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EU chief tells UN climate meeting: ‘We must invest in R&D’

Image: Etienne Ansotte, European Union

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen emphasises research on second day in role

The new president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, used an opening speech at the UN’s major global climate change conference to call for investment in research, innovation and green technologies.

Speaking at the opening of the 25th Conference of Parties for the UN climate change convention in Madrid, Spain, on 2 December—her second day as Commission president—she outlined her plans for a European Green Deal package of actions intended to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

“For that we need investment. Investment in research, innovation, green technologies,” she said. “To pull this off, we will deliver a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, which will support €1 trillion of investment over the next decade.”

Her comments come a few days after the European Parliament declared a climate emergency. In a resolution backed on 28 November, MEPs asked the Commission to ensure that future EU legislation matches Europe’s commitments under the 2015 UN COP 21 Paris Agreement.

Presenting her college of commissioners to the Parliament on 27 November, von der Leyen said Europe must harness the “transformative power” of its digital and climate transitions “to strengthen our own industrial base and innovation potential”.

The Commission announced tweaks to some commissioners’ portfolios on 2 December, including changing the title of Cypriot Stella Kyriakides’ portfolio from Health to Health and Food Safety.