First impressions of the Long-Term Strategy: A Clean Plan(et) For All

Today, the European Commission published their Long-Term Strategy for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy. In Bellona’s assessment, this strategy takes a strong basis in the latest scientific findings. We congratulate the Commission on this solid starting point for the making of EU legislation on climate for years to come and call on EU Member States and Parliament to strongly support this ambition with real action.

The Long-Term Strategy sends a strong political signal that higher ambition is feasible “provided we act now and coherently use every tool at our disposal”. Like the latest IPCC report, from which this EU Strategy rightly draws its main scientific basis, the emphasis on limiting global warming to 1.50C requires emissions to drastically drop from all sectors and in all regions. The Commission proposes a wide range of tools to achieve this, keeping a clear and honest CO2 accounting at the centre of efforts.

Breaking the stalemate in industry

The Commission’s plan for a competitive EU industry includes a variety of relevant measures, ranging from energy efficiency, resource efficiency, the use of renewable electricity where possible and carbon capture and storage. “CCS deployment is still necessary, especially in energy intensive industries and – in the transitional phase – for the production of carbon-free hydrogen”. The presence of CO2 transport and storage networks will aid social cohesion in the transition to a low carbon economy and insure that “no region and no citizen is left behind”.

These findings, based on recent scientific literature, are very much in line with our new report launched earlier this week, and follow Bellona’s recommendation that CCS efforts focus on enabling deep industrial decarbonisation, ensuring EU industry a future compatible with serious climate action.

Following the general logic of efficiency improvements, avoiding the use and hence the production of a product obviously avoids related emissions. While circularity and smart use of resources should be ‘’key enablers to reduce emissions’’ in the industry, the EU must ensure sound carbon accounting to prevent fictional emission reductions, easily hidden behind layers of complexity and smokescreens.

Rapidly taking the first steps with real world deployment will be a crucial piece of the puzzle: “the Innovation Fund under the EU ETS will support commercial-scale demonstration of breakthrough technologies”. No matter the technology, all projects supported by instruments such as the Innovation Fund should deliver real reductions in emissions, with scalability as a key criterium: “technologies that are already known will need to demonstrate that they can work at scale”.

Real solutions instead of creative climate accounting

Bellona is reassured to note that this Strategy provides the necessary safeguards to ensure that technologies are deployed at the right time, and in the right settings, to ensure real emission savings.

For example, the Strategy explains that Power-to-X fuels could use “CO2 /captured from industrial processes/ as a feedstock only in niche applications and with a fully decarbonised electricity system”. Critically, the Commission recognises that to “have the capacity to deliver on zero emission fuels[1] when CO2 is to be used, it must be captured from biomass or directly from the air, i.e. not have a fossil origin.

The Commission moreover states about such fuels: “the drawback is that their production is energy intensive”. This is not least important in setting a realistic timeline for wider deployment, as such options only may deliver real reductions in a fully decarbonised electricity system. Reliance on them could end up burdening and delaying our ongoing, crucial shift to renewable electricity production.

Breaking away from ideological ‘technology neutrality’ to bring real, rapid emission reductions to transport along with wider societal benefits, not least for Europe’s cities

EU transport emissions are large and are still growing. The Long-Term Strategy sends a strong signal in support of low- and zero-emission mobility.

Electrification, in particular, is highlighted as the most promising solution for land transport, as well as short-distance sea shipping and inland waterways. Bellona welcomes this, which aligns with our extensive work to bring the electric revolution to the seas.

As Bellona has argued for decades, the Commission notes a switch to electric powertrains as not only key to achieving the necessary CO2 emission cuts, but also its benefits for clean air, reduced noise levels, human health and the European economy. The message is becoming increasingly clear, in meeting climate targets the focus of efforts must be on changing to full electric drive trains and not on substituting the fuel.

The Commission rightly places raw materials in the spotlight. The recovery and recycling of critical materials like cobalt, rare earths and graphite will be key in the coming years to meet growing demand for zero emission solutions, boosting local European battery production, expertise and jobs.

Bellona welcomes the call in this Strategy for higher building renovation rates and the diffusion of smart meters, which in turn encourage a wider deployment of smart electric vehicle charging points in residential buildings.

Simple lesson: Act now, use diverse solutions in all sectors, and account CO2 honestly

Overall, the Strategy aims to set high ambitions for European Climate Action for years to come. However, political commitment is only the first step. The EU Institutions, Member States and all relevant stakeholders will need to apply these principles, adjust relevant legislation and ensure that the goals are actually met to deliver a ‘Clean Planet for All’.

Bellona Europa

europe@bellona.org