Morning Energy and Climate: Brussels on Biden

by Kalina Oroschakoff Jan 21, 2021, 7:00 AM

WHAT DOES BRUSSELS WANT FROM JOE BIDEN? Aside from widespread relief, what does the new Biden presidency mean for the Brussels bubble.

Clean competition: The U.S. return to the Paris Agreement launches a new era of “renewed cooperation,” Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday, ranging from emissions trading to biodiversity loss. But there can only be one No. 1 in the world’s clean tech race, and the Commission president has no intention of the EU being sidelined.

🏆 “It’s also a further reason for Europe to speed up its effort to get moving, and to keep the first-mover advantage. This is important. So I like competition. It’s good competition. It’s positive competition when it comes to the green economy,” she said.

Fast, faster, the fastest: EU officials should prepare for greater pressure from business and clean tech lobby groups to promote the bloc’s green industry. The concern is that the EU will be overtaken because the U.S. administration is willing to pump $2 trillion into its net zero ambition.

🏃‍♀️ “For us it proves a point we’ve been making for some time, that basically, the EU has to move quickly,” Ursula Woodburn, who manages the Brussels bureau of the European Corporate Leaders Group, told me: “The EU is in a good position right now to be a leader but it needs to wake up and innovate very quickly because we’re in a race now — the race to zero.” That means channeling investments in clean tech and industry such as green steel and cement, leveraging trade agreements and coming up with measures to support “the industries that are really pushing ahead on climate policies.”

⚡Europe’s wind industry is sounding similar notes. “President Biden wants to decarbonize U.S. electricity by 2035,” WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson told us. “That’s even more ambitious than the European Green Deal. And it’ll make the U.S. a serious competitor to Europe’s clean energy industries,” he said.

Pascal Lamy, former director general of the World Trade Organization and president emeritus of the Jacques Delors Institute, has a few ideas on how to maintain EU leadership, which he outlined here. Key, he says, is a significant increase of investments in climate research and innovation.

Domestic calculations: Biden’s pledges are “encouraging signals, but … what we’re looking for is moving from words to action,” Business Europe Deputy Director General Alexandre Affre told me.

🧐 The group isn’t keen on tougher climate efforts without seeing some reciprocity. There’s a “lot of opportunity” in the clean tech agenda, but “there is, of course, a cost element and this famous global level playing field — this is where [we] need to see stronger convergence … We need concrete domestic policy to make sure that whatever is agreed on international level is implemented,” Affre said.

Catch up on the inauguration in our live blog here, and, here’s our piece on what the world expects from U.S. climate envoy John Kerry. Kerry will be speaking with EU Green Deal chief Frans Timmermans today.

**A message from Equinor: If the industrial heart of Europe beats weak, our communities lose drive and appetite for change. Equinor work hard to deliver decarbonization solutions to European industries where GHG emissions are especially hard to abate. We hope our Saltend project inspires other similar EU regions to action.**

Link to Politico Morning briefing