A climate neutral EU: from thought to action
IEEP welcomes the holistic approach adopted by the European Commission in its communication, which reflects well the scale of the transformation needed to achieve the goals set by the Paris Agreement, especially in light of the recent EEA report highlighting insufficient progress on the EU’s climate goals. Crucial in all of this is the fact that the strategy considers the economy as a whole and proposes actions in every single sector, covering emissions from both CO2 and non-CO2 GHG sources. While the increased EU ambition suggested in today’s Communication is certainly a step in the right direction, setting an ambitious target is however only part of what we need. The pathway leading to the goal, its robustness and credibility, and its capacity to influence early investment decisions, is at least as important as the goal itself. In that regard, we should all remember that the stronger our mitigation efforts are at an early stage, the greater the chance of delivering an efficient process of decarbonisation.
Long-sighted planning requires a good understanding of what is achievable in individual sectors, considering also the implications for emissions in other sectors as well as outside of the EU economy. The primary focus should therefore be to avoid unnecessary emissions in all sectors; to reduce actual emissions where they occur; and increase (natural) removals where possible without excessive reliance on carbon storage technologies. At the same time we need early experimentation with carbon storage, to make sure that the deployment of such measures at scale does not lead to unintended consequences for the environment.
A careful and coherent approach is especially important in the context of agriculture, forests and other land uses (AFOLU). These sectors can make a substantial contribution to the EU’s climate mitigation efforts not only by reducing their own emissions, but also sequestering carbon into soils and biomass, as well as by providing biomass products for the replacement of carbon-intensive materials. Finding the right balance between these roles is crucial in order to ensure that sustainability principles are respected.
Reaching a net-zero Europe, will require us all to consider how we can as individuals and as a society support this transition. There is a huge potential to reduce the EU’s carbon footprint by changing the way we consume, which should not be overlooked; an issue that IEEP and other think tanks have emphasised in the Think2030 agenda [link]. Reducing our collective consumption footprint has significant potential; but we should see it as adding to, not replacing, the primary mitigation effort of reducing production emissions.