A clean and responsible industry must be Europe's answer to the covid-19 crisis, a group of NGOs said in a report published today.
The report, released after campaigners judged the EU's Industrial Strategy as too weak to deliver on the ambition of the European Green Deal, urges European leaders to focus economic stimulus on fast-growing sectors like renewable energy, energy efficiency, and eco-design. All these sectors can be the foundations of tomorrow's industry and offer solutions to multiple challenges, including rising unemployment.
The renewable energy sector alone today employs around 1.2 million people in the EU. This number is expected to increase rapidly, including in coal regions, as the share of renewables is set to more than double by 2030.
The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), one of the organisations behind the report, warned that public and private investments must be fully re-directed away from fossil fuels and wasteful business practices, and towards circular, zero-pollution and fossil-free solutions. This is the only way to ensure the decarbonisation of Europe's economy by 2040, which is the only solution compatible with the IPCC's scenario of 1.5 degrees.
To achieve this goal, European leaders and industry will need to rethink technologies and production processes, transform consumption patterns and enable sustainable living, said Davide Sabbadin, a climate expert with the EEB and leading author of the report.
Sabbadin explained that this means "Europe will need to embrace shorter, more diversified supply chains and more local manufacturing".
Suzana Carp of Sandbag, another organisation involved in the report, said that the report "provides policy-makers with an expert portfolio of green, economy-boosting policies that can deliver a net-zero industry, in a zero pollution Europe."
"This is the future EU citizens deserve and the Commission and Parliament can set it in motion through the stimulus recovery package," Carp added.
On Wednesday next week, the European Commission is expected to announce an unprecedented recovery fund to help the bloc pull through the aftermath of the covid-19 crisis. Agnese Ruggiero, a policy officer with Carbon Market Watch, also involved in the report, said that "a green recovery will require the full implementation of the EU Green Deal. This includes future-proofing the EU carbon market. It must finally become a tool to drive the clean transformation of European industry."
Business leaders have also repeatedly come out in support of a cleaner industry, with many joining a European Alliance for a Green Recovery in April.
In a report published in December last year, Europe's most energy-intensive industries (EIIs) committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, outlining their masterplan to overcome challenges and exploit opportunities. The industries involved included producers of cement, chemicals, ammonia and steel, which account for 14% of Europe's total emissions.
While industry groups have so far mostly pushed for the development of new technologies, including carbon capture and storage technologies, green groups stressed the need to focus on existing technologies as well as energy and resource efficiency first.
In the words of Keith Whiriskey from Bellona, which also contributed to the report, "this is a moment where industry can be creative with the alternative green and clean technologies that already exist. Europe can start the ball rolling by making hydrogen, CO2 and clean electricity infrastructure available to European industrial heartlands."