A vision of the future

Written by Brian Johnson on 13 September 2019 in Event Coverage
Event Coverage

Despite an expected increase in demand for liquid hydrocarbons, the EU’s refining industry is committed to cutting CO2 emissions and reducing its carbon footprint, reports Brian Johnson.

Photo credit: FuelsEurope


Investment in low-carbon technologies could be enhanced by a more supportive EU industrial strategy and a balanced policy framework, focussing on assisting the delivery of Europe’s much needed energy transition.

This was the message to MEPs attending a busy Summer reception in the European Parliament in Strasbourg in July, organised by The Parliament Magazine in association with European refi neries association, FuelsEurope.

Opening the reception for newly-elected members, Finnish MEP Henna Virkkunen stressed the importance of ensuring Europe’s industrial sector remains competitive by delivering clear and predictable EU policies.

“If we want to boost investments, it’s important that both industry and stakeholders know the direction we are going. There shouldn’t be any legal uncertainty when they are making decisions on key investments.”

Virkkunen said she expected climate policy to be one of the “main priorities” of the new Parliamentary term, particularly the drive to strengthen the EU’s climate leadership role.


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This approach is currently being championed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who recently announced her support for a 55 percent reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Earlier this year, MEPs also called for the EU’s 2030 emission cuts target to be increased from 40 percent to 55 percent.

“I think we have done a lot in the energy and climate sector, but we know that we need to increase our targets. Parliament supports this proposed increase, and we know that EU member states are also discussing this possibility,” said Virkkunen.

She added that Finland, the current holders of the Presidency of the Council of the EU and her own home country, will also work towards this target.

“I think it’s important when we expect a more ambitious climate policy targets, that we look at it from a long-term prospective. It’s also important to ensure we are technology-neutral when we are making these decisions.”

With energy and transport likely to figure strongly on the Parliament’s agenda over the next five years, Virkkunen said a key priority would be tackling decarbonising of the transport sector.

"If we want to boost investments, it’s important that both industry and stakeholders know the direction we are going in. There shouldn’t be any legal uncertainty when they are making big decisions on key investments" Henna Virkkunen MEP

“The transport sector will now be one of our main focuses. We have been quite successful in cutting emissions in other sectors, but as we know, in the transport poses particular challenges. Being open to all proven sustainable technologies is crucial.”

“I think we need to use all the many different opportunities available to cut emissions; we have sustainable biofuels, we have electricity, we have LNG; there are numerous options.”

Virkkunen also argued that maintaining European competitive- ness was essential, saying it was “very important” to deliver an effective and sustainable EU climate policy, one that does not undermine Europe’s industries.

“We don’t want to lose jobs from Europe.” Alessandro Bartelloni, Policy Director at FuelsEurope, echoed Virkkunen’s comments.

He informed the MEPs present that achieving the EU’s challenging climate change goals will require a balanced EU regulatory framework and an industrial strategy that encourages industrial investment in low-carbon technologies.

Bartelloni reminded them of the refining industry’s long-term vision for delivering lower carbon liquid fuels, set out in the association’s Vision 2050 study.

With the right policy framework in place, the Vision 2050 document offers viable options for cutting CO2 transport emissions across all transport sectors, including heavy-duty vehicles, marine and aviation.

“We believe that there is a lot that we can do to combat climate change, but we need investment to convince and attract financiers to invest in these technologies.”

“This is why, with our member companies, we have looked at what we can do in our industry to evolve and transform between now and 2050”.

"I’ve been to a refinery in Austria that does not use petroleum; it uses plastic waste and it makes diesel, gasoline injection fuel and other products. In addition, there are many other technologies currently being developed, we already have demonstration plants using recycled CO2 and green hydrogen to make synthetic fuels, with no impact on the environment" Alessandro Bartelloni, Policy Director at FuelsEurope

Bartelloni explained that FuelsEurope’s Vision 2050 sets out a path for the refining sector’s transition to products progressively lower in carbon intensity. It would also see increasing use of new feedstocks such as renewables, waste and captured CO2.

“I’ve been to a refinery in Austria that does not use petroleum; it uses plastic waste and it makes diesel, gasoline injection fuel and other products.”

“In addition, there are many other technologies currently being developed, we already have demonstration plants using recycled CO2 and green hydrogen to make synthetic fuels, with no impact on the environment.”

Vision 2050 also includes an appendix with key policy recommendations. These outline what the sector believes is required for investment to flow and resources to be unlocked on all these new technologies.

“This is the basis of the dialogue we hope we can have with EU policymakers, because this is not a fixed set of statements, it’s is a living document, a conversation, because we need to try and understand from you, the policymakers, what your priorities are and what the political priorities are that Europe wants.”

“That way, we can tell you what type of technologies we can deliver to achieve these targets in the best, most cost-efficient way.”

Closing the event, Bartelloni said the purpose of the reception had been to, “shake hands with you and introduce ourselves and our vision”.

He light-heartedly informed MEPs, “I warn you; we will be knocking at your door and we will be asking to take a chance and listen to our recommendations.”

This Event Coverage is sponsored by FuelsEurope

For more information, you can visit: https://www.fuelseurope.eu/

About the author

Brian Johnson is the managing editor of The Parliament Magazine

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