Opening address by President von der Leyen at the EU Sustainable Investment Summit via videoconference

(Source: European Commission)

Thank you very much,


Distinguished guests,

It is an honour to open this first European Sustainable Investment Summit. In the coming hours, this virtual stage will host an incredible panel of speakers. From central bankers to business leaders, from royals to climate activists. So, what is it that brought us all together? I could start with the UN General Assembly, where we recently met and once more invoked the urgency to act. Or I could talk about our climate goals and emission cuts. I could tell you about the massive investments needed for the green transition. I could begin with plenty of numbers and figures. But allow me to start with something much more intimate. Something that is happening in the hearts and minds of billions of people around the world. What truly brings us here today is the rise of a global climate conscience.

People across the world are changing the way they move, the way they eat and heat their homes. And yes, people are changing the way they invest, too. Just ten years ago, fossil fuels were still considered a safe and wise investment. But today, people want to know that their investment will do no harm to our planet. And increasingly, they demand that their money contributes to the fight against climate change. It is a change in mind-set that is transforming the world of investment, from big players, public and private, to ordinary families, who want to use their savings to protect our common home and our children’s future.

In these very weeks, we all see how crucial it is to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels such as gas, oil and coal. Currently we are facing a steep global rise of energy prices. That has happened before. Economies are picking up worldwide. Gas producers have not increased their supplies – despite rising demands. So wholesale gas prices have almost doubled compared to one year ago. By contrast, renewable energy prices have remained stable. In fact, they have even decreased in recent years.

So in the long term, the European Green Deal and renewables are the solution to the rising electricity prices. Every euro spent on renewable energies does help our planet. And it equally helps the consumers. But it is also an investment in the resilience of our economies. So, we have to speed up our work on the European Green Deal to become more energy independent.

The desire to invest in sustainability is higher than ever. The other side of the coin is that the world needs massive investment to finance the transition to a more sustainable economy. To reach our climate goals, we need to invest the equivalent of 2.5% of global GDP, every year, in energy systems alone. Companies all across the globe are eager to go green and to develop the sustainable solutions of tomorrow. They have bold, innovative ideas, and often they only need funding to turn their projects into reality. So the questions we all face are: how to link demand and supply of sustainable investment and how to mobilise the huge capital that the world needs to win the battle against climate change. And here comes today’s Summit.

We have invited you to join us, because of a commitment we took in the European Green Deal and its Investment Plan: On the European side, we have committed to mobilising at least EUR 1 trillion in sustainable investment inside Europe by 2030. And on the international side, we have committed to joining forces with everyone who shares our goals, to unlock the investments that will reshape the world’s economy.

On the EUR 1 trillion commitment, we are well on track. The new European budget, together with our Recovery Plan, has EUR 600 billion in green investment. It is the biggest climate investment programme worldwide. The European Investment Bank has become Europe’s climate bank. And by 2025, it will dedicate half of its annual financing to climate action. Likewise, almost half of annual investments from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is now in the green economy. Never before has Europe focused so much energy on a common mission.

Yet none of our goals can be achieved with public initiatives alone, or by Europe alone. So here are the two key challenges that I would like this Summit to address. First, how to attract more capital towards sustainable investment. And second, how to bring more countries on board, and raise the global ambition.

The first point has to do with how we match demand and supply of sustainable investment. Today’s investors want to know that their capital will truly make a difference for society and for the planet. They do not care simply about getting maximum value for money. They care about values, too. They seek investment opportunities that they can truly trust. This has been an essential part of our work on sustainable finance.

It is why we have created a new classification for sustainable investments – the so-called EU taxonomy. Investors will know exactly whether an investment is truly green, or how it is contributing to a better planet. Based on this classification, we have also proposed an EU green bond standard. Only investments with a clear positive environmental impact will get the European Union green bond label. It will be a quality trademark, not just for European markets but for everyone who wants to join.

And finally, we are setting new rules on transparency and disclosures for the corporate sector. When a family decides to invest in the fight against climate change, they want investment opportunities that can be fully trusted. They do not want to be fooled by greenwashing. These new rules will create the necessary trust between investors and businesses. And with greater trust, greater investment will also come.

With these innovations, Europe can lead by the power of its example. Europe has become the home of sustainable investment. The European green bond market today is worth around EUR 1 trillion. It is twice as big as the US market, three times larger than the Asia-Pacific market. We have built the largest carbon market in the world, with our Emissions Trading System. And later this month, we will strengthen our leadership, when we will start issuing green bonds worth EUR 250 billion, as part of NextGenerationEU. This is a leadership we are proud of, and we will keep consolidating.

At the same time, the health of our planet can only improve with a global wave of sustainable investment. And 2021 can be a ‘make-or-break’ year in the fight against climate change. António Guterres found powerful words when we met in New York. He said: ‘The climate alarm bells are ringing at fever pitch’. And he is so right. The COP26 in Glasgow will be a moment of truth for the global community. Ambitions need to be backed by concrete plans.

China’s announcement that they will stop building coal plants abroad is a step in the right direction. Of course, more is needed. On climate financing, President Biden has just promised to the UN General Assembly to double the US contribution for developing countries. Something is finally moving in the world’s major economies. And Europe will continue to engage, with the highest level of ambition. Team Europe already contributes USD 25 billion every year for climate finance in low- and middle-income countries. And I have committed an additional EUR 4 billion until 2027. With that, Team Europe remains the leading donor to climate finance. Yet, there is still an investment gap to close. And we all need to step up.

So today, we would like to hear your ideas and your proposals for climate action in the year to come. Europe’s offer is clear and it is on the table.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let us keep working in the G7 and the G20 to support sustainable investments. Let us also join forces with development banks. Let us develop a new set of global standards for sustainable finance. Let us work together to put a price on carbon globally. Because nature cannot pay the price anymore.

This is what today’s Summit is about: Paving the way forward to finance the fight against climate change, not just for Europe, but for the entire world and for future generations. Thanks again for joining us, and welcome to the first European Sustainable Investment Summit.

Thank you!

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