Vague EU industry plan leaves decarbonisation in the dark

Posted on May, 05 2021

The European Commission’s updated industrial strategy, published today, does not provide enough clarity to help businesses move towards climate-neutral activity despite its broad range.
It focuses mainly on economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and on building future resilience. 

As a key part of delivery of the transition to greener industry, the Commission says it will design transitional decarbonisation ‘pathways’ for certain interlinked industries or ‘ecosystems’ like energy-intensive sectors (steel, chemicals). It wants to do this through a new body made up of NGOs and industry, known as an ‘Industry Forum’. However, the Commission gives little detail on what the basis for those transition pathways will be - for example, will it look at the requirements of reaching climate neutrality, like a sector’s long-term viability? What’s more, it lists a series of ‘KPIs’ for industry, focusing on competitiveness and single market integration, but does not include one on the performance towards green criteria. 

“The European Commission’s commitment to green and digital pathways for key ecosystems like energy-intensive industries is certainly a step forward. However, it remains unclear who will hold the pen when designing these pathways”, said Imke Lübbeke, head of climate and energy at WWF European Policy Office. 

Another key flaw of the strategy is its failure to bring greater transparency to the industry ‘alliances’ the Commission wants to set up to develop new technologies. Already established alliances, such as the one on clean hydrogen, have been criticised by WWF and others for being untransparent in the way they are organised and run as well as their final goal.

“Over-reliance on industry through the Industry Forum and industrial alliances is not reassuring. The alliances’ work and progress must be tracked in a transparent manner. The EU has a climate neutrality target: the Commission should take ownership of that and guide industry to play its part in reaching it through policy frameworks and financial support channeled into building up clean markets”, added Lübbeke.

The strategy also proposes a revision of environmental and energy State Aid rules in order to enable Member States to better support businesses in a digital and green transition through innovation. The overall strategy will need to be linked with the upcoming revision of the EU Emissions Trading System Directive and its Innovation Fund under the Fit for 55% climate package. 

The European Commission has until the end of 2022 to deliver on its strategy. 

Camille Maury 
Policy Officer, Decarbonisation of Industry
WWF European Policy Office

Sarah Azau
Communications Manager
WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 473 573 137
Moldomin steel-making factory at the Danube River, Portile de Fier Nature Park, Romania. Steel is an energy-intensive industry which must be decarbonised to tackle the climate emergency.
© Michel Gunther / WWF