Let’s start by looking at the European Green Deal
Around this time last year, the European Commission (EC) announced its proposal for a European Green Deal (EGD), a package of legislation that aims to tackle climate change and other environmental challenges. The Earth’s atmosphere is warming, millions of species are at risk of disappearing while oceans and forests are being polluted and destroyed at an alarming rate. The proposed EGD’s aim is to provide solutions to these challenges.
EGD is a vital element of the EC’s strategy against climate change in alignment with the 2015 Paris Agreement and the UN’s 2030 Agenda which outlines the sustainable development goals. Its long term goals are to transition to a low-carbon economy, making Europe the first carbon neutral continent.
EC president Ursula von der Leyen (2019) described the EGD as:
Europe’s Man on the Moon Moment and our goal is to reconcile the economy with our planet and make it work for our people
And what’s the role of businesses in the European Green Deal?
The EU set a goal to become climate neutral by 2050 with sub-goals that are to be achieved by 2030. They proposed that commitments outlined in the EGD become legal obligations within the member states. Achieving these goals and targets will require contribution from all sectors in our economy, such as but not limited to the energy, transport, construction, agriculture and raw material sectors with special focus on resource dependent industries such as textiles, electronics, plastics or those that are energy intensive like steel, cement or chemicals.
How will carbon neutrality be achieved through the European Green Deal by 2050?
The Green Deal consists of various different targets and elements, some of which are closely connected and can support one another. The above figure showcases these elements together.
Let’s have a look at some of the targets and elements relevant to businesses
1. Increasing the EU’s Climate ambition for 2030 and 2050
This is the main objective of the EGD, with the aim of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 with an ambitious 50-55% reduction target set already for 2030 which is replacing the original 40% reduction goal.
2. Supplying clean, affordable and secure energy
The production and use of energy across the different sectors make up over 75% of the EU’s GHG emissions. Putting emphasis on energy efficiency as well as decarbonising the power sector are both crucial in achieving climate goals by 2030 and 2050. While achieving these goals are among the most important priorities, it is also important to ensure that energy supply continues to be secure and affordable for all consumers, including businesses.
3. Mobilising Industry for a clean and circular economy
Every year, a significant amount of raw materials is being extracted globally. This together with materials, fuels and food processing accounts for 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress and around 50% of total GHG emissions. The EU has made improvements but its industry sector is still responsible for 20% of its GHG emissions.
The EU still strongly relies on new materials which are then turned into final products before they are disposed of at the end of their product lifecycle. The plan of transitioning to a circular economy will be supported by policies relating to sustainable products which will be based on the concept of reducing and reusing before recycling them.
This element is expected to modernise the EU’s economy and create sustainable and job intensive business models, while preventing products that have negative environmental impacts from stepping foot in the EU market. The EC is also committed to taking regulatory efforts to the next level to tackle ‘green washing’ and believes that digitalisation helps to ensure the availability of reliable information about products and services.
Digital technologies therefore need to be at the forefront for driving sustainability. The EC highlighted that transparency will be equally important when it comes to electronic communication service providers and that they are expected to offer buy back schemes.
4. Building and renovating in an energy and resource efficient way
The construction industry uses a significant amount of energy and mineral resources (sand, cement etc.) and buildings are responsible for 40% of energy consumed. Building less and renovating more could be a solution for energy efficiency while also offering an affordable alternative. The Member States of the EU will be expected to promote renovation over new construction within both public and private sectors.
5. Accelerating the shift towards sustainable and smart mobility
The transport industry makes up about 25% of EU’s GHG budgets. To achieve carbon neutrality, significant reductions, around 90%, are needed from the transport industry by 2050. All actors of the industry will need to contribute including those from the road, rail, aviation and waterborne transport sectors. Solutions include boosting multi-modal transport services and building more recharging stations for zero and low-emission vehicles. This will not only reduce GHG emissions and pollution but will positively contribute towards public health.
6. From Farm to Fork
Food production contributes towards biodiversity loss and pollution. It also uses a significant amount of the Earth’s natural resources (land, water, minerals). European farmers and fishermen are vital for catalysing change in the food industry. The Farm to Fork Strategy is designed to preserve the Earth’s biodiversity by reducing the environmental impact of food processing. Retail sectors will need to take actions too on areas such as transport, storage, packaging and food waste. These actions are expected to contribute towards the circular economy concept while promoting sustainable food production and consumption.
7. Preserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity
Ecosystems provide food, water, clean air and shelter which are vital for our survival. They also protect us from natural disasters and diseases. The ‘From Farm to Fork’ strategy already addresses some of the challenges around biodiversity loss but this element goes further through addressing other goals such as protecting land and water, for example, through reducing negative impacts generated by fishing, especially in protected areas.
8. A zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment
A zero pollution goal has been introduced to address problems around air, water and soil pollution. It is expected that through the EGD, pollution from industrial installations will be monitored.
8. Mobilising research and fostering innovation
Innovation and new technologies are key for achieving the goals of the EGD. Partnerships within sector and member states will advance research and innovation especially in the areas of transportation including batteries, clean hydrogen, circular bio-based industries, low-emission steel making and the built environment.
Let’s have a look at what the UK is doing to achieve net-zero emissions (or carbon neutrality) by 2050
Days after the US, EU and China affirmed their commitments towards building back a greener economy, the UK has also announced its ‘10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ that is set to help the country accelerate its path to net zero while creating 250,000 new jobs across the UK.
The 10 Point Plan has been picked up by the media instantly and headlines included “end of sale for new patrol and diesel cars by 2030” urging car-manufacturers to switch to cost-effective, high performing electric vehicles.
But what else is on the agenda? Let’s have a look…
1. Advancing Offshore Wind
As a critical source of renewable energy, the UK is keen on increasing offshore wind capacity by producing 40GW of offshore wind by 2030.
2. Driving the Growth of Low Carbon Hydrogen
Hydrogen is a good alternative as it can provide a clean source of energy for our homes and transport industry. The UK’s aim is to increase low carbon hydrogen production to 5GW by 2030.
3. Delivering New and Advanced Nuclear Power
Nuclear, as another source of clean energy, is promised to be advanced in the UK as part of the 10 Point Plan.
4. Accelerating the shift to Zero-Emission Vehicles
The point around electric vehicles made it to the headlines as the UK is promising to abolish the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030, with hybrids being allowed for an extra 5 years. The transition to electric vehicles from 2035 is regarded as one of the most significant contributors towards net-zero.
5. Green Public Transport, Cycling and Walking
Decarbonising private vehicles is important but so is creating zero-emission public transport. Promoting public transport, cycling and walking remains a priority.
6. Jet-Zero and Green Ships
The UK’s ambition is to be at the forefront of developing low carbon aviation and maritime technologies and will invest in research and development to support industries that are difficult to decarbonise. Revising infrastructure of future airports and seaports are planned as well.
7. Greener Buildings
Leaving fossil fuel boilers behind, the aim is to make all buildings greener, warmer and more energy efficient. Part of the plan includes the extension of the Green Homes Grant, that’s available to residential landlords and homeowners, to help replace fossil fuel heating and improve efficiency.
8. Investing in Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage
The UK’s ambition is to capture 10Mt of CO2 a year by 2030, which equals four million cars’ worth of annual CO2 emissions. To be able to achieve this, the country will aim to grow into a leader in carbon capture technology that captures and stores harmful emissions away from the atmosphere.
9. Protecting Our Natural Environment
To tackle the biodiversity crisis, the UK has promised to do more such as protecting landscapes and restoring wildlife habitats. The new Environmental Land Management scheme will also ensure that actions such as more tree planting and peatland restoration will be taken.
10. Green Finance and Innovation
Innovation for developing green technologies will be driven by investing more in research and development. The UK is committed to increase its total investment in R&D to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.
The coronavirus pandemic has turned the whole world upside down and highlighted major deficiencies in our economy, that is calling for change. The aim of becoming carbon neutral or achieving net-zero by 2050 in both the EU and the UK will require businesses from all sectors to adapt to the ‘new business as usual’ and follow the relevant guidance and regulations set out by their governments to ensure that sustainability and the well being of citizens is at the heart of economic policy.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the European Green Deal and the UK’s 10 Point Plan and that now you have a better understanding on what they are trying to achieve. If regulations in your area are changing but you are not sure how to take the first steps and start your sustainable transition do get in touch with us and we can guide you through it!