Strategic industries with sustainable value chains are the basis of Europe’s new economy

Written by Kjetil Ebbesberg on 24 October 2017 in Thought Leader
Thought Leader

Strategic industries with sustainable value chains are the basis of Europe’s new economy, writes Kjetil Ebbesberg.

Kjetil Ebbesberg | Photo credit: European Aluminium


Europe is showing a welcome return to economic growth, following the crisis of 2008. A strong industrial base will be a cornerstone in sustaining this growth and EU industrial policies need to provide the support that cements this in place. However, this growth will need to thrive in a new era, defined by the EU’s landmark COP21 commitments. 

Married to the correct industrial policies, the EU’s economic expansion and environmental commitments need not be mutually exclusive. 

What is important is decoupling economic growth from CO2 emissions, encouraging the economy to embrace both the innovation and the drive for sustainability needed to further decarbonise the economy by 2050. At the same time, it is important to realise that there are no quick fixes and there should be no exceptions; all industries need to play their part.


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The European aluminium industry has anticipated and prepared for this challenge. It is why we put both our Sustainability Roadmap to 2025 and our Innovation Hub in place and have committed to lighter and safer mobility thanks to the properties of our material. 

These themes will be central in building a new European economy and our industry is providing the resources required to make them a success. 

This goes beyond simple incentives; we are reaching out to experts both inside and outside the industry and to decision makers, creating communities capable of driving change. 

The circular economy is undoubtedly the model for a future resource-efficient economy. Our companies have pioneered this approach for many years, evolving into a fitter, cleaner and more social aware industry as a result. 

The Commission’s new industrial policy contains the right messages to encourage other industries to follow the same path and build better, stronger value chains in Europe and globally.

However, as an industry that has already taken this journey, we question whether the measures proposed are sufficient. They undoubtedly go in the right direction, but we believe that the Commission can and should go further.

In other words, the planned industrial policy could be strengthened to allow it to deliver more. What does ‘more’ mean?

It means providing an unambiguous and deadline-driven approach, complete with targets; the Energy Union offers a good template. It means holistic, fully-aligned policies that span our main markets such as mobility, building and packaging.

It means trusting industry to prioritise innovation through technology and providing incentives matched with clear policy signals where necessary. It means creating a stable global playing field for trade, environment, health and safety standards to allow us to compete worldwide.

There are no shortcuts to a more ambitious low carbon economy by 2050, but the aluminium industry’s approach to sustainability and innovation can deliver the shift that Europe’s economy requires.

Our strong value chains, from primary production to recycling, are fully aligned with EU ambitions. Industrial policies should acknowledge this and enable the potential of strategic industries like aluminium.

 

About the author

Kjetil Ebbesberg is the Chairman of European Aluminium

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