The European Green Deal: a tipping point for good

by Harry Verhaar, EU-ASE Bord Chair and Head of Public & Government Affairs at Signify

It’s been a grave winter for the health of our planet. In Madrid, urgent climate talks dissolved into a disappointing stalemate. The public is informed and engaged in a new and promising way, but is also more divided. We are close to a tipping point: a point at which the rate of change increases dramatically, and possibly irreversibly towards a climate catastrophe.

When we talk about the concept of tipping points, we recognize that change isn’t linear – it’s exponential. We see examples of this all too frequently. As the planet warms, Arctic permafrost thaws, releasing methane and carbon dioxide that further accelerates the pace of change. And as the Earth loses more and more of its white, reflective surfaces, the planet more readily absorbs heat. We’re close to some of nature’s tipping points. Reaching these would have disastrous implications for our planet and our way of life.

Man on the moon moment

But in Europe, a change is coming that could be crucial to containing our carbon emissions and limiting the effects of climate change. On December 11, 2019, the European Commission announced the European Green Deal, a set of policy initiatives aimed at making this continent carbon neutral by 2050. The European Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, called it Europe’s “man on the moon moment.”

The world’s track record with climate regulation has been patchy at best. So, what’s different about the European Green Deal? For me, it marks a fundamental change in the way environmental and sustainability regulation is developed. Historically, change that is focused upon carbon emissions reduction or environmental protection has been weighed in terms of expense: what must we sacrifice to achieve these targets? This tends to shut down public and political discussion, and in my view, has critically undersold the opportunities that sustainable practices bring to the table.

Growth strategy

The Green Deal is not about penalizing businesses and people for doing things in a less sustainable way. It’s a growth strategy, integrated into every public policy plan, that hardwires a preference for sustainable initiatives into every aspect of Europe’s socioeconomic development.

This is an important distinction. When you look more deeply at sustainable solutions, you discover that they are not at odds with economic progress. They are, in fact, better in every way. Take LED lighting. It’s more resource-efficient. Less burdensome on the environment. It costs less over a lifetime. And it is better for people, helping to improve quality of life. It can reduce road traffic accidents, deter crime, make you more productive, contribute to you breathing cleaner air. Who would say no to that?

We’ve said before that as we move into this all-determining decade of climate action, the time for talk is over. The European Green Deal presents a clear and non-negotiable ambition: to be climate-neutral by 2050 at the latest. To get there, we need intermediate milestones too, and that means a cut in emissions of more than half by 2030. This is in line with the recommendation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which advised a reduction of at least 55% by 2030.

 

“A climate neutral goal without action is dreaming.
Climate Action without a clear goal is sleepwalking.”

 

To have our “man on the moon moment”, we need to walk the talk. At Signify, we have our own carbon commitment, to be carbon neutral by the end of this year.

We also call upon others to adopt programs like the Climate Group’s RE100 commitment to renewable energy, to participate in renovation programs that transform existing buildings into net zero carbon buildings, and to adopt a 100% electric vehicle goal for the corporate or the municipal car fleet, because doing these things brings with it progress. It demystifies climate action, it turns ambition into concrete steps, and it demonstrates the economic potential of a new and better way for our society to function.

Progress is not linear

Programs that start with only a few participants have the power to make a difference. We know that the detrimental effects of climate change on our planet are not linear, but the same can be said of our progress. History has shown that many transitions accelerate after reaching a certain momentum. We see this in the lighting sector. At the end of 2006, incandescent light bulbs were still two thirds of our sales volume. In our last quarter, more than 80% of our revenue came from sustainable products, systems and services. The world has more people, bigger urban populations, and more light points than ever before, yet the proportion of global electricity consumption from lighting falls each year, from 19% in 2006, to 13% in 2018, and we expect it to fall further to 8% by 2030.

What happened? LED reached a tipping point. This successful decoupling of electricity consumption from use of light shows that choosing for sustainability does not need to come at a cost. This is just one example of such a decoupling – there can be many more. If we can achieve energy savings on such a scale across buildings, transportation, industry, our targets will be easily met.

To my mind, the European Green Deal can be our tipping point for good. With its broad scope, it reaches into the areas where we can have the most significant impact, and within these, create further tipping points for good. It can change the way we approach regulation. It can prove to the world that sustainability and economic growth need not be at odds. And it can be a time we look back on as the moment when we joined together to divert our path to a better and more sustainable trajectory.

 

EUASE welcomes climate neutrality and energy efficiency in EU climate law, regrets lack of engagement on 2030 target

Brussels, 4 March 2020 – Today the European Commission unveiled its proposal for a European Climate Law, which enshrines the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 into EU legislation. The text establishes that, when setting a trajectory to reach such a goal, the Commission shall take into consideration “energy efficiency, energy affordability and security of supply” among other elements.

We welcome the fact that the climate law enshrines the climate neutrality objective into EU legislation. We are also glad to see that the Commission will have to consider energy efficiency when setting the EU trajectory towards climate neutrality” – said Monica Frassoni, President of the European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE). “We look forward to continuing to work with EU institutions and Member States to highlight how Energy Efficiency First is an indispensable principle to reduce emissions, integrate RES, and achieve a fast, fair and cost-effective transition to a climate neutral EU,” she added.

We do regret nevertheless that the Commission did not already include an intermediate emissions reduction target of at least 55% by 2030, considering the urgency of the situation and the devastating impact of climate change on our economies and societies,” President Frassoni stated. “We are also disappointed to see that the impact assessment is confirmed for September 2020. We believe that such assessment should be ready by June at the latest to let the EU take the lead in the next global meeting on climate change happening at the COP26 in Glasgow. We call on the EP and Council to improve the current draft during the upcoming legislative process.”

 

Media contact:

Matteo Guidi

+32 493 37 21 42 – matteo.guidi@euase.eu

Open letter to Executive Vice-President Timmermans on European climate law

Broad cross-sectorial coalition of stakeholders calls for EU climate law to recognize the role of energy efficiency and renewables to reach climate neutrality by 2050

Dear Executive Vice-President Timmermans,

The European Green Deal  is a particularly positive beginning for the new European Commission. We welcome the Commission pledge to address the climate crisis and, by doing so, shape the future of Europe’s economy and society and lead by example worldwide.

We have come together as stakeholders representing energy efficiency and renewable technologies, local governments, regional organizations, think tanks and non-for profit organizations to express the need for climate law to orient the action of the EU towards what is the fastest and most cost-effective way to reduce emissions: the recognition of the Energy Efficiency First principle, which is a prerequisite for the much needed deployment of a 100% renewable-based energy supply.  This will boost the European economy by creating new opportunities and jobs and reduce our dependence on energy imports.

As such, we recommend to:

  • Recognize Energy Efficiency First as an overarching principle of the EU Climate Law governance
  • Include an intermediate GHG emissions reduction target of at least 55% by 2030.
  • Mainstream policy coherence with increased and mandatory energy efficiencyrenewable energy and carbon emissions targets.

We ask you to consider these recommendations and bring forward a climate law proposal which will recognise the role of energy efficiency as a potent and critical catalyst to the massive scale-up of renewables in a resource-constrained planet.

We look forward to cooperating with you to make Europe the first climate neutral continent.

 

List of undersigning stakeholders:

EU-ASE response to European Commission consultation on climate law

According to the Commission LTS, the EU must halve its energy consumption by 2050. Energy efficiency therefore must play a central role in achieving net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.

Considering that the world economy will triple by 2050 and that global population will increase by nearly 2.3 billion by 2050, energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to decouple economic growth from emissions.

Significant reductions in overall energy demand will come from energy use in buildings. Residential and commercial buildings currently account for 40 % of EU energy consumption – with 75 % of these buildings being built before energy performance standards existed – 36% of emissions and 50% of the total mineral resources extracted from the planet. Most of the housing stock of 2050 already exists and will need to be renovated. Our building stock needs to become net zero carbon, which involves ramping up the rate and depth of renovation and ensuring efficient and decarbonised energy supply in the building sector. The “Renovation Wave” needs to build from the implementation of the Long Term Renovation Strategies, but also explore new drivers and triggers, including regulation, in order to scale up what has worked well in some countries.

 

Full text available via the link below

 

EU-ASE contributes to Coalition’s Energy Efficiency package for the European Green Deal

The EU and its Member States have committed to achieving a significant reduction of their overall energy demand by agreeing on 20% and 32.5% energy efficiency targets for 2020 and 2030 respectively. Those targets set by the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) are minimum targets for which the Member States have to pledge indicative national contributions. In order to secure the achievement of these targets, the EU provides binding measures, including:

  • the energy savings obligation (EED Article 7), requiring each Member State to put in place policies and measures to deliver a minimum amount of new and additional energy savings per year until 2050;
  • Ecodesign, Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) and CO2 emission standards for vehicles to ensure that CO2 emissions are reduced, and energy performance is significantly improved.

Although the current policy architecture (EU headline target, indicative national contributions and binding measures) has led to improvements, it is still not delivering enough. Energy consumption has been growing over the last years, and the European Commission does not expect the 2020 target to be achieved. Furthermore, the national 2030 energy efficiency national contributions put forward by Member States in their draft national energy and climate plans (NECPs) bring the EU only halfway to its 2030 energy savings target compared to the baseline.

In this context, the Coalition for Energy Savings notes that the Commission intends to reinforce the existing policy framework. Not delivering the minimum energy efficiency target is not an option. On the contrary, the 2030 target will need
to be revised to get on a path to net-zero emissions and to tap the cost-effective energy efficiency potential of at least 40%.

The Coalition for Energy Savings calls on the Commission to strongly support full implementation and enforcement of existing legislation and, in parallel, to put in place new measures to increase the ambition.

The Coalition proposes the following Energy Efficiency Package as an enabler to deliver the European Green Deal.