The 2023 Plenary meeting of the Club of Three that was held in Berlin in October focused on energy and climate issues for the third consecutive time following two successful Plenaries on the same topic in London (2021) and Paris (2022).
The Berlin Plenary was taking place under slightly better circumstances compared to the previous year in Paris. The energy crisis had eased but there was still concern about the tough socio-economic conditions that Europe was having to deal with. The conference title, “Europe’s energy transition: embattled but not in danger?”, was meant to reflect this as well as external pressures inflicted by the US IRA and, in Europe, signs of hesitation on certain climate targets as a result of the cost of living crisis.
During the sessions at the Hotel de Rome, there were clear calls for more pragmatism in the way that the energy transition was being implemented, but without losing our objectives. Much more needed to be done at the policy level to facilitate this transition, notably by simplifying overly complicated rules.
There were real concerns now that Europe might miss its climate and energy targets if it continued to be too prescriptive in its approach to policymaking. Another clear message was that technologies should not be pitched against each other. We need them all, and we need to use them in a much more blended way.
Mining exploration and new framework conditions for the production of green technology were also urgently needed to maintain a strong green industrial base in Europe otherwise this production would soon move to China in the same way as Europe lost its PV industry over a decade ago.
Above all, the energy transition desperately needed to be seen as a major opportunity rather than a challenge. Crucially, governments and industry must bring European citizens with them on that journey and show the benefits of the decarbonisation dividend much more clearly.
The Friday dinner at the residence of the French Ambassador was dedicated to European defence and security, through the lens of the Club of Three’s traditional “Where are we Three?” theme. General Christian Freuding, Head of the Planning and Command Staff and Head of the Ukraine Situation Center at the Federal Ministry of Defence, gave a keynote address in which he outlined what Germany meant to achieve through its Zeitenwende.