I’m pleased to join you today, at the Southeast Europe Energy Forum. The United States is and will remain a strong partner to the countries of Southeast Europe. We will continue to partner with you to develop your energy resources in a sustainable way.
Global energy markets are returning to something that looks closer to normal after the historic contraction due to significantly reduced demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even during the slowdown last year, many projects continued to move forward.
In the United States, the Biden Administration is deeply committed to tackling the climate crisis at home and abroad. We have taken significant steps to ensure that the United States is on the path to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and a net-zero power sector by 2035. This effort will also help create millions of good paying jobs.
Internationally, we have committed to aligning official international financing with the global achievement of net zero GHG emissions no later than 2050 and for deep emissions reductions during this decade.
In terms of direct steps, the United States intends to double its annual public finance to developing countries by 2024, from a baseline of around $2.8 billion a year, working with other donors to mobilize $100 billion annually. Financing, if used strategically, can help mobilize trillions more in private capital.
We are also working with allies to boost funding for low- and middle-income countries for infrastructure that is sustainable and addresses the climate crisis head-on, including through the Build Back Better World initiative launched by President Biden and other G7 Leaders.
The United States mobilizes billions of dollars of overseas infrastructure financing through existing bilateral and multilateral tools. We hope that, together with the private sector, the Build Back Better World initiative will collectively catalyze hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries in the coming years.
The investments will be made consistent with achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and will address the underlying infrastructure that will transform global energy systems.
The United States sees significant economic opportunities in pathways to net-zero emissions by 2050 or before—both in our country and across the world. Diversification that moves us to fully realize the benefits of clean energy is pivotal to decarbonization, energy access, and energy security. It is also a driver for economic development and prosperity.
We have elevated climate change as a core tenet of our foreign policy. Accelerating the global transition to a net-zero future is a key part of that work. We are committed to doing so in a way that safeguards U.S. energy security and geostrategic interests, while also accounting for rising energy demand around the world.
As many of you saw from President Biden’s April Leaders Summit on Climate, this administration is eager to engage at the highest level, bilaterally and multilaterally, to demonstrate our commitment. I’m glad that Greek Environment and Energy Minister Screaks was able to participate in the Ministerial Summit Roundtable session to share Greece’s positive story on climate and clean energy.
The United States is committed to ensuring that a net-zero emissions future offers significant opportunity for business, for clean, green jobs, and economic growth – and, as President Biden said, to “build back better” from the global economic crisis.
Here in the United States we are updating our international energy policy with three main goals in mind:
- One – Decarbonization. We must address the root causes of the climate crisis, which we see is already affecting this region, as demonstrated by the devastating wildfires last month in Greece and its neighbors.
- Two – Energy security. We must support regional cooperation and strategic energy diversification to promote political stability and counter malign influences. We have been working closely with Southeast Europe for many years on this challenge and have many successes that our ambassadors will highlight in their panel later today.
- Three – Energy in development. We must address energy access and energy justice issues in the developing world.
We are eager to work together with our foreign government partners and the international private sector to develop innovative solutions to reduce emissions, grow clean energy jobs, and ensure that people still get access to the energy they need to be a productive part of modern society.
We see energy security as a matter of national security. U.S. policy has consistently focused on increasing the diversification of energy resources by supplier, routes, and fuel types, including nuclear and renewables, and promoting transparent and competitive markets. We aim to promote paths to decarbonization in the energy sector and strengthen resilience to the effects of climate change.
The transition to greener energy around the world presents opportunities for us to work together on creating a supportive regulatory environment and adapting current technology and innovating future technologies to ensure that a net-zero future is equitable for all.
A strong dialogue with our international partners is critical to achieving many of our joint ambitions for clean energy.
The next logical question is, what does this new policy mean for southeastern Europe and the Balkans? A later panel during today’s session will include U.S. ambassadors to Greece, Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Bulgaria talking more in depth about the U.S. role in the region. Let me give an overview.
Southeast Europe is on the edge of a transformational shift in the energy sector. Now is the time to take action to decarbonize.
Coal has long dominated many energy mixes in the region, particularly in the Balkans, causing air pollution that damages human health and impedes economic growth. Renewable energy is on the rise, and some countries have committed to phase out coal in the medium-term. Greece has committed to phasing out coal by 2025 and North Macedonia, alongside Albania and Montenegro, recently joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance, pledging to stop producing electricity with coal by 2030.
The United States wants to ensure the energy transformation supports each country’s domestic and the region’s security, diversity of supplies, greater economic cooperation, and a pathway to meet climate change targets.
Greater grid connectivity will also be critical– to diversify energy supply routes, help balance variability of renewable resources, and keep energy prices affordable.
As global markets move away from fossil fuels, countries need to assess the best ways to integrate clean energy—so that it is both reliable and scalable. We want to work with our allies on strategies that build a reliable, sustainable energy mix.
In countries that rely on one or two dominant energy suppliers, promoting clean energy resources should be a priority. Resilient energy systems largely powered by renewables and other clean energy technologies leave no space for oil and gas to be used as points of political leverage.
In the short term, we recognize natural gas may have a role to play in the energy transition. We anticipate continued engagement on natural gas in certain contexts when it diversifies suppliers to support geopolitical imperatives and is tied to broader decarbonization pathways. As always, projects that we support must make economic/commercial sense and use existing infrastructure when possible, rather than building completely new pipelines.
As countries turn to natural gas to help phase out coal and complement renewables, we encourage you to ensure it’s coming from countries that maintain high environmental, social, and governance standards. And also ensure source countries will not use it for coercion. Projects such as the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, Alexandroupoli FSRU, Vlora FSRU, Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector, and the Greece-North Macedonia Interconnector are important to achieving this goal.
Of course, the energy transition will be more challenging for some countries than others. This is truly a global effort, requiring global ambition and global support. We cannot leave anyone behind. This is not just an altruistic cause. Investing in the clean energy transition makes economic sense.
In July, President Biden announced significant investment in our domestic infrastructure, in a bill that has been passed by the Senate and is awaiting reconciliation with the House passed version. The legislation – the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – includes around $550 billion in new federal investment in America’s infrastructure, including investments in power infrastructure, clean transportation, and clean energy Research, Development and Deployment.
The bill will help us tackle the climate crisis by making the largest investment in clean energy transmission and Electric Vehicle infrastructure in history. It upgrades our power infrastructure, including by building thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy.
Through these efforts, the United States intends to be a global leader in the development and adoption of clean energy technologies. The Administration has vowed to spend $300 billion on research and development over 10 years (including clean energy and strengthening supply chains) and a $46 billion commitment for federal procurement of low-carbon technologies.
The economic returns of clean energy are self-evident. The United States is a top target for clean energy investment, including $78 billion in new project finance in 2019, and an additional $62 billion in 2020.
These are competitive investments, onshore wind and photovoltaic solar were the lowest-cost technologies for new power generation in the U.S.
Sixty percent of all corporate purchases of renewable energy has occurred in the United States, where many companies have largely offset their electricity demand through Power Purchase Agreements, while others are looking at ways to decarbonize their supply chains.
U.S. electric power companies are expressing increasing confidence that they can eliminate 70 to 80 percent of their carbon emissions by 2030. At present, three quarters of customer accounts in the United States are served by a utility with a carbon or emission reduction goal. The majority of these utilities are doing this for financial reasons.
Public policy has been instrumental in this trend, as states with clean energy standards have helped lead to the precipitous decline in the cost of renewable energy technologies, which in turn has spurred greater investment in them.
We will continue to support the 3+1 mechanism — Greece, Israel, the Republic of Cyprus, plus the United States — to deepen regional cooperation. We also underscore our commitment to the ongoing 3+1 conversations on energy, and look forward to future meetings of our working groups, including on engagements on renewable energy that the United States is leading.
The United States sees the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) as a forum to promote greater cooperation, energy security, and economic prosperity throughout the East Med region. The United States officially became an observer on March 9. We welcome the recent announcement that the EMGF plans to work with specialists to discuss and promote gas decarbonization and are interested to learn more about those plans. We are pleased to see the Republic of Cyprus will assume the EMGF presidency next January, building on Egypt’s EMGF leadership and convening role.
We encourage all countries to embrace the economic opportunities that renewable energy offers. Clean energy initiatives mean boosting innovation and creating new jobs. This transition will require new investment, support, and strong regional partnerships. It will require deploying, at massive scale, the whole range of clean energy technologies available for decarbonization.
In closing, the United States is encouraging countries to set more ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and to accelerate the deployment of clean energy and low-carbon technologies.
We see combatting climate change as foundational to national security and foreign policy, including energy policy. Reaching our ambitious climate targets will require a concerted global effort.
We look forward to continuing our work together as allies and partners in energy and climate diplomacy in the months and years ahead.