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New European Bauhaus: how will it contribute to the EU’s future construction policies

The New European Bauhaus: what is it and how does it work?

The year 2021 has started with the launch of a new promising initiative from the European Commission: the New European Bauhaus initiative. With the overall objective of helping deliver the European Green Deal, this initiative is a contest financed by EU funds at national and regional level. The award goes to concrete and practical projects that achieve the targets of the Circular Economy Action Plan and the Renovation Wave Strategy.

The aim of those projects is to ensure inclusiveness, design and accessibility of investments at the benefit of the larger community. By means of an open and public platform, everyone can input their own ideas for future ways of living. In an open prize ceremony in Summer 2021, the Commission will award prizes to existing examples that represent the integration of the key values of the initiative, and that may inspire future EU building and construction policies. The five winning projects will be delivered starting from September 2021 and then disseminated from January 2023 onwards to spread the ideas and concepts defining the New European Bauhaus via new projects, networking and sharing of knowledge, in Europe and beyond.

The Circular Economy as the backbone of the New European Bauhaus

The synergy with the Circular Economy Action Plan (March 2020) and the Renovation Wave (October 2020) lays in the design of the new building projects that will be submitted to the New European Bauhaus contest. Those projects can easily bring new business opportunities for the wider range of stakeholders engaged in sustainable construction policies. Dr2 Consultants is of course perfectly placed to assist companies to identify these opportunities.

For instance, the New European Bauhaus will help promote the circularity principles throughout the whole lifecycle of buildings that will be put forward by the new Strategy for a Sustainable Built Environment, expected in 2021. This strategy is entailed in the Circular Economy Action Plan, which envisages to focus on the sectors that use most resources and where the potential for circularity is particularly high, including the construction and buildings sector. Therefore, the Bauhaus Initiative will provide companies with very concrete opportunities to pitch their sustainable ideas at EU level.

“Many architects and other partners in the construction chain have been working for years, with a lot of creativity and innovation power, on ideas and concepts that can increase sustainability and circularity in construction. They do this on the one hand because there is a sore need, and on the other hand because they want to take responsibility. The fact that the New European Bauhaus will now provide a platform to these efforts will mean an extra stimulus. But that alone is not enough. Clients who are very aware of solutions and possibilities – which there are plenty of – often need some extra encouragement to make the right decisions. This could be subsidy, in any shape or form, but at the same time we should not shy away from tightening requirements and regulations.”

Joost Ector
Architect and Managing Partner of Ector Hoogstad Architecten

Concrete examples and opportunities for future policy framing

The European Bauhaus Initiative provides a concrete testing area for new approaches to existing construction and building concepts. Several of the identified projects provide a glimpse into future housing techniques and serve as an impulse to the European Commission for future construction policies. Dr2 Consultants can assist companies in setting standards for future European policies through the Bauhaus Initiative.

Listed below are a few projects submitted to the New European Bauhaus that integrate sustainability with inclusive and better-quality ideas in the building sector. These projects provide great examples of new ideas that will shape the future of European construction policies.

Circular and sustainable housing – A best practice of circular economy and buildings’ energy performance is the creation of a new Slovenian facility hosting offices and laboratories totally made of timber and steel. This facility is equipped with a smart management system that will produce data on the way wood ages in buildings and performs over time. The facility’s highly digitalized and efficient system shows how the construction sector can be concretely innovated, meeting the energy technology targets and zero emission goals of the Renovation Wave strategy as well as the transition to more smart buildings in the EU.

Facility in Slovenia made of timber and steel

New Slovenian facility hosting offices and laboratories totally made of timber and steel.

📸 The Institute / © Source: #nnoRenew CoE

Environmentally friendly and flexible buildings – Another example of how to achieve the EU building performance goals is provided by a project experimented in Bordeaux, where a 100% locally-sourced timber prefabricated construction has showcased the highly technological, social and environmental impact of sustainable and renovation methods. The construction can be transported, mounted and adapted to different sizes. By ensuring an environmentally friendly footprint and a high recyclability of the materials, this solution simultaneously meets two criteria as defined in the New European Bauhaus: the building’s energy performance targets of the Renovation Wave as well as the circularity and recycling goals of the Circular Economy Action Plan.

Proto Habitat – a 1.1 prototype of new and sustainable forms of housing.

📸 Proto-Habitat / © Flavien Menu, Wald.City

From vehicles’ waste into a social benefit – When it comes to end-of-life waste, the automotive sector offers valuable solutions of circularity and energy efficiency. This is the case of an old bus being transformed into a mobile youth centre by the Young Dragons, a public network of youth centres. By recycling waste and at the same time creating a benefit for the social community, this project meets the target of recycling efficiency of end-of-life vehicles that has been set out in the Circular Economy Action Plan.

An upcycled old city bus turned into a mobile youth centre.

📸 Ljuba in Drago / © Ksenja Perko

What can Dr2 Consultants do for you?

Over the last years, Dr2 Consultants has built up a track record in advising a broad range of sustainability clients in navigating the EU ecosystem and identifying the right opportunities for boosting the renovation and technological update of the building sector. Would you like to know more about how your organization can make the most out of the upcoming regulations included in the New European Bauhaus initiative, as well as the Circular Economy Action Plan and Renovation Wave? Feel free to reach out and discuss opportunities with us.

If you are interested in more than just building policies, then check out our European Green Deal Impact Scan.

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Sustainable Products Initiative: more than just Ecodesign

As announced in its Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) almost a year ago (March 2020), the European Commission aims to make products fit for a climate-neutral, resource-efficient and circular economy through a Sustainable Products Initiative (SPI). The SPI will serve as the main instrument in a renewed European approach towards product policy. Due to its broad scope and huge impact on many sectors, Dr2 Consultants guides you through the main issues companies will have to contend with when the SPI is published, its relationship to other policies as well as further opportunities to engage with policymakers.

The European Parliament, in its Non-Legislative Own-Initiative Report on the Circular Economy Action Plan from February 2021, emphasizes the need to turn the linear “take-make-dispose” economy to a truly circular economy. It also underlines the frontrunner role it expects European companies to play in a global market. The SPI thus also presents plenty of opportunities for innovative players in the circular economy.

Sustainable Products Initiative: a broad review of the Ecodesign Directive

The Sustainable Products Initiative will revise the Ecodesign Directive (2009) and make products placed on the EU market more sustainable. The SPI is expected to move beyond the narrow scope of the Ecodesign Directive – exclusively aimed at products, such as household appliances, information and communication technologies or engineering – and set sustainability criteria based on harmonized indicators and life-cycle assessments such as environmental footprints, to the broadest range of products such as:

  • Electronics & ICT equipment;
  • Textiles;
  • Furniture;
  • Steel, cement & chemicals.

Taking into account the broadening of the scope, the European Parliament in its Non-Legislative Own-Initiative Report on the Circular Economy Action Plan similarly actively calls for the establishment of common life cycle assessment methodologies and improved data collection. Such methodologies need to take into account the full life cycle of a product, from-cradle-to grave, and the impact of sourcing, semi-finished products, spare parts and by-products throughout the value chain. The close involvement of stakeholders in defining these methodologies in an open, transparent, and science-based process is crucial. The European Parliament explicitly opens the door here for input by relevant stakeholders.

The broad review of the Ecodesign Directive also means that the Sustainable Products Initiative will be developed in close coordination with other initiatives announced in the CEAP, in particular the initiative on empowering consumers for the green transition and the initiative on the substantiation of environmental claims, both of which are expected to be announced in the second quarter of 2021.

Widened scope brings opportunities and threats

On a general level, the Sustainable Products Initiative is expected to set sustainability principles and specific requirements linked to environmental aspects of products. However, producers of priority product groups such as electronics, ICT and textiles as well as furniture and high impact intermediate products such as steel, cement and chemicals will be made responsible for providing more circular products and intervening before products can become waste (for example providing products as a service, providing repair service or ensuring spare parts availability). The impact of such far-reaching principles on producers cannot be underestimated and Dr2 Consultants can support your organization in identifying the specific aspects within the Sustainable Products Initiative which are expected to affect your business. You can learn more about our sustainability sector here.

On another note, the Commission is determined to set EU rules for mandatory sustainability labelling and/or disclosure of information to market actors along value chains in the form of a digital product passport. Such passports will foster the availability of data related to product’s content and carbon footprint and recyclability. The exact scope of such a digital passport will of course have to be determined in close cooperation with the industry, which is why Dr2 Consultants highly advises companies to actively engage with policymakers.

When it comes to a ‘right to repair’, the European Commission will most likely take heed of the encouraging language of the European Parliament in its Non-Legislative Own-Initiative Report on the Circular Economy Action Plan. Producers, not only of electronic products, will need to be able to provide free-of-charge access to necessary repair and maintenance information, including information on spare parts and software updates, to all market participants.

Finally, the Sustainable Products Initiative is most definitely expected to set more elaborate rules on the inclusion of recycled content in products, for example in packaging. In doing so, the Commission also wants to ensure that hazardous substances in production processes are tracked more thoroughly. The impact of more stringent rules can of course not be underestimated, with a potential impact on the whole packaging and recycling sector.

Final consultation period to open shortly

Having run an initial consultation from September to November 2020, the European Commission is expected to open the public consultation shortly, open for a standard 12 weeks. This phase of the consultation process provides stakeholders with a direct line to the policymakers before the Commission is expected to publish a proposal on the Sustainable Products Initiative by the end of 2021.

Dr2 Consultants’ expertise in this area means that our international team can support you not only in engaging with policymakers during, but also after, this public consultation process. Companies should also already keep an eye out on the position of the European Parliament and Council of the EU on this topic, as evidenced by their own reports on the Circular Economy Action Plan.

Feel free to get in touch with us for more information.

Sustainable Corporate Governance – accounting for your supply chain

Supply chains of European businesses often stretch far beyond the EU territory, where the EU’s environmental, social and human rights may no longer apply. Consumers increasingly expect companies to « do no harm » throughout their operations and supply chain. To this end, as also announced in the European Green Deal and in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the European Commission will, in the second quarter of 2021, introduce new rules on incorporating sustainability in long-term business strategies. This proposal for sustainable corporate governance will create a new framework to give sustainability a more prominent role in the board room, while reviewing the obligations companies currently have under the Non-Financial Reporting Directive. As the new legislation is expected to place additional reporting obligations on many European companies, this article will take a look at its expected scope and impact on your company’s business activities.

The future EU corporate governance framework should steer companies towards more long-term visions that incorporate sustainability, which in this context not only includes their environmental impact but also human and social rights. A powerful instrument to achieve this could be the introduction of due diligence duties. These duties could not only require companies to respect their own employees’ working rights and limit their own environmental footprint, but it would also oblige companies to actively trace the conditions under which early production processes further up the supply chain take place. For example, did your direct supplier pay a fair price to the farmer he bought cocoa from? And what can a company do to make sure these farmers produce in a sustainably sound way?

Currently, some multinational companies and national governments are taking a frontrunner role in tackling these kinds of questions. However, a failure to create a level playing field in the EU with regard to due diligence obligations could hamper companies’ willingness to keep on taking on this leadership role. The EU’s proposal for a horizontal sustainable corporate governance framework should incentivize broader categories of companies to undertake due diligence.

The proposal for a sustainable corporate governance framework will go hand in hand with a revision of the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD), which currently requires large companies to disclose information on their handling of social and environmental challenges.

A European solution will have to balance the need for a level playing field and the risks of overburdening smaller companies with new obligations. As the Commission currently still is in the process of carrying out an impact assessment, the exact categories of sectors and product groups to be included in the scope will still need to be determined in the upcoming months. Although it is evident that the Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers (DG JUST), responsible for the sustainable corporate governance proposal, intends to include all industries in this horizontal framework, it is still undecided if, for example, SMEs will be included in the Directive’s scope.

What do we already know about the proposal for a sustainable corporate governance and how could this impact European businesses?

The proposal for a sustainable corporate governance framework will go hand in hand with a revision of the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD), which currently requires large companies to disclose information on their handling of social and environmental challenges. Even though this revision of the NFRD could clarify the requirement to report on due diligence processes, this would not yet be underpinned by an obligation to undertake due diligence, including mitigation of negative impacts.

This could be addressed by the sustainable corporate governance proposal, which could oblige companies to identify and mitigate risks relating to human rights, climate and environment. Where the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights currently lay down steps for e.g. proper human rights due diligence, the EU could give this a binding character through its proposal for a Directive, obliging Member States to transpose a due diligence obligation into national law.

Moreover, the proposal could oblige company directors to take into account sustainability aspects in the formulation of corporate strategies, by requiring them to set science-based and time-bound targets for e.g. climate, deforestation and biodiversity, including the set-up of the necessary enforcement mechanisms. The Commission is currently still in the process of developing the appropriate methodology for clear targets and benchmarks.

With the exact impact still dependent on the choices the Commission will make in the upcoming months and the feedback provided by stakeholders in the process, strict due diligence requirements and duty of care for directors could increase the organizational and administrative burden for companies to set up internal processes including reporting and transparency obligations. These obligations would come on top of the obligation to disclose business strategy information under the revised NFRD. Even if the Commission encourages sustainable corporate governance through voluntary instruments, companies will be pressured to incorporate sustainability in their business strategies.

Next steps

The European Commission recently ran a public consultation on sustainable corporate governance. The outcomes of this public consultation will complement the results of two studies conducted by the European Commission on Directors’ duties and sustainable corporate governance, and on due diligence requirements through the supply chain.

After that, the European Commission will make the choice between various policy instruments and finalize the legislative proposal for a Directive, which is expected to be published by the European Commission in the second quarter of 2021.

If you would like to determine the impact the EU’s sustainability initiatives have in your specific case, check out our European Green Deal Impact Scan, or learn more about our monitoring services to receive regular updates on this topic.

Offshore renewable energy - waves

Offshore renewable energy: EU takes next steps

With the EU’s new offshore renewable energy strategy (ORES) – “EU Strategy to harness the potential of offshore renewable energy for a climate neutral future” (published on 19 November 2020), the European Commission is widening the scope of its offshore activities. From focusing on offshore wind energy (bottom-fixed), the Commission aims to facilitate the further development of other offshore energy technologies such as floating wind energy, wave and tidal energy, but also floating solar energy and the use of algae. Our blog post sheds some light on upcoming opportunities and challenges from the offshore renewable energy strategy for the different offshore energy technologies.

Maritime spatial planning as a basis

Maritime spatial planning (coordination of use of marine space and resources) will be key to the further development of offshore renewable energy technologies. In the framework of the Maritime Spatial Planning Directive, the Commission aims to ensure sufficient space and resources are available for offshore technologies by coordinating the submission of national maritime spatial plans due by 31 March 2021. Such maritime spatial planning should be carefully coordinated with different national energy and climate plans but also the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems.

Offshore renewable energy - Floating solar farm

Floating solar farm

 

From focusing on offshore wind energy (bottom-fixed), the Commission aims to facilitate the further development of other offshore energy technologies.

Different offshore renewable energy operators, as well as energy grid operators, are strongly encouraged to engage both on a European and national level to improve the quality of existing and future spatial planning. These exchanges will be facilitated by the European Commission throughout 2021 and beyond.

A clearer EU regulatory framework to facilitate investments

While offshore renewable energy projects are mainly nationally driven, the Commission wants to facilitate the further development of more complex, cross-border projects. Most importantly, the Commission clarifies the current regulatory framework for offshore bidding zones in its accompanying Staff Working Document. Furthermore, The Commission will ensure that the forthcoming revision of the state aid rules and the Renewable Energy Directive provide a fully updated and fit-for-purpose framework in order to cost-effectively deploy clean energy, including renewable offshore energy.

The lofty ambitions of the Commission will provide a very good opportunity for large-scale cross-border project operators to benefit from a changing regulatory framework. Such operators are advised to keep a close eye on the upcoming changes to the European electricity legislation, which will facilitate their activities. If you would like to stay up to date on the latest developments in the EU energy sector, visit our monitoring services webpage to find out how Dr2 Consultants can support you.

Targeted funding opportunities for offshore renewable energy deployment and R&I

Most importantly, the Commission aims to unlock new private investments as these are expected to carry the bulk of financing needs. The new InvestEU fund will play a key role, with the European Investment Bank acting as a European Climate Bank. In addition, existing and future EU funding instruments such as the NER 300, the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the Connecting Europe Facility are expected to substantially fund mature cross-border projects. Furthermore, investment programs such as Horizon Europe, the Innovation Fund and the Modernisation Fund will provide support for research, innovation and demonstration projects underpinning the future development and deployment of innovative offshore energy technologies in Europe.

Whether your organization is active in early stage R&I activities, demonstration of innovative technologies or the further deployment and rollout of offshore renewable energy infrastructure, the above mentioned EU funding instruments will serve a supporting role to the changing regulatory framework.

In conclusion, the Commission aims to tackle the challenge of creating the optimum environment to maintain and accelerate the current European momentum in offshore renewables. As such, the EU is ready to support frontrunners in this area to preserve its own leading role on a global level.

The Commission is actively inviting all stakeholders to discuss the policy actions proposed in this strategy and to join forces in taking this action forward without delay. Dr2 Consultants is ideally placed to support your organization to identify the opportunities in upcoming financial and policy developments. Fore more information, contact us at info@dr2consultants.eu or call us at +32 (0)2 512 37 22.


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Renovation Wave: opportunities for the construction sector

“The green recovery starts at home” said Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson during the presentation of the European Commission’s Renovation Wave initiative on 14 October. Buildings are responsible for 40% of the energy consumption in the EU, while 75% of European buildings are not energy efficient. With its eyes fixed on the 2050 climate-neutrality target, the European Commission aims to double renovation rates in the next ten years to increase the energy efficiency of buildings and to cut emissions. The goal is to renovate 35 million buildings by 2030, supported with funding of €672.5 billion from the Recovery and Resilience Facility. The Renovation Wave, therefore, offers new opportunities for the construction sector.

Priority actions

The strategy’s main priority is the renovation of the least energy-efficient buildings, which often house people who are most affected by energy poverty. The Commission expects that focussing on these constructions will lead to the greatest cut in emissions. Additional attention is paid to public sector buildings and the decarbonization of heating and cooling systems. The publication of the initiatives to speed up renovations of public buildings, as well as a revision of the Renewable Energy Directive to increase heating and cooling energy targets is planned for June 2021. Legal certainty to take up renovations, well-targeted funding, project capacity increases, smart buildings and the use of circular materials are lead actions to realize the transformation of European homes, schools, offices and townhalls.

Consequences and opportunities for businesses

Renovation of buildings

The Renovation Wave initiative, aimed at renovating the current stock of buildings, would bring opportunities to companies, notably, in the construction sector. The proposal that public buildings should be renovated at a higher pace than those in the private sector might lead to an increased demand in the short term. The Commission also put forward the use of efficient and sustainable products generating a higher energy consumption reduction, which will benefit the sectors providing these materials.

European Bauhaus

The proposals of the Commission do not only focus on CO2 reduction, but also envisage the launch of new European building designs. The launch of the New European Bauhaus will include the vision on how Europe will look like in the future, opening up opportunities for both the designing dimension of the new sustainable style as well as the construction side. The Commission will bring together architects, artists, students, engineers and designers to shape new construction designs.

European Green Deal Impact Scan

Financing opportunities

The Renovation Wave initiative opens up funding opportunities for the construction sector on both national and EU level. To realize action in the above-mentioned areas, an annual investment of €57 billion is foreseen from the Recovery and Resilience Facility. Other funding will be granted by the revenues from the carbon market. In addition, the European Commission will revise state aid rules, so national governments can support renovation in their respective countries.

 Electric vehicles

With electric mobility on the rise, charging vehicles at home or in public places (e.g. office buildings) will be a common practice in the near future. The Commission stresses that in order to reach the 2030 CO2 reduction targets, electric bikes, cars and vans will be the preferred mode of transport. Therefore, innovation, connectivity and accessibility of charging infrastructure will be the main aspects of the Renovation Wave which will thus present opportunities for the construction sector. Buildings will need to be equipped with the necessary infrastructure to support e-mobility.

State of play

In order to realize the European Renovation Wave, the Commission calls on the European institutions and all stakeholders to engage in a discussion on the strategy. Input from different sectors will now determine in what way the current plans and proposals will still be fine-tuned. Dr2 Consultants is eager to help your business understand the impact of the Renovation Wave and assist you in shaping its outcome by building a sound Public Affairs strategy.

For a full overview of the European Commission’s proposed measures, please see the annex to the Renovation Wave initiative.


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New Belgian federal government’s sustainability policy priorities

After 493 days of negotiations between the political parties in Belgium since the elections in May 2019, the new federal government of the Kingdom of Belgium was sworn in on 1 October 2020 with Alexander De Croo (Open Vld) appointed as new Prime Minister. With a clear difference in engagement compared to Charles Michel’s so-called ‘Swedish coalition”, sustainability – together with employment and solidarity – is one of the key themes in the new coalition agreement, which confirms full commitment to the climate ambitions of the Paris Agreement and the European Green Deal. The ambition is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 and make Belgium climate neutral by 2050.

Another urgent focus of the new government will be addressing the corona crisis and the path to economic recovery by transitioning into a more sustainable economic model. The “Government De Croo” sets out investments and new policies in line with the goals of the European Green Deal, however, it often remains unclear how the goals will be achieved in practice.

Renewable energy sources 

The new Belgian federal government proposes to invest more in the development of renewable energy sources, in particular in wind and solar energy, i.e. by exploring potential additional capacity for offshore wind in the Belgian North Sea. However, environmental organizations already raised their concerns about the lack of measures that would protect nature reserves in the North Sea in case economic activities would be exploited in the area. Additionally, in their pursuit of climate neutrality, public companies are encouraged to develop their own sustainable energy supplies and to gradually replace polluting sources, including nuclear energy.

Sustainable transport 

Railway is within the competency of the federal government, where additional investments are expected with the ambition to create more efficient and faster international (night) train connections to major European cities and consequently make Brussels a truly international train hub. The government is also aiming to double the freight traffic by 2030. In consultation with the regions, the government will put forward proposals on the uptake of zero-emission vehicles (subject to the availability of such affordable vehicles on the Belgian market) including an obligation on zero-emission company vehicles by 2026. Also, together with the regions, this government will strive for an ambitious modal shift and the promotion of Mobility-as-a-Service with a view to a significantly increase the share of sustainable mobility modes.

Circular economy 

The new government – in consultation with the regions – will develop a federal circular economy action plan to significantly reduce the use of raw materials and the material footprint in production and consumption. The federal government will also set best practices and include the principle of a circular economy in its public tenders. In line with the ambitions of the European Green Deal, the Belgian government will also promote reduction of waste, reuse and recycling.

Biodiversity 

To improve the negative impact on the biodiversity, the new federal government will investigate the impact of the ban of certain plastics and push to harmonize these standards at the European level. Furthermore, the government will realize an ambitious reduction plan for pesticides with special attention for Belgian (agricultural) companies in order to avoid any competitive disadvantage. In general, the new government seems to align the national biodiversity strategy much more with the European biodiversity strategy.

Recovery 

The new government is investing €3.2 billion in new policies, out of which  €2.3 billion will be earmarked for social policy. €1 billion is reserved for relaunching the economy following the corona crisis, including investment in a new economy (e.g. more energy-efficient government buildings, the development of the use of sustainable accumulators and batteries, improvement and intensification of freight transport by rail and inland waterways). Furthermore, spin-offs that have a positive effect on sustainable development, more specifically on renewable energy, insulation of buildings, climate-friendly technologies, but also in the field of digitization and mobility will be set as priorities. Further details are set to be announced in the coming weeks and months.

Conclusion 

The new Belgian federal government has without doubt set out ambitious goals to achieve a more sustainable and circular economy for the coming years. Together with the recovery plan following the COVID-19 crisis, this provides new opportunities but also poses challenges for companies to adopt their operational and business environments. It is therefore crucial to stay up-to-date with the latest developments and understand when is the right momentum to proactive influence the political agenda.

Dr2 Consultants offers comprehensive Public Affairs support for companies and organizations that are impacted by Belgian policies – either at federal or at regional level.

Climate ambitions of Flanders and the European Green Deal

On 21 June, in an interview on Flemish news television VRT, First Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, called on Flanders to be more ambitious in the fight against climate neutrality. However, he also said, he was optimistic that Flanders would do its part being a wealthy region, which already has industrial pioneers on board for the European objectives. But what exactly are the Flemish climate objectives, and how are they aligned with the EU plans?

Greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 35%

The Flemish climate policy plan sets out the guidelines for the climate policy for the period 2021-2030. In line with the objective imposed by the EU for Belgium, the plan puts forward the objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Flanders by 35% by 2030 compared to 2005. However, the EU is setting this goal at a reduction level of 50-55% by 2030. The required effort is identified per sector and, where necessary, the greenhouse gas reduction target is converted into sub-targets. In addition, the plan also contains the main measures required to achieve this objective and puts Flanders on the path towards a low-carbon future.

Energy efficiency

Another priority for Flanders is to increase energy efficiency for all sectors. The three largest energy consumption sectors in Flanders are industry, residential and transport sectors. In addition to improving energy efficiency, simultaneous efforts must be made to achieve the strong development of renewable energy. Energy services and technologies will be digitally controlled and intelligently linked. However, this is a huge challenge for Flanders. In the period 2005-2018, emissions decreased by only 5%. The Flemish Government, therefore, intends to focus more on increasing innovation, the persistence of circular economy, parallel federal policies and additional EU instruments (legislative and financial).

Transforming buildings will also play an important role in increasing the energy efficiency in densely populated Flanders. The climate policy plan encourages the renovation of residential buildings, rebuilding after demolition and making the heating installation more sustainable. This is in line with the EU’s ‘Renovation Wave’ initiative, part of the European Green Deal, with the goal to double the annual renovation rate of the existing building stock. The European Commission will publish communication on this in September 2020.

How can Dr2 Consultants advise you

The EU’s ambition is to lead the way towards a more sustainable future. Contrary to the fear that the COVID-19 pandemic would jeopardize the green agenda for the coming years, the Commission has shown its commitment to accelerate the green transition during the recovery phase. This green transition will pose challenges but will also provide opportunities to businesses, like front runners who can introduce their new and innovative approaches in Flanders. With the Dr2 Consultants’ European Green Deal Impact Scan, we will provide you with a comprehensive analysis of how the European Green Deal will affect your business, identifying the opportunities and challenges and highlighting moments to positively influence the policies and legislation. In addition, we are able to provide you with high-end intelligence on the developments in Flanders that allows for a comprehensive overview of relevant files for your business.

Europe’s green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic

On 27 May 2020, the European Commission’s published its historic proposal for the ‘Next Generation EU’ recovery fund worth €750 billion, topping the renewed proposal for a €1.1 trillion Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027. After the approval by the Council of the EU and the European Parliament (16 and 17 December 2020 respectively) of the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027, it is now clear how Green Deal initiatives are incorporated into the Commission’s recovery plans.

Main takeaways                

  • The European Green Deal will be central in Next Generation EU, public recovery investments should follow EU energy and climate priorities;
  • Funding of €10 billion for the Just Transition Fund;
  • The Commission will increase its own resources via an extension of the Emission Trading System (ETS)to the maritime and aviation sectors and a carbon border adjustment mechanism.

Accelerated investments in the green transition

To kick-start the green transition in times of crisis, the European Commission published a Renovation Wave Communication on 14 October 2020. This massive renovation wave of buildings will improve energy efficiency and promote the circular economy, whilst creating local jobs in the coming years.

On top of the renovation wave, the Commission will focus on rolling out renewable energy projects, especially wind and solar. To this end, the Commission published an Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy on 19 November 2020. Moreover, the EU will reinforce its efforts to develop a clean hydrogen economy in Europe, something that is currently mainly promoted by Germany and the Netherlands.

When it comes to clean transport and logistics, the Commission aims to accelerate the production and deployment of sustainable vehicles and vessels as well as alternative fuels. This ambition includes the installation of one million charging points for electric vehicles and a boost for rail travel and clean mobility in European cities and regions, as set out in its Strategy for Smart and Sustainable Mobility published on 9 December 2020.

EU ‘green’ levies to finance recovery

How will this sustainable recovery be financed? The Next Generation EU will raise money by temporarily lifting the own resources ceiling to 2.00% of EU Gross National Income, allowing the Commission to use its strong credit rating to borrow €750 billion on the financial markets. To repay these loans in a fair and shared way, the Commission proposes a number of new own resources. The Commission will for example increase its own resources via an extension of the Emission Trading System (ETS) to the maritime and aviation sectors and a carbon border adjustment mechanism.

Next steps

For the Commission to start borrowing under NextGenerationEU, thus making the instrument operational, the ratification of the new Own Resources Decision by all Member States in line with their constitutional requirements is still needed.

This blog post has been updated with new information on 5 February 2021.

Bold sustainability ambitions in the European Union

Already in July, Ursula von der Leyen made clear that the new European Commission has bold ambitions to tackle climate change: The European Union must become an example of how to live sustainably. In this regard, energy efficiency and circular economy are central to the European way of life.

Frans Timmermans and the European Green Deal

The European Green Deal will be the guide for this ambitious transition, targeting among other things, an emission reduction of 50% to 55% by 2030. This target is about 10-15% higher than the current 2030 climate and energy framework. The Commissioner in charge of the Green Deal will be the Dutchman, Frans Timmermans, who also holds the position of first Executive Vice-President of the next European Commission. In his hearing in the European Parliament on 8 October, he urged the European Parliament to be ambitious and lead by example in the world. To make a real difference with regards to global warming, the EU needs to focus on talks with its global partners, according to Timmermans. He feels like he has got a strong mandate, since according to statistics, 9 out of 10 European citizens want the EU to act decisively on climate change.

Concretely, Timmermans will propose a draft Climate Law within the first 100 days of his mandate. This law will put into legislation the EU’s climate ambitions, but most importantly determine the in between steps to be taken to reach these goals. Timmermans is strongly considering using infringement procedures against Member States not complying with the EU’s upcoming climate laws and its ambitions. Furthermore, the Climate Pact will engage citizens with the EU’s climate policy which would make legislation seem less ‘top-down’.

Virginijus Sinkevičius and the European Circular Economy

Three years after its adoption, the Circular Economy Action Plan can be considered fully completed. Its 54 actions have now been delivered or are being implemented. Together with Timmermans, Lithuanian Virginijus Sinkevičius will however increase the ambitions in the field of the circular economy. Sinkevičius stated during his hearing in the European Parliament on 3 October that if the EU ensured the complete circular use of just four materials (steel, aluminum, cement and plastic) – which goes further than the existing Circular Economy Action Plan – EU’s industrial emissions would be cut in half.

Sinkevičius believes that a new action plan can involve three major areas:

  • First, by examining the ways in which the EU produces and consumes. He mentioned particular further action on eco-design and more focus on reuse and repair. This strand could also integrate circularity in other sectors such as textiles, construction, food and ICT.
  • Second, by helping consumers make informed choices.
  • Third, by moving beyond recycling. Waste should not only be minimized, but prevented completely in areas such as textiles and construction.

Environment Council

Not only the European Commission wants to increase the European ambitions regarding climate change and sustainability, but also the Council realizes their importance. On 4 October, Environment Ministers held a debate on the EU’s strategic long-term vision for a climate neutral economy and adopted conclusions on climate change, which set out the EU’s position for the UN climate change meetings (COP25) in Chile in December 2019. The Council called for action to promote circularity systemically across the value chain, including from the consumer perspective, in key sectors including textiles, transport, food as well as construction and demolition. The Council also stressed the need for more measures on batteries and plastics.