Europe and the U.S. - new dream team for climate action or rivals on the road to net zero?

We are inviting: Journalists
January 18th 2021 at 16 - 17.30 CET
Online via Zoom
Import into your calendar

Politicians and climate policy experts on both sides of the Atlantic have hailed the election of Joe Biden as the United States’ next president as a new beginning for EU-U.S. relations to drive global emissions reduction. The president-elect aims to re-join the Paris Agreement and has announced ambitious energy transition plans. Showcasing just how high expectations are, the European Commission has already drawn up plans for a climate-friendly technology alliance and a wider green trade cooperation. However, this new partnership might not be all smooth sailing. Energy spats like the one on Nord Stream 2 are set to stay. EU intentions for a carbon price on imported goods will be difficult to implement in a way acceptable to both sides. And their aim for leadership in climate-friendly technologies – Tesla’s new Gigafactory in the heart of the automobile’s birthplace in Germany is a case in point – is a source of conflict where the U.S. and the EU are already in fierce competition with countries like China.

Two days before the inauguration of Joe Biden as U.S. president, Clean Energy Wire hosts an event exclusively for journalists, where researchers and political and business analysts share their views on what a change in U.S. leadership means for international climate policy and transatlantic cooperation on the path to net-zero emissions.

Photo: European Union.

Expectations are high for a renewed transatlantic partnership on climate and energy when Joe Biden takes office on 20 January. The president-elect has committed to quickly re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement and has stated an ambitious aim for the U.S. to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Just weeks after the election, the European Commission proposed a “new EU-US agenda for global change”. The document’s paragraphs on working together to protect our planet include the call for a climate-friendly technology alliance and a wider green trade cooperation. The Commission also proposed an EU-US summit in the first half of 2021.

However, the new partnership between the two blocs – which account for about a third of the world’s GDP and trade – might not be all smooth sailing. The EU now touts its plans to introduce a CO2 price on imported goods, a carbon border tax, as a key measure for closer cooperation. In the recent past, however, U.S. officials felt such a price would penalise their country.

Industries on both sides of the Atlantic will continue to compete for profit in rapidly decarbonising markets – as showcased by Tesla’s new Gigafactory in the heart of the automobile’s birthplace in Germany.

For Biden, significant domestic obstacles remain and it remains to be seen how much the new administration can actually achieve.

Just days before Biden’s inauguration, the Clean Energy Wire invites policymakers and business representatives to share their views on questions such as:

  • How will the U.S. make this dramatic change of course after the Trump years and re-establish its credibility in the international community that it will be a dependable ally in the fight against climate change?
  • As the EU and US set a new diplomatic course for their transatlantic relationship, how should this partnership take shape?
  • Where are opportunities for closer cooperation and what are the obstacles?
  • Will the new U.S. administration have the resources to once again become a major player in global climate action, or will issues like the pandemic consume all energy?
  • How could the EU help facilitate the successful repositioning the U.S. from a leading sceptic to a climate leader in 2021?


16.00 - 16.05        

Welcome and introduction

by moderation Julian Wettengel, Clean Energy Wire

16.05 - 16.20

The view from the US

by Samantha Gross, Brookings Institution and Kevin Book, ClearView Energy Partners

16.20 - 16.30

The view from Europe

by Jennifer Tollmann, E3G

16.30 - 17.00 Discussion and Q&A
17.00 - 17.20

Business and finance perspective

by Willem van Rijn, NextGen Strategic Advisors and Johannes Lange, Ökoworld

17.20 - 17.25

Journalist's perspective

by Justin Gerdes, Energy Monitor

17.25 - 17.30           

Conclusions and outlook


Samantha Gross is a fellow and director of the Energy Security and Climate Initiative at Brookings Institution. Her work is focused on the intersection of energy, environment, and policy, including climate policy and international cooperation, energy efficiency, unconventional oil and gas development, regional and global natural gas trade, and the energy-water nexus.

Kevin Book heads the research team and covers oil, gas, and coal policy at ClearView Energy Partners, LLC, an independent firm that examines macro energy issues for institutional investors and corporate strategists. Mr. Book is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also a member of the National Petroleum Council, a self-funded advisory body to the Secretary of Energy, and a non-resident Senior Associate with the Energy and National Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Jennifer Tollmann is a Senior Policy Advisor in E3G’s Climate Diplomacy and Geopolitics team based out of E3G’s Berlin office. As E3G’s European Climate Diplomacy lead, Jennifer works on issues ranging from Transatlantic and Sino-European climate cooperation and competition; COP26; Climate risk and resilience diplomacy; and emerging European Green Deal Diplomacy.  Jennifer works with policymakers, diplomats, foreign policy experts and civil society, to create the political space and build the diplomatic coalitions to accelerate international climate action.

Willem van Rijn is currently active as an investor, advisor and board member at various institutions, including Ecologic Institute. Based in New York, he spent most of his career as a management consultant, heading the Financial Risk Management practice in the USA and the global Financial Institutions Strategy Consulting practice for PwC. After leaving the consulting business, he served as the global Chief Operating Officer for Greenpeace International.

Johannes Lange is a financial analyst at Ökoworld AG, a pioneer in sustainable investments. He is responsible for the markets of Japan, South Korea, India and South Africa.

Justin Gerdes is the U.S. Senior Correspondent for Energy Monitor based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a former contributing writer for Greentech Media and author of Quitting Carbon: How Denmark Is Leading the Clean Energy Transition and Winning the Race to the Low-Carbon Future. He can be found on Twitter at @JustinGerdes and LinkedIn here. 


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