The European Commission has initiated a collective strategy to combat climate change’s threats. The Commission’s perspective long-term climate strategy would determine Europe’s energy and climate policy evolution to 2050. Public discussion will follow to show how the Baltic States and other EU countries will reach the ambitious aims.
At a press conference in Brussels, 28 November 2018 Commissioner for climate actions and energy, Miguel Arias Cañete underlined that emissions need to be reduced with far more urgency than previously anticipated and that limiting climate change to 1.5°C is necessary to reduce the likelihood of extreme weather events.
The Commission has developed a strategy to achieve climate neutrality in Europe by 2050 through a socially fair transition and in a cost-efficient manner. The Commissioner stressed that the strategy should not be a new policy or a revision of the EU/UN 2030 targets: it was meant to set some changes in the EU climate and energy policies to face EU’s long-term contribution to the objectives of the Paris Agreement reached in December 2015.
With this strategy, the Commissioner underlines, the EU-27 would be the world’s first major economy to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. With the new renewables and energy efficiency targets, the states will cut emissions by 45% by 2030, which would be only a starting point for the long-term planning.
This EU’s strategic vision has been the result of extensive scientific and economic analysis, which confirmed that climate neutrality is feasible, even with current technologies. The European Commission has shown the way to a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy by 2050.
Seven sustainable scenarios
The strategy builds on seven scenarios, which are modeling different technological solutions to achieve desired objectives. They look at reductions ranging from 80% to net-zero emissions and they cover all key economy sectors in the states, incl. energy, construction, transport, industry, agriculture, and land use. They also examine economic and employment impacts for regions that could be most affected by this transformation, with consequential implications for air pollution and other environmental and social problems.
The seven common building blocks look the following way:
First, the European energy system will need to decarbonise. By 2050, about 80% of electricity will be coming from renewable energy sources. Together with nuclear power, this will be the backbone of a carbon-free European power system with a substantial electrification of the European economy – at least a doubling of its share in final energy demand by 2050 – with electricity spreading to heating and transport.
Second, energy efficiency plays a key role. This covers industry but maybe even more so the renovation of buildings, both for residential and commercial housing. By 2050, energy consumption is likely to be halved.
Third, transport needs to contribute more. Presently, it represents a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. This covers electrification of transport, the switch to alternative fuels – notably synthetic fuels – and better and smarter transport management.
Fourth, industry has already reduced emissions but some parts, notably process-related emissions, are difficult to address. In this sector, the states have to look at a different set of fuels, carbon sequestration and use.
Fifth, sustainable use of land is central if the EU states are to reach net-zero emissions: they have to use more biomass and ensure that the quality of forest resources and land is maintained and enhanced.
Sixth, infrastructure will be essential to facilitate the integration of European states’ energy systems, digitalisation and the use of low-carbon fuels.
And seventh, carbon capture and storage, despite its current problems, will be necessary notably to decarbonise member states’ industry and manufacturing.
Advantages in socio-economic sectors
The Commission has reached a final conclusion: being climate neutral is the right choice for all European states: it is right choice for economy for society and for global impact. In the economic sense, it will give businesses and investors a clear sense of direction; it will help stimulate new thinking, a competitive and innovative spirit and creative solutions; it will create new economic sectors and employment opportunities; and it will spur investments in European clean energy solutions.
Presently, about 2% of European GDP is invested in the energy sector: this would have to increase to 2.8% in order to achieve climate neutrality, i.e. it would lead to additional investments in the range of €175 – 290 bn annually. Thus, the strategy towards climate neutrality is expected to have a positive impact on Europe’s GDP, with benefits of up to 2% by 2050 compared to business-as-usual.
According to the Commission, the EU states pay € 266 bn a year in energy imports. In a climate neutral Europe, energy imports will fall by over 70% with the savings of € 2-3 trillion up to 2050, which could be invested into the modernisation of states’ economies.
Besides, going climate neutral will deliver meaningful improvements to the Europeans’ daily lives: e.g. energy-efficient homes will become the norm; transport will be clean and adapted to a modern sustainable lifestyle.
Air pollution in the EU states causes severe diseases and almost half a million pre-mature deaths annually. Achieving a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy on top of existing air pollution measures will reduce pre-mature deaths caused by fine particulate matter by more than 40% and health damage by around € 200 bn per annum.
The benefits of the transition to a climate neutral economy in the states will be felt by all: it will be a socially just transition, concluded Commissioner, and added that the EU institutions will take steps in re-skilling and up-skilling the necessary workforce to ensure adequate adaptation to new requirements of the climate neutral economy.
The Commission intends to debate the strategy in all EU states, in the European and national parliaments, among business, NGOs, cities, etc. This EU-wide debate should allow the EU to adopt and submit an ambitious strategy by early 2020.