Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual
The European Green Deal is the defining initiative of this legislature, with the EU Institutions setting the highly ambitious goal of making Europe the world’s first carbon-neutral continent by 2050.
But to do this will require a new approach to our climate policies; we must make sure that our new industrial policy is based on sustainability.
Europe’s industrial sector is a crucial part of the EU’s economy, generating 24 percent of the bloc’s GDP and employing 20 percent of its workforce.
Obviously, this sector has an impact on the environment, accounting for 20 percent of the EU’s emissions. In addition, resource extraction and processing for industrial purposes also cause serious issues of water stress and biodiversity loss.
From 1970 to 2017, the annual global extraction of materials tripled, and it will not stop growing unless we undertake structural changes.
Moving from a linear model, based on a “take, make and dispose” approach, to a circular one aiming at maintaining the value of products, materials and resources for as long as possible, will enable us to save materials and energy and prevent us from introducing polluting products and substances to the environment.
Some steps in this direction have been already taken at European level. In the previous legislature, policymakers approved important pieces of legislation such as the Circular Economy package and allocated financial resources to actively encourage and promote the transition to a circular economy.
Being able to use resources more efficiently within the European market already can prove considerably advantageous for the European industry from numerous points of view.
"From 1970 to 2017, the annual global extraction of materials tripled, and it will not stop growing unless we undertake structural changes"
First, it can benefit the competitiveness of European industry. Despite the worldwide acknowledgement of the high quality, security and credibility of European products, European industry has been facing a regression, dropping 2 percent on a monthly basis and 3.9 percent on annual basis in 2019.
In this context, the greater use of recovered resources can help industries to save €630 billion annually and ultimately boost their competitiveness at the international level.
Secondly, it can be a potential solution for reducing the European Union’s dependence on outside resources. Indeed, not only does it rely on energy imports but also depends on outside sources for critical raw materials for chemical, construction and other industrial sectors.
This in turn exposes European industries to price fluctuations that occur in international markets. In addition, developing an industry based on a circular economy creates new markets, new products, new jobs and value for business that will potentially boost the European GDP by up to 3.9 percent.
Finally, yet importantly, restructuring the nature of European industry will cut carbon emissions by 450 million tonnes by 2030. In order to deliver this transformation, we must hasten the required paradigm shift.
For some years now, some industries begun developing circular business, while consumers have increasingly become more sensitive to the need for environmental protection and recycling.
However, to develop an economy base on circularity, the production process as a whole must be re-designed. From product design and incentives for consumers to return products, to the creation of a market for secondary materials, everything should be efficiently optimised in order to close the loop.
Some years after the publication of the first Action Plan on a circular economy, the European Commission will soon release a new Action Plan that is expected to take further steps, particularly in the area of in-product design.
This should be encompassed by a consistent and comprehensive industrial strategy that adopts a long-term perspective and that clearly points out how the European Union actually intends to support and promote this economic transition.
"From product design and incentives for consumers to return products, to the creation of a market for secondary materials, everything should be efficiently optimised in order to close the loop"
This transition won’t be possible without the genuine engagement of private actors. They are important for achieving greener growth, while mobilising adequate public investment will also be crucial
Indeed, fiscal incentives, investments in research, strategic infrastructures and ad hoc schemes for the re-skilling and upskilling of workers are all important factors for driving the transition.
This is the reason why Parliament is calling for a more ambitious Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027, able to support the realisation of the European Green Deal.