Day 1: The green transition in times of crisis and how EUKI projects are fostering it
For the EUKI 2022 conference “Fostering the Green Transition”, a large number of participants from business, politics and civil society met onsite and online on September 20-21 to share and discuss European approaches to the energy crisis and the transition to a greener future. This year’s conference not only picked up on the current debates on the topic of energy saving and climate protection, but also celebrated the fifth anniversary of the European Climate Initiative (EUKI). The event was kicked off by Ulrike Leis, Deputy Director Project Finance Programme of the EUKI and Dr. Simon Marr, Head of Division European Climate Policy, European Climate Initiative, Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK). Dr. Marr underlined the outstanding position of renewable energies as “freedom energies” and how important the connection between the political level and the practical project work in climate protection is.
During the conference opening “Fostering the green transformation: facing crises, staying on track” Berthold Goeke, Deputy Director General, National and European Climate Policy, BMWK,
Dr. Patrick Graichen, State Secretary BMWK, and Yvon Slingenberg, Director, Director General Climate Action, European Commission, did not shy away from naming current problems and addressing much-discussed measures. State Secretary Graichen called it the worst energy crisis of the past 50 years and encouraged the participants to continue to push forward with their projects, as being on the ground the EUKI project leaders themselves know best what needs to be done in their respective countries to make them climate neutral. Deputy Director General Goeke referred to the REPowerEU plan as well as the “Fit-for-55” package as important instruments for the green transformation and emphasized that temporary measures such as the integration of fossil fuels are necessary but climate protection efforts and thus the independence of fossil fuels should be further advanced. He also addressed the EUKI community, affirming, “We need people on the ground to drive change in their communities.” Yvon Slingenberg added that the climate crisis entails social costs also. Still, she expressed “optimism to some degree” about steady progress on Fit-for-55, advising, “If you save energy, that’s the cheapest action you can take. Everyone can contribute to facing this challenge.” In this regard, she said, the EUKI projects are a necessary part of EU climate policy to ensure the inclusion of all stakeholders involved in climate action.
The range of topics in which the 157 EUKI projects are already doing this became clear at the project and poster exhibition: in addition to energy & resource efficiency measures as represented by the “Young Energy Europe” project, the projects ranged from climate policy education and information on EU funding measures to improving the carbon footprint on farms and more climate-friendly school catering.
Anelia Stefanova, Energy Transformation Area Leader, CEE Bankwatch, Dr. Nils Meyer-Ohlendorf, Senior Fellow & Head of the International and European Governance Program, Ecologic Institute and Štěpán Vizi, Project Coordinator, Centre for Transport and Energy also exchanged views on challenges and opportunities of the projects. The panelists agreed that civilians, economic actors, and political institutions must work together inclusively to reduce mistrust on the green transformation and strengthen European solidarity that grew in current times of crisis.
At the final panel talk on “Impact and potential of a funding instrument – EUKI’s role towards the green transition”, Dragomir Tzanev, Executive Director EnEffect center for energy efficiency, Ada Ámon, Chief Advisor to the Mayor of Budapest on Climate Affairs, Visar Azemi, Executive Director, Balkan Green Foundation and Simon Marr (BMWK) discussed different experiences from the countries. Dr. Marr summed up, “These few hours have brought me so much knowledge and further thinking. The perception of the EUKI has moved up to the highest levels of government and supports our political course.” Finally, the participants from the various EUKI projects and politics had ample opportunity to network and exchange ideas on the projects and impressions of the day over a piece of EUKI birthday cake.
Day 2: Taking a look into the future
Since successful project implementation includes various administrative processes, participants were provided with information from the EUKI Secretariat on the EUKI Academy program as well as on project application and funding instruments at the beginning of the second day of #EUKICON22.
Following this, Annika Hedberg, Head of Sustainable Prosperity for Europe programme, European Policy Center and Leonora Grcheva, Cities and Regions Lead, Doughnut Economics Action Lab, shared ideas and perspectives from the interplay of different policy areas at the EU level and new approaches for local climate action with the participants. Sven Egenter, Editor in Chief and Executive Director, Clean Energy Wire (CLEW) complemented the contributions with a journalistic perspective and explained the role of communication in advancing a climate-neutral future. His insight after the first day: “The EUKI projects are a treasure hunt, we should [talk about it]!”.
No sooner said than done: in the course of the so-called Future Labs, participants from various EUKI projects came together and exchanged their project experiences and the insights gained from the previous contributions. Through the intensive exchange, both new and more established projects were able to benefit from each other’s wealth of experience and there were lively debates on the topics of stakeholder engagement and the question of a central solution to help Europe reach the goal of climate neutrality more quickly. In the end, however, most agreed that this can only be achieved through inclusive cooperation and engagement of all stakeholder groups, in tandem with facilitated access to relevant information and practical implementation of climate policy measures.
The #EUKICON22 offered comprehensive insights into existing EUKI projects as well as insightful findings from interesting discussions and meetings with our partners. Inspired by the climate policy momentum and the many innovative approaches united by the demand for practical implementation and tangible results, the Young Energy Europe team goes back to the project work and is already looking forward to the EUKI Conference 2023!