As the global impacts of climate change continue to grow in severity, many countries turn to the European Union (EU) for guidance.
In this light, the EU has now put a clear pathway towards becoming “climate neutral”, but what does climate neutrality really mean? And how will the EU achieve this goal while remaining competitive as a global economic superpower and promoting the wellbeing of its citizens?
What is Carbon Neutrality?
When discussing the fight against global climate change, cutting greenhouse gas emissions always comes up without fail. However, becoming ‘climate neutral’ requires more than simply reducing greenhouse emissions.
In fact, this must be done in conjunction with also compensating for any remaining emissions. This is how a net-zero emissions balance is often achieved.
A net-zero emissions balance is achieved when the quality of greenhouse emissions released into the atmosphere is neutralised.
This can be done through carbon sequestration, i.e. removing carbon from the atmosphere (carbon capture and storage) or through offsetting measures, which typically involve supporting climate-oriented projects.
What are the EU’s plans to become Carbon Neutral?
In December 2019, the European Commission announced the European Green Deal to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
EU leaders welcomed this Commission initiative, endorsing the 2050 objective. While tackling the existential threat of global climate change, the goal is that the EU will pursue an economic process to create better jobs and enhance people’s well-being.
The Green Deal includes investing in environmentally-friendly technologies, supporting innovation, helping the development of cleaner forms of transport, decarbonising the energy sector, ensuring buildings become more energy-efficient and working internationally to improve standards around the world.
What is genuinely interesting about the EU’s climate-neutrality goal is that they’re pushing all sectors of the economy to take part. This means integrating climate and environmental considerations across all EU policy areas, which is known as climate mainstreaming.
The energy sector, in particular, requires substantial transformation. Energy production and use is currently responsible for 75% of EU greenhouse gas emissions. It is part of every aspect of our lives, from the appliances we use at home, the way we travel down to the production methods we use.
Shifting towards a greener economy is a significant element of the transition to a net-zero emissions society, and requires action on all fronts. Examples include:
– Our buildings should be renovated to make them more energy-efficient.
– The ways we travel – by road, air and sea – need to become drastically more environmentally friendly.
– Our food production, which relies too heavily on pesticides and fertilisers that damage air, soil, waterways and wildlife, needs to become more environmentally friendly.
– Our carbon sinks, like forests, are declining, and therefore the trend should be reversed, including managing forests more sustainably.
– Investments should be increased to help sustainable and climate-friendly projects develop.
– Our production of goods must adapt to a circular-economy model where, for example, textiles, construction materials and electronics are recycled or re-used to decrease the use of primary raw materials.
How is the EU leading the way?
By becoming climate neutral, the EU will be the first continent to reach a net-zero emission balance. This impacts the EU’s more than 450 million inhabitants, its member states and all of their trading partners. This ambitious goal will be a model for the world to follow.
The EU is working together with global partners to encourage and strengthen international engagement in reducing climate change. The EU also works with countries on a bilateral basis, for example, by including climate clauses when negotiating trade deals.
The EU shares expertise and urges its partners to take bold action against global warming. They finance developing countries’ efforts to tackle global climate change.
Countering some climate change arguments, such as upkeeping the EU’s thriving economy, the climate-neutrality objective must be achieved in a way that preserves the EU’s competitiveness. This includes developing effective measures to shield it from the competitive disadvantages of other countries that do not have such ambitious climate policies.
For this purpose, the Commission intends to propose a compatible carbon border adjustment mechanism as part of the European Green Deal, which, when submitted, will be discussed by EU member states within the Council.
Naturally, this will significantly impact any nation or company wanting to trade with the EU. A clear path towards carbon neutrality will be an absolute must-have. How will your company lead the way?