We may only be in year two of the Decade of Action, but the next few months will largely determine to what extent it can deliver on its promising name. With a year’s delay, COP26 will kick off in Glasgow. And, as the COP organizers themselves put it: Paris set the destination – limiting warming well below 2 degrees, aiming for 1.5 degrees – Glasgow must make it a reality.
The same can be said for the EU Green Deal, introduced by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the first year of her mandate. The release of the Fit for 55 package in July this year, to be followed by a second legislate package later this year, marks the Commission’s concrete plans for how to execute on the ambitions and visions outlined in the overall deal.
So: we are clear on where we need to go and have committed politically to doing so. We have even cleared the question of whether the climate crisis is indeed our fault. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states that “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.” Now we need an “all (wo)men on deck” approach to maximise the impact of all the different levers we can pull.
One essential lever is energy efficiency: The “Energy Efficiency First” principle should underpin all other actions. There is much to gain here. Around 40% of the total carbon emission reductions needed to meet the Paris Agreement, in fact, according to figures from the IEA.
A second lever is electrification. According to the IPCC, the electrification of heating, transport, and industry is essential to meeting the Paris Agreement, with the share of electricity reaching at least 60% in 2050. To get there, we need electrical and industrial automation equipment and systems. These key enabling technologies helps control, command and optimise the electricity system, improving energy efficiency, streamlining energy demand and supply, and supporting the integration of renewable energies.
To take but one example: currently, there are about 8 billion electric motors in use in the EU, consuming nearly 50% of the electricity produced in the Union. Thanks to technologies such as variable speed drives, highly efficient contactors and industrial control and automation, it is possible to not only achieve significant energy savings but also optimise the performance of the overall equipment and thus production. The opportunity is obvious – but so is the huge cost of inaction.
That is why it is so important to get these next few months right. That the global community leaves Glasgow after COP26 having agreed to take forward comprehensive, ambitious, and coordinated climate action. That the next IEA Energy Efficiency conference in Sønderborg, Denmark, sees an increased acknowledgment of the huge role of energy efficiency, also for electrification. And that the EU makes the most of the giant opportunity currently on the legislative table: to create a truly integrated energy system by ensuring interlinkages between all the pieces of the puzzle. To not only revisit but to rethink the EU’s green policy architecture. It needs to be more efficient, more flexible, smarter. And to send the right signals, also to the financial market: that the EU means (green) business when it comes to ambitious climate actions.
That also means making sure that initiatives outside the package are fit for purpose and enabling: The EU Taxonomy, for instance, is a powerful initiative that will provide greater clarity to investors on what can be genuinely considered sustainable economic activities. To reach its potential as a lever, however, it is essential that technical screening criteria does indeed include all the most beneficial and sustainable solutions available on the market, including electrical and industrial automation equipment and systems.
In her recent State of the European Union address von der Leyen said “It’s warming. It’s us. We’re sure. It’s bad. But we can fix it”, talking about climate change and borrowing her words from climate activists. Yes, we can, but it requires action now. There is plenty we can do to enable the green transition with solutions available today. What we need is a supportive policy and financial framework that both sets the bar high on the overall ambition and is meticulous in how to get there. We are ready, as a business and as citizens.