On March 20, the Atlantic Council co-hosted a high-level workshop on “Decarbonization solutions for addressing Europe’s green industrial policy challenge” in Paris with the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and Groupe d’études geopolitiques (GEG). The event was the second in a series of six (the first was held in Berlin in January) which aim to bring together policymakers, analysts, and the private sector to discuss decarbonization strategies in Europe.
Distinguished guests at the workshop included H.E Laurence Boone, Minister of State for Europe for the French Foreign Ministry; Ms. Kerstin Jorna, Director General of the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW); Mr. Olivier Guersent, Director-General of the Directorate General for Competition; Mr. Emmanuel Moulin, Director General at the French Treasury; and Mr. Benoît Potier, Chief Executive Officer of Air Liquide, among others. In addition to these guests, the Atlantic Council, DGAP and GEG were honored to host other key policymakers, analysts, and private sector representatives.
One year on from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Europe has managed to mitigate the worst effects of the energy crisis and maintain its support for Ukrainians’ defense of their homeland. Participants noted the significant number of initiatives taken at the European level on a vast array of subjects, including diversifying imports, deploying clean energy, and building supply chain capacity. The conversation in Paris ranged from how to meet basic energy needs now to building a resilient net zero economy in the future, with a focus placed on industrial strategy, infrastructure needs, and scaling up public and private funding, and infrastructure needs.
Whereas participants at the first workshop in Berlin highlighted the successful cooperation between European member states in the face of the energy crisis, discussants in Paris underscored increasing tensions between member states on several vital issues. Attendees emphasized the crisis of trust between member states, evidenced by disagreements on electricity market reform, divergences on the role of nuclear and natural gas in the energy transition, state aid rules, and even the lack of progress made towards a Capital Markets Union. Some panelists argued that Franco-German disagreements on nuclear energy inhibit Europe’s ability to make progress in its energy transition, while others expressed concerns around the necessity of nuclear support schemes at the EU level. There were also diverging perspectives around how loosening the state aid rules would impact market unity.
Participants also emphasized the need for European cooperation, especially in building common energy infrastructure. Indeed, renewable energy deployment must go hand in hand with infrastructure investments, such as electricity grids, hydrogen pipelines, and electric vehicle charging stations. Panelists shared the view that, to meet these many goals, Europe would need to strengthen its infrastructure planning capacities, accelerate reforms in project permitting, and scale up access to funding if it is to meet its ambitious decarbonization objectives. Increasing and diversifying the number of long-term energy contracts signed with producers, such as contracts for difference and power purchase agreements, could help incentivize investments in clean power.
Looking beyond the continent, European participants described the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) as a welcomed shift in US climate policy and positive shock for Europe’s own decarbonization efforts. Several participants argued that the IRA would encourage Europe to build its own resiliency in clean industry supply chains and open potential avenues of cooperation with the United States. But European panelists also expressed concerns regarding its impact on European industry due to the law’s national preference rules, seen as discriminatory against European manufacturers, even though the EU offers comparable
, but perhaps harder to navigate incentives. This highlighted a remarkable shift in focus from the workshop in Berlin a few months prior, where policymakers and analysts had debated Europe’s capacity to meet energy demand. In Paris, however, the conversation focused not on energy supply, but on low-cost, low-carbon energy as a prerequisite for a competitive industry.
The Atlantic Council looks forward to continuing this workshop series throughout 2023.
The Europe Center promotes leadership, strategies and analysis to ensure a strong, ambitious and forward-looking transatlantic relationship.
The Global Energy Center promotes energy security by working alongside government, industry, civil society, and public stakeholders to devise pragmatic solutions to the geopolitical, sustainability, and economic challenges of the changing global energy landscape.