Thank you. Good evening. Thank you very much Ambassador Hoagland for that introduction and to Ambassador Cekuta and Dr. Nifti, ministers and guests. It’s just a huge honor for me to be with you here today to discuss energy resources and infrastructure in the Caspian region. And certainly, this discussion on the margins of the UNGA could not be more timely. As Ambassador Hoagland noted, I was sworn in this morning after having been confirmed on Thursday by the Senate, and I’m just a few hours into my new job. So, this is one of the very first events that I’m doing. But Caspian energy issues were central to my work when I was the PDAS in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs and worked closely, I should note, with Ambassador Hoagland. But also more recently, when I was ambassador to Greece, I worked very closely with my Azeri counterpart, as we worked to support the regulatory approval and construction of the TAP pipeline. And indeed, the whole Southern Gas Corridor looks even more important, in retrospect, as European energy security and the clean energy transition have emerged as two of today’s most pressing economic and geopolitical issues.
Meanwhile, President Putin’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine continues to generate extraordinary costs; in the thousands of civilians killed and wounded, in the 13 million Ukrainian citizens forced to leave their homes, and in rising global food and energy prices, and supply demand imbalances, making it harder for people around the world to meet their basic needs. Much of the discussion at this year’s UNGA will be about how we can work together to address these pressing humanitarian and economic challenges, but as the pressures of the war continue, we also need to make sure that we work together to meet global energy demand, while simultaneously addressing the devastating effects and the costs of climate change and the imperative of the clean energy transition.
The Biden Administration has consistently demonstrated its commitment to prioritizing the climate crisis. This includes passing the most significant legislation in US history to tackle climate change and strengthen energy security, as well as working with counterparts to encourage everyone to do more to meet climate goals. These are serious challenges, but they also offer opportunities to strengthen our partnerships and reap the economic benefits of new technologies and new markets. Energy diversification, as a central component of the clean energy transition, supports both economic and energy security goals. Part of managing this transition effectively is ensuring people have access to reliable energy to keep the lights on and businesses operating. What this means in terms of the mix of technologies and fuels will be different for every country. Some countries will require continued and diminishing use of unabated oil and natural gas as zero emission and abatement technologies continue to be commercialized.
Caspian natural gas is already playing a critical role in ensuring European energy security. And the more that resources in one region can be shared with another, the more all will benefit. For this reason, the United States believes that expanding natural gas, as well as electricity interconnections, will bring significant benefits to the Caspian region. The United States is engaged in ongoing dialogue with countries that could increase exports to determine the best ways Caspian states can contribute to broader energy security and diversification goals. The Southern Gas Corridor is a powerful example of what can be achieved with political will, coordinated investment, regional cooperation and technological innovation. In this regard, I’ll always remember my 2017 visit to the TAP pipeline, when it was under construction in Northern Greece, and the fantastic combination of capital, technology, and vision that project represented. Since it came online in 2020, the Southern Gas Corridor has already helped Turkey, Italy, Greece, and now Bulgaria to massively reduce their dependence on a single energy supplier. Its strategic and economic importance will only grow as Europe explores expanding the Southern Gas Corridor’s capacity to further diversify suppliers and routes. This Southern Gas Corridor has literally redrawn the energy map of Southeastern Europe. And at least in Greece, Azeri gas has played an important role in the government’s progress towards reducing reliance on dirty lignite coal power plants, thereby advancing our shared climate goals.
Greater regional interconnection also means greater stability for electrical grids, the essential infrastructure of modern homes and economies. To further regional energy security, it will also be important to increase energy efficiency. This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce consumer energy costs, lower emissions and improve competitiveness. It can also help Caspian countries to meet their domestic needs and free up additional resources for export. Energy efficiency in buildings and power plant operations and reducing methane venting, flaring, and leaking are all important. And of course, it’s possible to capture more gas for sale just by reducing the amount that is vented and flared. This benefits both the economy and the environment in line with the goals of the Global Methane Pledge announced last year at COP 26. Participants in the Pledge agreed to contribute to a collective effort to reduce methane emissions by at least 30% of 2020 levels by 2030. And I’m delighted that four states in the region are signatories to this pledge.
Our shared commitment to combating climate change presents opportunity for innovation as well. Developing and deploying renewable energy and battery storage will help bolster sustainability, resilience, and energy security. It also creates good, well-paying jobs.
Many states in the Caspian region have the potential to expand their use of renewable energy, taking advantage of their abundant resources to provide electricity and meet the needs of their populations. I vividly remember making the drive from Almaty to Bishkek, early in my tenure as PDAS, and being struck by how much the landscape looked like our high plains in Colorado. In the decade since I took that trip, Colorado has more than tripled its renewable energy generation, with four fifths of that now coming from wind power. There is no reason why many Caspian states couldn’t do the same in a way that would deliver multiple benefits. The private sector is and will continue to be an important partner in meeting these complimentary goals of energy security and energy transition. Continuing to provide reliable energy within the Caspian region and Europe, while transitioning to cleaner energy sources for the future, will require significant capital, but also presents fantastic new business opportunities. As I begin my role as Assistant Secretary of State for Energy resources, I am eager to find opportunities to increase cooperation in the fields of clean and renewable energy, and methane mitigation. So please keep in touch and be assured the United States will continue to support initiatives across the region to meet climate goals.
Finally, I will close by highlighting that the United States takes these relationships seriously and I am eager to again join the team, working to advance our agenda across this fascinating region. We are celebrating 30 years of U.S. relations with the states of the Caspian region, and we want to continue to work together to prioritize regional and international energy goals. Thank you once again for your welcome and I very much look forward to this evening’s discussion.