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Innovation can help deliver EU competitive climate leadership

Industry & Innovation Net-Zero 2050
| 19.11.2018

As Europe is currently designing its largest ever research and innovation funding programme: Horizon Europe (Euro 100 bn from 2021-27), a new report, “Funding Innovation to Deliver EU Competitive Climate Leadership”, led by Climate Strategy and supported by the European Climate Foundation, reveals that Europe’s current climate-related R&I investments are unfit to meet the net-zero challenge.

Nz2050 Innovation B

In 2017, the European private sector invested €7.2 billion in R&D in climate-related sectors while EU R&I funding instruments invested €4.3 billion in climate-related R&I funding. While Europe looks to mainstream climate-related innovation across its funding instruments to support the decarbonisation of our economy, EU-based businesses are underinvesting in this zero-emissions future today.

As the EU Commission proposes 25% climate mainstreaming across all of the FP9 instruments for 2021-27; and 35% for Horizon Europe, Europe, the report states that these numbers should increase in the 2021-27 period by a third. This allows innovative technologies, products and businesses the time to scale and deliver the economy-wide decarbonisation provided under optimal 2050 pathways and to deliver the maximum societal benefits of this transition to European citizens and businesses.

Now is the time to act. If we miss the window to invest in low greenhouse gas emissions innovation in the next decade, we will not be able to deploy our zero-emissions assets fast enough to reach net-zero by 2050 – or we will need to rely on technologies and products developed elsewhere.

The good news is that climate modelling suggests that 75% of the technology and approaches required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement are already deployed and working, they just need to scale-up more quickly. The remaining 25% of decarbonisation requires new innovation investments in technologies, products, business models and at the societal level to deliver optimal scenarios.

Increased investment in innovation in the next decade is critical to delivering a net-zero carbon economy in Europe by 2050. Private and public sector funders need to mainstream climate-related investments and work together across the full innovation supply chain and develop European competitive advantages in new technologies, products and business models that engage our society in the key decarbonisation challenges.
Peter Sweatman, Chief Executive of Climate Strategy and lead author of the report

Greg Arrowsmith, Policy Advisor at EUREC, the Association of European Renewable Energy Research Centres: 

“Climate Strategy and Partners’ timely report looks at Horizon Europe’s Missions as a vehicle for delivering a net-zero-emission economy by 2050, suggesting that a mission with that title might be only one we need in the climate area. It is indeed an inspiring and worthy overarching goal, and should steer policymaking across the full spectrum of the EU’s competence under the terms of the next Commission and Parliament.”

Jonathan Gaventa, Director of E3G: 

“Europe’s future prosperity depends on innovation. The shift to a zero greenhouse gas emissions economy by 2050 creates big opportunities for developing new technologies, business models and markets. To seize these opportunities, EU innovation funding needs to be both scaled up and given a stronger direction. This report sets out how.” 

Rémi Gruet, CEO of Ocean Energy Europe:

“Innovation not only drives the transition to a zero greenhouse gas emissions economy – it also creates jobs, industries and exports. Ocean energy is a great example of this. Europe’s wave, tidal and other ocean resources can generate renewable power to meet 10% of energy demand by 2050. This report comes at the right time, and we fully support its call for a boost in climate-related Research & Innovation spending in Horizon Europe.”

  • About the Net-Zero 2050 initiative

    The Net-Zero 2050 is a new initiative of the European Climate Foundation with contributions from a consortium of experts and organisations funded by the ECF.

    The objective of Net-Zero 2050 is to start building a vision and evidence base for the transition to net-zero emission societies in Europe and beyond, by midcentury at the latest. The Paris Agreement commits us to making this transition, and long-term strategic planning shows that many of the decisions and actions needed to get us on track must be taken without delay. Reports in the series seek to enhance understanding of the implications and opportunities of moving to climate neutrality across the power, industry, buildings, transport, agriculture, Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sectors; to shed light on some of the near-term choices and actions needed to reach this goal, and to provide a basis for discussion and engagement with stakeholders and policy-makers.

    With acknowledgement of the source, reproduction of all or part of the publication is authorised, except for commercial purposes.