Climate ‘cheat sheet’ offers EU route to neutrality

A new economy, sustainable jobs, clean air and smart investments are all part of the climate neutral future described in a new report released this week.

Leading think tanks, scientists and NGOs have compiled a comprehensive set of policy options which they argue can free all sectors of European economies from greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.

EEB climate expert and report co-author Jonathan Bonadio said: “This report is the first time leading recommendations from think tanks, scientists, thought leaders and NGOs have been pulled together in this way to offer a sector-by-sector toolbox.”

Bonadio says that what is crucial is that what emerges from the report are not titanic barriers to progress or a sense of an impossible task, but vast opportunities to improve health, quality of life and prosperity. He describes its contents as a “cheat sheet for policy makers, who want to achieve climate neutrality and build a better future for people and the natural world.”

Destination: Climate Neutrality sets targets and initiatives in the fields of governance, finance, industry, energy, transport, agriculture, the circular economy and social policy. Its authors hope it will provide a blueprint of policy options towards a net-zero emissions EU just as a new 5-year term begins for the European Parliament and Commission.

‘The stars are aligning’

Bonadio argues that political will has too often been a hurdle to profound climate action but says: “Thankfully the stars are aligning. Protesters are filling the streets and polls are proving that just about everybody is on board.”

The ‘green wave’ EU election and recent Eurobarometer polling showing 92% Europeans backing higher national targets for clean energy have created a political opportunity for action.

Ursula von der Leyen’s incoming Commission has raised expectations by promising a European Green Deal. Environmental groups now argue that it will be the detail that counts.

‘Sustainability first’

The report makes detailed recommendations across a range of areas, including improving the political management of various projects. It proposes the creation of a standing committee on climate neutrality in the European Parliament and a ‘Climate and Energy Transition Support Service’ to help monitor policies and ensure EU governments are on track to meet their Paris climate obligations.

Recognising the overarching importance of climate action the report includes specific measures related to some of the biggest and most important EU policies: the European Semester, the Energy Union and the Common Agricultural Policy. It also argues that current climate targets will need to be raised to achieve climate neutrality.

The reports’ recommendations in this area fit neatly with recent calls from leading environmental groups to apply a ‘sustainability first’ principle across all EU policy making.

Show us the money

When it comes to financial matters the report is clear: the EU’s €1.3 trillion budget must be put to good use if there is any hope of achieving net zero emissions.

Carbon pricing, a climate-proof budget, stimulating new markets for carbon-neutral services and a phase out of fossil fuel subsidies are all needed.

The report also calls for governments to be allowed to transfer up to 5% of their cohesion and structural funds to create a scheme that reduces investor risk to lower investment costs.

A European Investment Observatory is proposed to monitor private and public investments to ensure they are in line with climate commitments.

New Industry, new energy

The report’s authors set out specific policy options available to the EU to stimulate new clean, carbon-neutral industry and to design an energy system that moves electricity around more efficiently and to cut wasted energy.

They call for a million renovated buildings, 10 million solar rooftops and an EU scheme for 100 clean, decarbonised cities by 2025.

Moving in new economy

The report also sets out how private and commercial transport can be transformed and which further steps are required to complete the shift to a circular economy – where products are reused, repaired or recycled instead of being thrown away.

Food for thought

The authors also presents detailed options for reform of the farming sector to produce good food in a climate-friendly way, and explain the importance of a just transition, where workers and affected communities are protected from inevitable change.

Read more: Destination: Climate Neutrality – A five year policy blueprint for Europe.