The transformation towards a net-zero greenhouse gas economy offers both opportunities and challenges to which the EU has to react. Energy efficiency, the deployment of renewables and the global competitiveness of EU industry have to be addressed together, to ensure sustainable economic growth.

The EPP Group advocates a wide debate involving not only the EU’s institutions but first and foremost citizens, national Parliaments and regional public authorities, the business sector, non-governmental organisations, cities and local communities. We endorse the objective of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for the EU economy by 2050 and urge Member States to do the same at the special EU Summit in Sibiu in May 2019.

We believe Europe can lead the way to climate neutrality by investing in research, innovative technological solutions, the successful transformation of coal mining regions, empowering citizens, and aligning action in key areas such as energy, and industrial policy, while ensuring social fairness for a just transition.

Energy Policy plays a crucial role in the transition towards a net-zero greenhouse gas economy by bringing more focus on social fairness, new skills and financing for the real economy. The EU has managed to successfully decouple greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth for the past number of decades and has reduced emissions, particularly through energy efficiency and renewables.

Energy efficiency is vital for the security of supply, economic competitiveness, environmental protection as well as to the reduction of energy bills and the improvement of the quality of homes. The clean energy transition should continue to spur the modernisation of the European economy, to drive sustainable economic growth and to bring societal and environmental benefits for European citizens in a cost-efficient way.

We need additional investments to achieve a net-zero greenhouse gas economy, and must complete the internal energy market, This includes in particular building the missing infrastructure links both in gas and electricity markets in order to better connect our markets. We recognise that Member States are in charge of their energy mix within the EU climate and energy framework and they come from different starting points to achieve the energy transition.

At the same, we have to address the social aspects of climate change. Research says a just transition towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions has the potential to create a net gain of jobs in the Union. For this to happen though we need an anticipatory approach to ensure a just transition for EU citizens and to support regions whose economies depend on activities linked to sectors or technologies that are expected to decline or will have to transform in the future. In certain EU regions, such as coal regions, more action and efforts towards clean energy transition would be required; we have to help these regions to identify, develop and implement projects with the potential to kick-start a viable economic and technological transformation. We therefore need a new Just Energy Transition Fund.

We welcome the strong climate and energy targets which the EU adopted for 2030. These targets should be kept stable, while taking account of the economic and technological developments, in order to bring sufficient stability for investment to the market and fully harness the potential of technological innovation and strengthen the possibilities for Europe’s businesses to become global market leaders in low-emission technologies. Any possible review of the targets by the European Commission would have to assess whether an increase is in line with the cost-efficient pathway to a net zero economy by 2050 and is economically feasible when taking global competition into account. As a means to further ensure increased stability for markets, it could be beneficial for the EU to also establish an interim emissions reduction target by 2040 that can provide additional stability and ensure that the long-term 2050 target is met.

All these actions have to be part of and interlinked with the EU’s industrial strategy so that economic prosperity, global industrial competitiveness and climate policy are mutually reinforcing. This includes maintaining the EU’s low carbon industrial leadership and industrial production in the EU, preserving the competitiveness of European industries and avoiding the risk of carbon and investment leakage. We therefore call on the European Commission to present a new and integrated EU industrial climate strategy for energy intensive industries in support of a competitive heavy industry transition, as well as develop an industrial strategy with measures that allow European industry to compete globally on a level-playing field. Furthermore, we believe that industrial mainstreaming should be adequately integrated in the preparation and implementation of research and innovation programmes. As part of this policy, the Commission should examine the feasibility, effectiveness and WTO-compatibility of additional measures to protect industries at risk of carbon leakage in respect of the imports of products, which would replace, adapt or complement any existing measures on carbon leakage.

We need the rapid implementation of the EU ETS Innovation Fund and for the start of the first call for proposals in 2019 in order to boost investments in the demonstration of low-carbon industrial breakthrough technologies in a wide array of sectors, not only electricity production, but also district heating and industrial processes. State Aid Guidelines are an effective tool to support the required transformation in industry and must hence be adapted accordingly to address global competitiveness concerns of European industries.

In order to achieve climate neutrality for the EU economy as a whole, all sectors must contribute, including shipping and aviation. We support active and sustainable forest management at national level, together with concrete means to incentivise an efficient and sustainable EU bioeconomy.

EU and national research and innovation programmes are crucial to support the European Union in its leading role in the fight against climate change. A substantial research and innovation effort is needed within the next two decades to make low and zero-carbon solutions available to all and socially and economically viable and bring about new solutions for achieving a net-zero greenhouse gas economy.

Finally, the EP Group asks the Council and the Commission to increase climate diplomacy and take other appropriate measures to encourage other major economies so that we can achieve together the long-term Paris Agreement targets.

We should be proud of, and build on, what the European Union has already achieved. In the words of Todd Stern, Special Envoy for Climate Change to US President Obama: “There would have been no historic Paris Agreement without the singular contribution of the European Union.”

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