A European Roadmap
The European Green Deal sets out a roadmap towards sustainability. Extreme weather events seem to become more and more the rule than the exception. The abstract threat of climate change is being heard and seen more and more often – and closer to home.
Climate change is also becoming more and more real. Floods, forest fires and drought. For a long time, these kinds of phenomena were reserved for distant countries. But we, as Dutch and Europeans, are increasingly confronted with the capricious change in nature .
Mark Rutte – unlike his German and Belgian colleagues – does not want to make hard statements about the link between climate change and the recent floods. On the other hand, the European Commission has presented an ambitious roadmap for its climate policy. This Green Deal, aimed at 2030 (‘Fit For 55’) and 2050, considers how Europe can become climate neutral.
Long term thinking
This roadmap calls for a number of changes in our thinking. According to the European Commission, this thinking needs to focus on the following aspects.
Our view on raw materials. The forecasts show that global consumption of materials such as biomass, fossil fuels, metals, and minerals will double in the next 40 years. In addition, annual waste production is expected to increase by 70% by 2050. In short, linear thinking about raw materials will therefore have to change.
Basically, climate change requires long-term thinking and solutions. Because climate change is a long-term and complex challenge, thinking in short-term solutions is not enough. Measures that are now implemented will only take effect after a number of generations.
What does the European Green Deal say?
Because this change in thinking does not happen by itself, the European Commission has created the Green Deal. The Green Deal outlines a roadmap to make the EU economy more sustainable. The aim is to achieve this by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities in different policy areas and push for more corporate sustainability. One of the goals of the Green Deal, for sustainable production, is to stimulate the efficient use of raw materials by switching to a clean and circular economy.
To achieve efficient use of material, enormous efforts are made to make products more sustainable. The EU does this by looking at supply chains from which the raw materials for these products come. The Circular Economy Action Plan focuses specifically on this product’s sustainability. Moreover, it includes initiatives to extend the lifetime of products in order to reduce the pressure of the increasing demand for raw materials.
As part of this plan, there is the Sustainable Products Policy, which should regulate the improvement of products, such as stimulating reuse, repairability, and the use of recycled material. With the Sustainable Products Policy plan, the European Green Deal aims to identify appropriate options to regulate the following:
- Improving the durability, reusability, upgrade-ability and repairability of products, addressing the presence of hazardous chemicals in products and increasing their energy and resource efficiency;
- Increasing the amount of recycled material in products;
- Stimulating refurbishing and high-value recycling;
- Reducing the environmental footprint;
- Limiting single use and combating premature ageing;
- Encouraging product-as-a-service or other models where manufacturers retain ownership of the product or responsibility for its performance throughout its lifecycle;
- Reward products based on their different sustainability performance, including by linking high performance levels to incentives.
The numbers tell the tale
The European Green Deal also proposes to substantiate sustainability claims made by companies. This is achieved by actually calculating the environmental footprint of their products, but also their organisation. This means that companies have to map where they currently stand – looking at their environmental performance – in order to be eligible for sustainable investments.
One method of doing this is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The EU Green Deal indicates that it is time for entrepreneurs to take action.
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