Columnists: Rod Janssen, Sustainable energy expert

Published on: 18 Feb 2020

Industry’s role in addressing climate change

The Madrid climate conference last December highlighted the challenges that lie ahead because so little was achieved.  And we must achieve. There is so much to do for both mitigation and adaptation. For us working in mitigation – primarily in energy efficiency – we know so much more needs to be done.

In Europe we welcome the European Green Deal but the Coalition for Energy Savings was right to say recently that the Green Deal needs a stronger energy efficiency policy framework. The Coalition called for stronger implementation, stronger targets and stronger measures, meaning we need more of everything in all end-use sectors.

The EU’s Clean energy for all Europeans package was adopted in 2019 – which includes, inter alia, revisions to the main energy efficiency directives and the renewables directive – and came into force in mid 2019.  Member States have 1-2 years to transpose the directives into national law.

Simply looking at industry, it was disturbing to  see a new report that came out on February 3rd from the global Transition Pathway Initiative. It analysed the paper, cement, steel, aluminium and chemicals sectors.

The key findings are that:

  • Only 19% of the largest, listed industrial companies are aligned with a pathway to keep global warming to 2 degrees C or below
  • 29% are set to align their emissions with the Paris Pledges by 2030 – up from 24% in 2018. It has doubled for cement companies.
  • There has been no improvement in the carbon performance of the aluminium or steel sectors, and industry as a whole is moving too slowly to limit warming to 2 degrees or below.

There are some encouraging signs:

  • The proportion of companies disclosing their emissions has increased from 61% in 2018 to 76%. Much of this improvement comes from companies listed in Asia (especially China) and Russia
  • More companies are setting long-term reduction targets.
  • Particular improvements are visible in the cement and paper sectors.

In Europe we have several opportunities to discuss how we can get industry to make energy efficiency a higher priority.

  • On March, 5th World Sustainable Energy Days in Wels, Austria has its industrial energy efficiency conference. Independence from fossil energy is becoming a key factor for industrial competitiveness. Following automation and digitisation, "Industry 5.0 – decarbonisation" will characterise the next big step in the industrial transformation. The conference presents programmes from the three leading economic world powers paving the way for the industrial energy transition. The conference also explains how R&D, artificial intelligence and global collaboration can be important game changers for the industrial energy transition. Then three leading industrial companies show how to stay competitive in a changing world through the energy transition.
  • The Energy Efficiency Financial Institutions Group (EEFIG), an initiative of the European Commission and UNEP FI, is setting up a working group on industrial energy efficiency. This working group would assess the industrial practices dealing with energy efficiency, will identify and assess the main obstacles and drivers for improving energy efficiency in industry, will identify best practices and will provide recommendations to DG ENERGY on what tools and policy instruments are likely to be most effective for increasing the energy efficiency investments in industry. More information will be available very soon.
  • DecarbEurope is an ecosystem of 20 sectors, joining forces in a multichannel media campaign. It was initiated in 2017 by the European Copper Institute (ECI) with the support of several industry associations and media partners. The goal of DecarbEurope is to engage decision-makers in policy and industry with solutions that can, in a cost-effective manner, decarbonize Europe at the scale and speed that is needed to achieve our climate goals. he initiative connects technologies, policies, and markets in a cross-sector roadmap towards a low-carbon economy. Partners of DecarbEurope commit themselves to the common values that are driving this transition: decarbonisation, cost-effectiveness, circularity, sector-coupling, and consumer engagement.
  • The European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (eceee) is organising a conference on June 16-18, 2020 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Industrial Efficiency 2020 will explore current and emerging trends in industry, such as new business models, digitalisation, industry 4.0, the circular economy and resource efficiency, and discuss the significance of these trends for delivering decarbonisation. The multiple benefits of energy efficiency are of particular interest. There will be about 120 presentations in six panels.

There is much we need to be doing to ensure that improved energy efficiency helps the industrial sector meetings its climate obligations. We hope you will get involved in one of the above mentioned initiatives. And if you are involved in a separate initiative, please let us know.

The views expressed in this column are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of eceee or any of its members.

Other columns by Rod Janssen