Fabio Panetta: Greener and cheaper - could the transition away from fossil fuels generate a divine coincidence?

Speech by Mr Fabio Panetta, Member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, at the Italian Banking Association, Rome, 16 November 2022.

Central bank speech  | 
17 November 2022
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 |  18 pages

The EU economy is highly dependent on fossil fuels, which represent close to three-quarters of its total energy consumption. Most of this fossil fuel energy is imported: while the EU accounts for 8 per cent of global fossil fuel demand, it accounts for only 0.5 per cent of global oil production and 1 per cent of global gas production.

A major cost of this dependence – which we are reminded of daily – is that energy-producing countries can use their fossil fuel exports to pressure or even threaten energy importers, creating geopolitical tension in the process. Historically, the price of crude oil has often spiked in the context of war, as is the case today. This underlines the need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Another huge cost of our reliance on fossil fuels is climate change. The earth is warming rapidly, with massive risks to ecosystems and humans, and urgent action is needed to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and shift to green sources of energy.

At the global level, energy generated from oil, coal and natural gas makes up more than 80 per cent of primary energy consumption. According to the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS), this share will have to be reduced to around 30 per cent to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. For the EU, the reduction will have to be even greater. This will require wide-ranging structural changes in energy production, but we still have a long way to go (Chart 1).