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Thank you Commissioner. And thank you ladies and gentlemen for coming here today.
Almost 60 years ago Edmund Hillary and Norgay Tensing reached the top of the world after a grueling climb up the side of Mount Everest.
In a few weeks we will face an equally daunting task in Rio.
More than 50.000 are expected to attend the Rio+20 Earth Summit.
This is a once in a generation opportunity for us all to put the world on a path to sustainable green economy.
But, as you know the outcome is still highly uncertain.
Today, I want to talk about how we can ensure a tangible outcome.
Why is it so urgent?
Let me just elaborate a bit on that.
First: the global population has exceeded 7 billion. By 2050 we are projected to be 9 billion people on this green planet.
In parts of the world a booming global middle class is in their right demanding cars, city breaks and designer labels.
This will steadily increase the pressure on practically every natural resource on the globe – and threatens to increase severe poverty in other parts of the world.
Just to give you a few illustrative figures; Since the turn of the century commodity prices have risen by almost 150%. And the price of steel is expected to rice by 80% before 2030.
Secondly: the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has grown by 40 % since pre-industrial times - and global demand for energy is skyrocketing.
No doubt that the days of abundant oil are over. We are at the beginning of another period of intense oil and gas exploration and exploitation across the globe.
One of the new hot spots in this game is East Africa, where countries and companies are struggling to secure concessions. At the same time Africa remains one of the regions suffering most from climate change.
Access to energy determines a country’s wealth and global influence. Countries that do not have access to energy, materials and water run the risk of losing out.
Finally: What started out as global market turmoil, has resulted in a severe economic crisis, which certainly has struck Europe hard.
So, the question we face is not how steep the mountain is – or whether we have to climb it. The question is rather: What is our will and courage to climb - as individuals and as a group? Because a large part of the answer truly rests with our ability to take collective action!
These are global challenges that demand a collective response.
Let me focus in on the energy aspect.
First, we must embrace the UN Secretary General's initiative on Sustainable Energy for All.
Today: 1,3 billion people are without access to electricity. And as you know, it is impossible to operate a factory, run a shop or grow crops without some form of energy.
Access to electricity is one of the clearest indicators of a country’s energy poverty. Indeed; access to electricity is a prerequisite for growth and crucial to human development.
Can we stay deaf to that? Not in my view. The initiative Sustainable Energy for All aims to reduce energy poverty, improve energy efficiency and promote renewable energy.
Its success hinges on political commitment, but also on pledges from business and the civil society.
It truly is a remarkable initiative and a good example of visionary public-private thinking.
Secondly, we should take tangible steps to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
According to The International Energy Association more than 400 billion dollars is spent on fossil fuels subsidies - every year!
Subsidies that could have been invested in more sustainable and promising technologies.
I believe - and the Danish case certainly testifies to this - that resource efficiency and the development of renewable energy contributes to the creation of more resilient economies.
Please allow me to toot my national horn for a minute. I cannot help it… In Denmark, we have shown that investing in renewable energy energy efficiency can deliver sustained economic growth.
Since 1980, the Danish economy has grown by almost 80%, while our energy consumption has remained more or less constant, and CO2-emissions have been reduced.
And at the global scale the same is true. The contribution clean technology is already making to the global economy is clear. We see how it sparks investments, how it delivers jobs and how it creates growth.
The transition is largely driven by the private sector and civil society. We need to support this development politically, We need to catalyze a global change process that is truly beneficial to all - and indeed unavoidable in both economic and climate terms we need to act, because right now things are not moving fast enough.
The IEA warns us that the window of climate change opportunity is about to close.
Right now, we are locking in to a fossil based energy future that will seriously harm our children and generations to come.
Enabling the transition to a sustainable and efficient energy future requires long term predictability and security for investment.
We – politicians – must provide business with clear and sound policy signals.
This brings me to my final point; We must strive for a tangible outcome of Rio. New processes are not enough.
The EU has proposed a series of targets on energy, water, oceans, land management and resource efficiency that we hope you agree with.
Sustainable Development Goals are strong drivers as we move ahead.
From the European side we will do our utmost to strengthen our natural bonds with you, which were so visible in Durban at COP17.
And I look forward to our exchange today on how we can ensure a positive outcome of Rio.
I began with Mount Everest. Over the years many have tried - and many have failed to reach the highest peak of all.
18 years ago Nelson Mandela reached a different peak, when he became the first black president in South Africa - after a lifetime of climbing.
But his struggle did not end with that.
The struggle for a better world never ends.
As Mandela once said: “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”. Mandela’s example ought to teach us one thing: That change is possible as long as we do not give up.
Rio+20 will be one of the largest and most important gatherings in the history of the United Nations.
If we don’t start climbing now, we’ll never reach the top.