100 days in, EU Commission industrial strategy must match reality to rhetoric

Posted on 06 March 2020

Ursula von Der Leyen's Commission presidency reaches its 100th day on 10 March. But the environment and climate measures rolled out so far - from the sustainable investment plan to the EU climate law proposal - do not match up to the European Green Deal rhetoric.
What’s happening?

Ursula von Der Leyen's Commission presidency reaches its 100th day on 10 March. But the environment and climate measures rolled out so far - from the sustainable investment plan to the EU climate law proposal - do not match up to the European Green Deal rhetoric. 
The 100th day itself will be marked by the publication of the Commission's proposed industrial strategy. The decarbonisation element of this - which for WWF should be front and centre - will be the first test of the EU’s climate law, which makes climate neutrality by 2050 legally binding.
Ester Asin, Director of WWF European Policy Office said:

“After its first one hundred days, the new Commission is starting to lose its shine. While the executive’s rhetoric is as ambitious as ever, its reality does not match up. The Commission’s proposals to date fail to respond to the environmental emergency, with the recent climate law just the latest example. 

However, Ursula von der Leyen and her team can still increase the EU’s ambition on both climate action and nature restoration, ahead of a series of crucial international summits taking place later this year. Their first opportunity is the industrial strategy due on Tuesday, the 100th day itself. The strategy needs to take bold steps to clean up EU heavy industry and bring it in line with our climate targets.

Further critical moments include the proposals for the EU Biodiversity strategy and the Farm to Fork strategy later this month. 

Over the coming months, the European Parliament and Member States will also have the chance to further strengthen the proposals that are now on the table.

What will WWF be looking out for in the industrial strategy?

In WWF’s view, the strategy must be a comprehensive plan which links competitiveness and climate neutrality. It must encourage investment to rapidly shift to zero-carbon technologies and create new markets for low and zero carbon products to reach climate neutrality on time.

To do this, the strategy must propose:
  1. Setting up an independent observatory to set targets and monitor EU industry progress towards decarbonisation 
  2. Supporting strong EU and national innovation policies on zero- carbon technologies 
  3. Creating markets for zero-carbon technologies
  4. Supporting and defining sustainable and targeted uses of renewable Hydrogen 
  5. Setting out stringent conditions and criteria for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) 
  6. Promoting circularity and material efficiency 
  7. Implementing emission performance standards
  8. Improving the carbon pricing framework 
  9. Implementing a Border Carbon Adjustment (BCA) only as an alternative to free allocations 
  10. Ensuring a Just Transition Mechanism that excludes fossil fuel investments
More on WWF’s work on industrial decarbonisation

What have been the key elements of the European Green Deal to date?

European Green Deal Communication (11 December 2019)
This gave new impetus for action and shows that Commission recognises the environmental challenges the world is facing, setting out a package of fifty policy measures dealing with climate, biodiversity, circular economy and food. However, only the concrete legislative and policy proposals expected in the months after would show the extent to which the Commission is actually committed to heeding scientific recommendations for urgent and far-reaching transformational change.

Sustainable Investment Plan (14 Jan 2020)
Widely considered as the first real test, no new money is put forward to help the EU get climate neutral, protect and restore its endangered nature, and move to a sustainable economy. Instead, the plan only brings together funds which already exist, except for €7.5bn of additional finance to help support the Just Transition. 

Just Transition Mechanism (14 Jan 2020) 
This may be a step closer towards a climate neutral Europe, but as long as Member States do not need to show by when and how they will get free from gas, oil and coal, this is not a ‘just’ transition.

Commission 2020 Work Programme (29 Jan 2020)
The EC Work Programme for 2020, lacks urgency on climate and deforestation. WWF especially criticised the delay in increasing the 2030 climate target to the third quarter of 2020, and the missing detail on regulatory measures to promote imported products and value chains that do not cause deforestation and forest degradation.

EU Climate Law (4 March 2020)
The EU’s proposed climate law lacks desperately-needed urgency. It puts Europe on an essential course to net zero emissions, by setting it as a target for 2050 at the latest. However it does nothing to reduce emissions drastically in the short-term, which is crucial to fight the climate crisis. 

What is yet to come?

New Circular Economy Action Plan (11 March 2020)
If everyone lived like an EU citizen, we would need 2.6 planets. To achieve a true circular economy, the EU will have to reduce the total environmental and resource footprint of its production and consumption. As an overarching headline target, the new Action Plan must set out to halve the EU’s material footprint by 2030. Such a target would guide any policies and laws yet to be announced and ensure Europe uses no more than its fair share of global resources.

EU Biodiversity Strategy (25 March 2020)
In order to address the galloping loss of nature, the EU Biodiversity Strategy will need to propose a set of legally binding targets and commitments. It must show how the EU will make progress on implementing and enforcing key environmental legislation and will need to propose a new law which ensures nature in Europe will be restored for the benefit of biodiversity and climate. It must also address the key drivers of biodiversity loss, like intensive agriculture and forestry, unsustainable fisheries and hydropower development, which have a devastating impact. The strategy also needs ambitious, smart and enforceable targets.

Farm to Fork strategy (25 March 2020)
The Farm to Fork strategy will need to be fully aligned to the EU’s climate, biodiversity and health targets, setting in a real transformation of the agricultural sector. Amongst others, the strategy will need to call for a significant reduction in the use and risk of pesticides and fertilisers and promote sustainable diets.
The EU Industrial Strategy must be a comprehensive plan which links competitiveness and climate neutrality
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