EU energy chief Maros Sefcovic talks U.S. relations and climate change

Maros Sefcovic, European Commission vice president for energy, speaks at CERAWeek Monday. (Photo: IHS Markit)

Maros Sefcovic, vice president for energy at the European Commission, is in Washington this week for meetings on Capitol Hill and at the White House. But first he stopped in Houston for the CERAWeek energy conference, where he spoke about global efforts to combat climate change.

Before he headed to the airport, Sefcovic sat down for an interview.

Europe and the United States worked closely to line up support for the climate change agreement in Paris. Now Donald Trump is in the White House, what is the feeling in Europe that the U.S. will continue to be a partner?

I think it’s quite clear for Europe the trans Atlantic partnership is extremely important. We saw it as a founding stone of post war stability. For us the statements of Vice President Mike Mike Pence when he was in Europe or the interventions of Secretary of State Tillerson and the Secretary of Defense have been very important and positively received. We hope this will be the dialogue and relationship we want to cultivate in the future.


It’s been more than a year since the Paris agreement. How far along is Europe in figuring out how to meet their commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions?

We in the European Union decided very quickly to transform this commitment into legally binding legislation. We introduced a new emissions trading scheme for the period 2020 to 2030 to get greenhouse gas emission reductions of 40 percent. We introduced new measures to cut emissions from industries like transport, agriculture and building stock. And we are completely overhauling the European electricity market design to integrate better the renewables.

What else have you been talking about at CERAWeek?

We wanted to present what we are doing in Europe in the field of energy, as far as energy transformation. Also, it is our strong belief Europe is a very good destination for U.S. LNG  because we want to diversify our energy supplies. In the current debate in the United States about the importance of jobs and growth I wanted to highlight how important the U.S. EU relationship is.


Europe has had its own challenges from climate change deniers, but now the continent is moving quickly to enact policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What changed?

I think we had such a discussion in Europe a few years ago. And we have some countries that are less enthusiastic as it comes to the policies and tackling climate change. But there is one significant change over the last few years. The first one is at it comes to the green tech there is a very strong business case being built, as energy prices from renewables goes down. It’s not a burden but an investment into the future. Then there’s the air pollution factor. It’s not just China and India. We have this problem as well in London and Brussels and cities in Poland, and the citizens want to see action.

If President Trump decides to pull the United States from the Paris agreement, what would be the fallout among the other countries signed on?

We hope this would not happen because the Americans and the Europeans have been working very closely on this and been very instrumental in getting this done and creating this global momentum. I hope with the help of the industry to make a very strong case for staying because it has a business sense, support of a lot of people, if not for the sake of the future of the planet for air pollution and the millions of new jobs that could be created in this field.


This interview has been edited and condensed.