April 14. 2024. 7:42

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No Green Deal without technology, leading EU lawmaker says


For EU lawmaker Eva Maydell, Europe’s ambitious green agenda must be supported by a comprehensive industrial plan that will shift the bloc’s focus to competitive sustainability and becoming the world’s leader in clean technologies.

“We can’t talk about the green transition without talking about technologies. There is no Green Deal without the Tech Deal. AI and other new technologies are the ultimate enablers of the sustainable future we are trying to envisage here in Europe,” Maydell told EURACTIV.

Maydell is an influential voice of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), the largest political group in the European Parliament. She has worked on key digital files such as the EU’s data strategy, the revised Networks and Information Security directive (NIS2), the Chips Act and the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act.

Two years ago, the Bulgarian lawmaker drove the establishment of a working group inside the EPP on AI and sustainability to bring together peers, experts and researchers on AI applications in fields such as energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine one year ago, which led to soaring energy prices and pushed Europe to reconsider its strategic dependencies towards Russian gas and Chinese batteries, underscored the urgency of the work of Maydell’s working group.

“This situation we find ourselves in today has brought more pragmatism in our strategic plans for the Green Deal. The Green Deal is a noble idea, but it was not backed up with the industrial and technological potential from the very beginning,” Maydell said.

The EU lawmaker stressed that Europe needs to look at existing innovative solutions such as AI applications that can help to reduce energy consumption to break the silos and really turn the green and digital transformation into a twin transition, as they have been dubbed for some time now.

Maydell mentioned that, at a recent stakeholder event on AI and sustainability, she experienced real-world examples of what this type of technology can bring — spanning from a start-up working on energy storage to a Bulgarian company developing energy solutions with satellite services.

SMEs central to integrating AI into climate action, say stakeholders

Small and medium enterprises will be central to ensuring the twin green and digital transition succeeds, and that technologies such as AI are integrated into these processes, stakeholders emphasised in Brussels this week.

“If we want to reach these ambitious targets, we cannot do that only by putting strict rules in place for every sector. It’s a two-sided approach. We also need to listen to the entrepreneurs to create the working conditions we need to deploy the AI solutions that can make this transition possible,” she said.

On the AI Act, a landmark EU legislation at an advanced stage of negotiation in the European Parliament, Maydell considered that the policymakers’ role should be to address the challenges posed by this emerging technology whilst still enabling it to address the most pressing societal problems.

In her view, the purpose of the draft law is to create legal certainty for AI-driven solutions that entail low risk but can make industrial processes more efficient, starting with consuming less energy.

“Some think that any AI solution operating in the environmental or the green sector should be considered higher risk. I want to caution against this approach because we do not want to disincentive companies from venturing into this field,” Maydell added.

At the same time, the MEP recognises that balancing innovation and safeguards is easier said than done. Still, she cautioned against overregulation, which would clip the wings to European companies that could create AI models based on European values.

“We are a leader when it comes to the AI Act, the Green Deal and other legislation. We have this first-mover advantage. But if we want to be the first ones to reach net zero, we must take a step back and realize we must foster innovation in our continent.”

“It’s time for us to start thinking about not just about sustainability or competitiveness but about competitive sustainability as our selling point. Europe has the potential to become the world leader in clean tech,” Maydell concluded.