Corporate leaders want decarbonisation as central focus for Europe's Industrial Strategy

Business giants including Unilever, Interface, and Coca-Cola have called for the new European Industrial Strategy to focus heavily on decarbonisation in a way that sets out clear strategies for investment into low-carbon solutions and provides price incentives for new goods and services.

CLG Europe is calling for clarity and direction on a plethora of low-carbon innovations

CLG Europe is calling for clarity and direction on a plethora of low-carbon innovations

Convened through the European Corporate Leaders Group (CLG Europe), major businesses have obtained a leaked version of the European Union’s Industrial Strategy, which is set for publication on 10 March alongside a new Circular Economy Action Plan.

According to CLG Europe, the strategy will set the new Green Deal into motion – in order to enable the bloc to become “climate neutral” by 2050 – and will implement a set of measures across policies and sectors which focus heavily on the circular economy, digitalisation, trade and finance.

However, the group is calling for strategic clarity on decarbonisation, indicating that the leaked document provides an insufficient focus on industrial decarbonisation pathways. The group claims that the strategy does not do enough to exploit the decarbonisation potential of the circular economy and fails to offer robust ways for carbon-intensive industries to decarbonise.

Specifically, CLG Europe is calling for clarity and direction on a plethora of low-carbon innovations, including carbon capture and storage (CCS), biomass use and clean hydrogen production. The business group has also called for incentives to be provided to spur market demand across the bloc for low-carbon goods and services, namely through robust carbon pricing.

CLG Europe's Head of EU Relations Ursula Woodburn said: "The new Industrial Strategy must put decarbonisation front and centre and set out clear pathways to getting all sectors to net zero. It needs to pay attention not just to the industries of today but the potentially successful industries of tomorrow.  This will be key to delivering a successful Green Deal that will give Europe the chance to fulfil its aim to become the first net-zero continent by 2050.

"It will be a complex process but the new Commission knows there are no quick fixes, and no climate sidebars anymore - there is only one main story and it is the urgent need to deliver on the Paris Agreement and decarbonise all parts of the economy. The Industrial Strategy is key to showing the EU is ready to deliver the substance needed to kickstart the massive structural transformation required over the next 10 years."

Green Deal rising

By focusing on decarbonisation, the group argues that Europe can develop competitive advantages while improving the natural environment and creating new jobs, all of which are encompassed under the Green Deal.

In December, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveiled sweeping plans to enable the EU to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 through a new Green Deal. Headline targets listed in the Green Deal include a 50-55% emissions reduction target for 2030; a climate law to reach net-zero emissions by 2050; a transition fund worth €100bn and a series of new sector policies to ensure all industries are able to decarbonise.

Earlier this week, the Commission officially unveiled its Climate Law, aimed at making the EU carbon neutral by 2050. But Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg criticised the plan as a "surrender".

Between 1990 and 2018, the EU reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 23% while growing its economy by 61%, However, the Commission’s own projections suggest that only a 60% emissions reduction can be achieved by 2050 based on current trajectories.

In response, the Commission will propose the first European ‘Climate Law’ by March 2020 that will enshrine the net-zero 2050 objective. The Law will also feature mechanisms to ensure that all future EU policies contribute to the climate neutrality objective.

Achieving the current 2030 climate and energy targets is estimated to require €260bn of additional annual investment, according to the Commission, representing 1.5% of GDP. 

While the Industrial Strategy is designed to support the delivery of the decarbonisation target, many green groups have issued concerns over its potential impact.

European association WindEurope has called for the Industrial Strategy to focus on wind as a major source of decarbonisation. Figures show that wind energy accounts for 15% of Europe’s electricity, and despite employing more than 300,000 people, job losses have been recorded in nations like Germany.

The European Commission has claimed that wind capacity will need to be five times greater than it is today to reach its 2050.

Nuclear is also seen as a low-carbon option for the strategy. In a piece for edie’s content partner Euractiv, Yves Desbazeille, director-general of Europe’s nuclear industry association FORATOM also noted the important role that nuclear would have to play as part of any Industrial Strategy.

In fact, the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner, Thierry Breton has claimed that he wants business productivity to be at the heart of the strategy.

Matt Mace



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