With anemic economic activity over the past few years and the likelihood of very slow growth in the future, the fear of Europe losing industrial competitiveness dominates today’s political discourse. This fear has led many leaders to focus on short-term policies and to be wary of any policies that they think might increase energy prices and the risk of de-industrialisation in energy-intensive sectors.

As a result, Europe is losing its leadership – and hence its first-mover advantage – in the global transition to a low-carbon future. China, Brazil, India, and the United States are all investing in low-carbon technologies that translate into market share and patents. The new risk to Europe now lies in deterring investment in the types of innovations needed to ensure a low-carbon future.

Fostering an Integrated Policy Agenda for the EU

The pressing challenge is to translate the vision of a European decarbonisation by 2050 now into a robust legal and political framework for Europe’s climate and energy policies for 2030. Given the EU’s high dependence on energy imports, with 26 out of 28 member states being net energy importers, there is not only the moral imperative of reducing CO2 emissions, but also a strong economic imperative.

Progressive industries and companies already understand the benefits of reducing dependence on fossil fuels and are thinking through the implications. Europe has the technology for the transition, and innovation is taking hold in many sectors. The European paper and pulp industry, for instance, has defined a pathway to a low-carbon business model by 2050. This pathway shows how the industry can reinvent growth at a time of economic difficulties, improve profit margins, and meanwhile reduce emissions by 80%. Other sectors are similarly exploring how to turn a constraint into a business opportunity.

Four Priorities at the EU Level

In the same spirit, the ECF’s ambition is to foster integrated EU and national policy frameworks that reconcile the imperatives of fighting climate change and fostering prosperity around a robust climate and energy framework for 2030. To do so, we focus on four strands of work:
  • Making the case at the highest levels of government that the low-carbon transition can and has to be part of Europe’s industrial, political, and societal future.
  • Demonstrating with business support how climate objectives and competitiveness do not necessarily contradict each other but can in fact be mutually reinforcing.
  • Exploring pathways towards effective decarbonisation and funding options to help show the way.
  • Supporting and partnering with a broad range of civil society stakeholders – environmental NGOs, trade unions, businesses, consumer groups, and others at the EU and national levels – to remind leaders of the urgency of tackling climate change.

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