables and algorithms. And the European Green Deal is about reconciling our economy with our planet, reconciling the way we produce, the way we consume with our planet and respecting the environment we live in. That is the core of the European Green Deal.

And Honourable Members,

Exactly one year ago, the city of Katowice hosted the global climate conference of COP24. This city, that for over a century was a capital of coal, became the global capital of climate action. Delegations from the whole world saw former coal industries that now host congress centres, restaurants and concert halls. This transition did not happen overnight, and it was certainly not effortless.

And likewise, the European Green Deal will not happen overnight, and it will be demanding. But it is the right thing to do. As in Katowice, the transition will bring better and healthier jobs. It will bring cleaner and less polluted cities. It will bring a higher quality of life for Europeans. But this transition will also need time, support and solidarity.

Therefore, immediately in the next year, we will propose the Just Transition Mechanism. It will combine public money and private money. The European Investment Bank will leverage it, with the ambition to reach EUR 100 billion in investment over the next seven years. It will be the springboard for those sectors and those regions that have to catch up.

Honourable Members,

Everyone in Europe can be part of this change. The transition is not just about big industry and coal. It is an opportunity for our farmers – with our Farm to Fork Strategy. From Lapland to Southern Italy, a whole generation of young farmers are rediscovering traditional crops and bringing new life to our countryside. The European Green Deal will be on their side. The European Green Deal will take care of Europe’s incredible natural heritage. It will protect biodiversity and revive the blue economy.

But we – as institutions that serve the Europeans – we must also walk the talk. And this is what the European Commission will do: We also have to learn what this change means in our daily life, how to practice sustainability. What does it mean for our buildings, for our waste management, for our travels, for our paper use – you name it.

Today in College, we set for ourselves the target to be, as a Commission, climate neutral by 2030. And I invite the Parliament and the Council to do the same. It is a challenge, but let us do that together. Let us support active citizenship and call on grassroots initiatives. Let us work with teachers and educators, because our children are not passive spectators. They are very active players in this endeavour. Our Climate Pact will be with them and for them, and for all those who are ready to play a part in this endeavour.

Honourable Members,

A whole continent has to be mobilised. From mayors in small cities and in big cities, to all institutions at the European level. Every member of my Commission will be involved, every Member State, and every Committee in this Parliament.

In fact, none of this will be possible without your support. We will need ambitious legislation. We will need a seven-year budget that raises to the challenge. Today, we bring the European Green Deal here to the floor of the Parliament. Tomorrow, I will present it to our leaders in the European Council. And later this week, Frans Timmermans will present it to COP25 in Madrid. Let us start this endeavour together.

Honourable Members,

Some say the cost of this transformation is too high. Well, let us never forget what the cost of non-action would be. It is rising by the year. River flooding costs our citizens over EUR 5 billion annually. Every year our economy is losing almost EUR 10 billion due to droughts – and farmers pay the highest price. And this is only the beginning.

But this is not a given – we can resist these developments. It is high time but it is not too late. With this road map for action, we make the cost of the transition fully sustainable. Many Europeans are already taking action.

Only one year ago, no one would have imagined that millions would take to the streets for climate. Our cities are choosing clean energy. Our scientists are developing the technologies of the future. Our families are renouncing plastic and choosing local food.

Our European Green Deal is for them. It is ambitious, it is designed to be just, and it is made in Europe for Europe to lead the way to climate neutrality in 2050. Europe has always given its best when it has worked together, as a Union.

We give our best when we are bold and aim high. With the European Green Deal we are aiming high. Europeans are calling on us to drive the change. Now it is up to us, to answer their call.

Thank you so much.