A clean planet for all: a European strategic long long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy

The European Commission sets out its vision for a climate-neutral EU.

The European Commission, 28 November 2018  

In the 2018 paper “A Clean Planet for all – A European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy”, the European Commission sets out its vision for a climate-neutral EU, across all the key sectors and explores pathways for the transition to net-zero for member states.

The paper sets out pathways for the transition a net-zero emissions economy and the priorities to deliver on this goal, across seven strategic building blocks;

  1. Maximising the benefit from energy efficiency, including zero-emission buildings
    • Reducing energy demand in buildings, which are responsible today for 40% of EU energy consumption across the residential and services sectors
    • Renovation, fuel switching to renewable heating sources, smart building and appliances management systems and improved insulation will be key to delivering on this aim
    • Financial instruments could be needed to overcome existing market failures, and the EU will need a workforce with the right skills
    • Retaining affordability for citizens is another important consideration to delivering on this building block
  1. Maximising the deployment of renewables and the use of electricity to fully decarbonise Europe’s energy supply
    • All scenarios imply that by mid-century, our energy system will have seen large-scale electrification – driven by the deployment of renewable energy
    • Europe’s dependence on oil and gas is 55% today – by 2050 it will be 22%
    • Savings made from this transition can be reinvested into the modernisation of the EU economy, and open up new opportunities for European businesses in the global clean energy market
  1. Embracing clean, safe and connected mobility
    • Transport is currently responsible for a quarter of EU emissions, and shifting this will require a system-based approach
    • Decarbonised, decentralised and digitalised power, more efficient and sustainable batteries, efficient electric powertrains and the prospect of autonomous driving all deliver opportunities to decarbonise road transport
    • There are challenges too. Batteries today still have a low energy density, and their current weight makes them ill suited for aviation and long-distance travel
  1. A competitive EU industry and the circular economy as a key enabler to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
    • A resource efficient and circular economy will need to develop in order to keep the EU competitive. Production if materials like glass, steel and plastics will see reductions in energy need
    • Primary raw materials will provide a large part of demand
    • Recovery and recycling of raw materials will be particularly important where there is reliance on critical materials like cobalt, rare earths or graphite
    • New materials will have an important role too – be it through rediscovering traditional uses, like wood in construction, or new composites that can replace energy intensive materials
    • Consumer demand will be important too – through increased demand for more climate conscious choices
  1. Develop an adequate smart network infrastructure and inter-connections
    • Cross-border and regional cooperation will allow Europe to reap the full benefits of the modernisation and transformation of the economy
    • Transitions in the transport section will need quicker deployment of the necessary infrastructure, and increased synergy between our transport and energy systems – smart charging, or refuelling stations delivering seamless cross-border services, for example
  1. Reap the full benefits of bioeconomy and create essential carbon sinks
    • World population will be 30% higher in 2050 than today and a changing climate will affect ecosystems and global land use – but agriculture and forestry will still need to provide sufficient food, feed and fibres and support all industrial and energy sectors
    • Sustainable biomass will play an important role to the net-zero goal – and we will need increasing amounts of it compared to today’s consumption, perhaps as much as 80% more
    • Agricultural production will always result in emissions, but they can be reduced by efficient and sustainable production methods. Farmers can also be providers of resources and providers of essential raw materials, and this circular economy can provide them with business opportunities too
    • Afforestation can further increase absorption of CO2 whilst also benefitting biodiversity, soils and water resources that in turn increase biomass availability over time
  1. Tackle remaining CO2 emissions with carbon capture and storage
    • Carbon capture and storage (CCS) was once seen as a major decarbonisation option for the power sector and energy intensive industries. With rapid deployment of renewable energy technologies across the EU, this potential now appears lower – but it still has a role to play
    • For CCS to work, a coordinated and forceful action to secure the necessary infrastructure and facilities is needed. Addressing concerns of public in some EU member states will also be necessary

Crucially, a European enabling framework will be needed to pull all these pillars together. Speed of deployment, the buy-in of citizens, becoming active participants, and public acceptance of certain technologies are all important considerations. The paper concludes that this justifies putting in place a number of policies and an enabling framework which is conducive to stimulating these changes.

The report concludes that there are a number of pathways for achieving net-zero. All are challenging but feasible from a technological, economic, environmental and social perspective.

Applying the principles of a competitive, inclusive, socially fair and multilateral approach across the bloc should be the guiding force of the transition to a climate neutral Europe.