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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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Renovation Wave: opportunities for the construction sector

Dr2 Consultants’ Breakfast Meetings: Key Takeaways

Cities have an important role to play in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and in reaching the goals of the European Green Deal. In its Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, the European Commission calls on cities to be at the forefront of the transition towards more sustainability, and it sets itself the goal of achieving 100 European climate-neutral cities by 2030. In this context, Dr2 Consultants organized a series of 30-minute breakfast meetings on sustainable and smart mobility in European cities. During these sessions, Dr2 Consultants has been engaged in lively one-on-ones with several European and business stakeholders to discuss topical subjects in EU urban mobility, especially focusing on the challenges that cities need to overcome to become climate neutral and stimulate automated and shared mobility.

General takeaways

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a major challenge for everyone, and will likely impact the way people live, and in turn mobility trends. During lockdowns, people have witnessed less congested and less polluted cities, and will want the benefits to remain in the post-COVID period as well. On the other hand, many urban inhabitants have felt smothered in cities during lockdown and are now looking to move away, especially with the increase of teleworking allowing them to live further away from work. This also has the potential to impact mobility trends.

Zuzana Pucikova – Head of EU Public Affairs at Uber

On the industry side, there is a role to play in offering solutions for smarter and more sustainable mobility in cities, and especially in offering alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles. In this sense, the European Commission’s approach in the European Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy recognizing ride-hailing as key, safe and sustainable mobility solutions as well as clarifying legal status of ride-hailing platforms offers the right framework for the development of ride-sharing companies, such as Uber.

The work of transit agencies has been especially important, shifting from a role of transport provider to mobility manager. The pandemic is an opportunity to integrate and complement transit networks with services such as Uber, with authorities now taking a holistic approach to making transport more accessible, equitable and efficient. This enables them to be much more ‘nimble’, and address the challenges of today and tomorrow;

Given the urgent need to reduce transport emissions and to drive green recovery, Uber committed to becoming climate neutral by 2030 across the US, Europe and Canada, and by 2040 for the rest of the world. Across seven key European cities it aims to become 50% electric already by 2025. However, in order for transport to become more sustainable, we need to reduce the reliance of households on private cars.

Tom Berendsen – Member of European Parliament for CDA/EPP

In order to boost the uptake of smart and sustainable mobility solutions within cities, the EU should provide the right set of regulations and a framework for businesses, establishing product standards. The EU level is also where best practices should be shared.

The most efficient way to stimulate sustainable and smart mobility within cities is to adopt a bottom-up approach, focusing on city planning. Indeed, cities are best placed to know the needs of their inhabitants. Therefore, when preparing regulations, the EU should listen to cities’ experiences and ideas. Moreover, traditional modes of transport will need to cohabit with new “smart” systems of mobility. To ensure a smooth cohabitation, there is a need for test areas that can only be implemented within cities, to learn from the problems raised there and take the appropriate measures at European level.

To ensure the mass uptake of more sustainable mobility by citizens, for example of electric vehicles, it is necessary to provide affordable and easily accessible infrastructures (e.g. sufficient charging points). The development of such infrastructures are projects of common European interest, as we need to ensure that the knowledge and skills needed exist within the EU, and that we are not dependent of foreign actors.

Isabelle Vandoorne – Deputy Head of Unit B.3 at DG MOVE

The European Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy has the double objective of contributing to the objectives of the European Green Deal through the greening of the transport sector, and of digitalizing mobility. The Strategy adopts a holistic approach, considering not only urban mobility but also peri-urban and rural areas and how to connect them. Especially considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the future of work, which will see telework more widely accepted, and office areas maybe displaced from inner cities to peripheries. In order to improve commuting, proper infrastructures are needed, including functioning multimodal hubs.

In ten years’ time, cities will be more livable. The decrease in number of cars and traffic will leave more space for inhabitants and for other modes of transport.

Regarding the uptake of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), the Commission will organize a forum, in a format similar to the Digital Transport and Logistic Forum (DTLF), to bring all stakeholders to the table.

As mentioned in previous meetings, urban planning is at the core of sustainable and smart mobility. That is why the Commission is in the process of revising its 2013 Urban Mobility Package, to enhance its scope. The Urban Mobility Package includes guidelines from experts on the overall development of urban plans for mobility, as well topical guidelines of relevant arising topics, such as MaaS.

One of the key aspects to boost the digitalization of the transport sector is the creation of a European Mobility Data Space, whose components are described in the European Data Strategy. In order to deliver in time (2021-2022) on its commitments, DG MOVE has reorganized its internal digital task force to coordinate with all units within the DG, in order to adopt a common approach. Moreover, a special expert group has been created to reflect on the EU Mobility Data Space, which has the particularity of covering a variety of sub-mobility data spaces for all the different modes of transport. DG MOVE, in collaboration with DG CNECT, will elaborate interfaces to make these bubbles interact with each other.

Finally, the Commission, and especially Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, have always had the ambition to ensure that the skills and jobs needed to develop technologies exist within the EU, so that the bloc is not dependent on external actors. This is always taken into consideration by the Commission when proposing legislation. The Commission relies on the excellence of EU industries, notably through partnership programmes, such as Horizon Europe.

Daan van der Tas – Project Leader for Mobility-as-a-Service and Shared Mobility, City of Amsterdam

  • Amsterdam, who is evolving like an international city, is witnessing an important increase of activity in its narrow streets, with an ever-growing supply of different modes of transport. Rethinking mobility systems is relevant not only in terms of clean air but also considering the impact of mobility on public spaces. The main goal of the city of Amsterdam is to reclaim public spaces from cars and alleviate pressure on roadways, for example by expanding the use of its waterways, which are currently mostly used for leisure.
  • With regards to micromobility, Amsterdam is being very cautious, considering that when e-mobility solutions first appeared a few years ago, the city was completely overrun by e-bikes flooding the streets. Amsterdam has now re-introduced e-scooters and is slowly reintroducing e-bikes. In Amsterdam, this needs a special adaptation since most people already own a bike, if not several.
  • In cities of the future, there will be much less room for cars, private or shared, whether for circulation or parking, as we will see an increase of micromobility solutions. Transport systems will also be increasingly digitalized. Additionally, all mobility within Amsterdam will be CO2-neutral by 2030.

  • Shared mobility services raise several challenges, but they can be easily resolved. For example, Amsterdam is working on resolving the conflict between taxis and private ride-hailing platforms such as Uber by developing virtual queuing solutions. Additionally, although micromobility solutions raise certain criticism (safety issues, being discarded anywhere in the streets and taking up space on sidewalks), their advantages outweigh the disadvantages if they can prevent polluting cars or motorbikes being purchased and used.
  • As the mobility system will be increasingly digitalized, data-sharing will become increasingly important. Data will also be needed to understand how mobility systems are running. A mutual understanding will need to be found with industry partners to encourage them to share their data. If an understanding can’t be found, cities will have to rely on legislation, including legislation passed at EU level.
  • Amsterdam is at the forefront of developing Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), and has started several pilot projects in the city, notably the MaaS Amsterdam Zuidas, which allows people to reach Amsterdam’s large financial and business district south of the city with MaaS solutions. The city is also investigating a country-wide permit for ride-sharing companies so they can offer rides across cities.

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 transport clients in navigating the EU ecosystem. Would you like to know more about how your organization can make the most out of the upcoming regulations included in the European Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy? Feel free to reach out and discuss opportunities over a (virtual) coffee.

You might also be interested in:

Smart mobility within cities: benefits and challenges

The future of the EU transport sector (2021-2024) – four trends

Key takeaways of the first Dr2 Consultant’s Breakfast Meeting with Uber

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.

Smart mobility within cities: benefits and challenges

Cities have an important role to play in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and in reaching the goals of the European Green Deal, since cities are responsible for about 72% of all greenhouse gas emissions, a considerable part of which comes from urban transport. In its Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, the European Commission calls on cities to be at the forefront of the transition towards more sustainability, and it sets the goal of achieving 100 European climate-neutral cities by 2030, with a big role for innovative digital solutions. Dr2 Consultants will take you through the key trends and challenges in the transition to smart and sustainable mobility in European cities.

Why does smart mobility in cities matter?

The idea behind the concept of smart mobility is to limit the use, or replace altogether, privately owned gas-powered vehicles by providing easily accessible, cheap, and sustainable alternatives, as well as using technology and digitalization, specifically Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), to collect, process and spread information in order to manage mobility more efficiently. The main objectives of smart mobility are to reduce traffic congestion and air and noise pollution, increase safety, improve transfer speed, and reduce transfer costs between different modes of transportation. Smart solutions for mobility are also recognized as essential to further decarbonize the transport sector and reach the ambitious emission reduction goals the EU institutions have set.

In practice, cities have a variety of options to implement smart mobility with solutions fitting for their residents. The concept of smart mobility promotes a wide range of alternative modes of transportation, from privately owned or shared bicycles to electric scooters, buses, metros, taxis, car-sharing, and ridesharing. For example, the city of Paris has bet on the development of a widespread bike-sharing system, with 15,000 electric or regular bicycles available to users all throughout the city.

Dr2 Consultants recognizes that digitization and especially data management are a big part of smart mobility, allowing to smoothen traffic as well as offering integrated solutions to users. For example, some cities collect data to provide real-time information allowing travelers to adapt their route to avoid congested areas. Other examples include connected traffic lights adjusting their timing to respond to real-time traffic or connected cars able to identify and direct the driver to the nearest available parking spot.

Heightened ambition

The European Commission’s recently published Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility proposes several measures to make the transition to carbon-neutral smart cities a reality. The Strategy recognizes the need for clearer guidance in mobility management and urban planning, to adapt the shifts in transportation habits as well as provide the most adequate sustainable mobility options. In it, the European Commission identifies several concepts which can be added to cities’ policy toolboxes to decarbonize urban mobility in a smart way.

The strategy encourages the development of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) as an alternative to the use of private cars. Dr2 Consultants has identified MaaS as a very important area in the field of digitization of mobility, as it integrates different forms of transport into a unique digital service, easily accessible on-demand. It provides, within a single application and through a single payment channel, access to various forms of transport such as public transport, ride- or bike-sharing, and car rental. The city of Helsinki has for example made available to its inhabitants the Whim app, which allows to plan a trip and pay for all modes of public and private transportation existing within the city, from train to bus, to carshare and bikeshare.

Additionally, the Commission notes the increased use of shared and collaborative mobility services as alternative to private cars or packed public transport, such as shared cars, shared bikes, or ride-hailing, through intermediary platforms like Uber or Lime. Shared mobility and micro mobility devices currently remain highly unregulated and raise important safety issues.  To ensure the safety of such services and the level playing field between intermediaries, the Commission will put forward measures on on-demand passenger transport and ride-hailing platforms. Moreover, the Commission will issue guidelines to support the safe use of micro mobility devices such as e-bikes, scooters, or e-skateboards.

Finally, the growth of the e-commerce sector, even more so due to COVID-19, has seen an increase in deliveries. This raises the needs for multimodal logistics solutions, to avoid unnecessary delivery runs and congestion. According to the Commission, cities’ urban plans should accelerate the deployment of zero-emission solutions, such as cargo bikes or automated deliveries through drones. For cities crossed by rivers and other waterways, those should be used to relieve traffic congestion pressure from streets and roads. In Amsterdam, for example, the municipality uses electric boats to transport goods across the city, using the city’s wide network of canals. Delivery service provider DHL also uses the canals to facilitate deliveries, thanks to floating distribution centers.

Challenges in implementing smart mobility solutions within cities

Even though the advantages of the rollout of smart and sustainable mobility in cities are clear, there are still several challenges that need to be overcome to make the most out of the transformation of the mobility system.

Users

However, Dr2 Consultants recognizes that the biggest obstacle to the introduction of smart mobility solutions remains the users themselves. Complaints when municipalities decide to reduce speed limits or turn streets into pedestrian areas, are frequent. Especially when the implementation of smart mobility strategies requires significant changes to cities’ infrastructure, from bike lanes to electric charging points, which ask for heavy investments and public work, inhabitants seem less acceptant.

Security and Privacy

Smart mobility resting mostly on collection and use of data to feed Intelligent Transport Systems, raise the usual concern for security and privacy. Therefore, properly securing such systems is extremely important to avoid data breaches or misuse of data collected. Ensuring their security also contributes to increasing citizens’ trust in data-sharing, ensuring a widespread collection of data necessary to have the most up-to-date and relevant information, and in turn provide the most precise service.

Deployment of 5G networks

Additionally, the increased automation needed for smart mobility solutions relies on the widespread deployment of wireless mobile telecommunication systems, and especially newly introduced 5G systems, capable of supporting extremely high level of interconnections and uninterrupted data exchanges. The deployment of 5G networks is not equal within territories, and said networks also need to be properly secured. The Commission aims to tackle these challenges in its 5G Action Plan (published last year).

Accessibility

Increased digitalization of mobility also needs to consider accessibility, keeping user demand in mind when designing new urban plans and innovations, for elderly and disabled people. Not everyone knows, can or has the devices needed to use an app to plan their trip or book multimodal tickets. If accessibility is not at the core of urban planning, the solutions and innovations proposed risk not being widely deployed, limiting the potential benefits.

Dr2 Consultants’ Breakfast Meetings

Between 3 February and 17 March 2021, Dr2 Consultants organized a series of Breakfast Meetings on sustainable and smart mobility. During these lively one-on-ones several European and business stakeholders shared their vision on EU urban mobility challenges. Our guest speakers included Zuzana Púčiková (Head of EU Public Policy at Uber), MEP Tom Berendsen (NL, EPP; member of the EP’s Regional Development Committee and substitute in the Transport Committee), Isabelle Vandoorne (Deputy Head of Unit DG MOVE B.4 on Sustainable and Intelligent Transport) and Daan van der Tas (Lead Mobility as a Service & Shared Mobility at the Municipality of Amsterdam). You can read the main takeaways from our Breakfast Meetings here.

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Next Generation EU and National Recovery Plans

On 27 May 2020, the European Commission proposed a temporary recovery instrument called Next Generation EU (NGEU), meant to address the unprecedented crisis caused by COVID-19. Currently, Member States are rapidly formulating National Recovery and Resilience Plans on the basis of the European Commission’s recommendations before the deadline of 30 April 2021.

Next Generation EU: The basics

The Next Generation EU is an envelope of €750 billion representing the largest stimulus package ever financed by the EU and is designed to boost the recovery of EU economy on the basis of two clear targets:

  • 37% for green investments and reforms. Each Member State will have to include a minimum of 37% of expenditure related to climate and other environmental objectives.
  • 20% for digital investments and reforms. Each Member State will have to include a minimum of 20% of expenditure to foster the digital transition.

To achieve the targets outlined above, the Member States have until 30 April 2021 to advance a National Recovery and Resilience Plan. All Member States are now at work to set up their national recovery and resilience plans, with a constant activity following the guidance provided by the European Commission (I and II). The Member States will also integrate their recovery and resilience plans with the annual national reform programmes in line with the European Semester objectives.

The following weeks and months are a crucial period, and Dr2 Consultants strongly advises businesses to engage with their national governments and make sure that the draft national plans effectively address their specific digital and sustainability needs. Two concrete case examples in Belgium and Italy which are in the process of formulating their plans provide a vivid example of current and future opportunities for businesses to intervene in the sustainability sector.

Dr2 Consultants is expertly placed to assist your company in identifying the opportunities in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans. Our expertise in sustainability and digital topics neatly overlaps with proposed activities at national and European level.

National Recovery and Resilience Plans

Belgium

Regarding Next Generation EU in Belgium, the different governments have only recently (11 January 2021) found an agreement on the distribution of the allocated €5.9 billion from the Recovery and Resilience Facility between the federal and federated entities.

National Recovery Plan: Distribution of the allocated €5.9 billion from the Recovery and Resilience Facility between the federal and federated entities in Belgium

Distribution of the allocated €5.9 billion from the Recovery and Resilience Facility between the federal and federated entities in Belgium

Owing to its complex state structure, Belgium has not yet officially presented its National Recovery and Resilience Plan at the time of writing, which has to be agreed between the six different governments. However, it is clear that the plan will centre around five key themes:

  1. Sustainability;
  2. Digital transformation;
  3. Mobility;
  4. Social issues;
  5. Productivity.

Within the sustainability pillar, the plan will have a major focus on energy renovation of buildings, renewable energy sources, biodiversity and circular economy activities. The Belgian government(s) are expected to present their shortlist of projects shortly which will provide (industrial) stakeholders with the opportunity to elaborate on their potential involvement in concrete projects. Belgian companies which are active in the above mentioned sectors are thus highly encouraged to seek close contact with the cabinet of Minister for Recovery, Thomas Dermine.

Italy

On 12 January 2021, the Italian Government has approved the Piano Nazionale di Ripresa e Resilienza (PNRR) which has a budget of €224 billion and outlines the trajectory that the country will follow to achieve the goals of Next Generation EU.

Based on 6 missions spanning from digitalization to green transition and mobility, the PNRR covers various projects to make Italy a more modern, more digital, more sustainable and more inclusive country. The mission 2 called “Green Revolution and Ecological Transition” is at the core of the plan, envisaging to earmark €68.9 billion to four components:

  1. Green enterprise and circular economy;
  2. Energy transition and sustainable local mobility;
  3. Energy efficiency and building requalification;
  4. Protection and enhancement of land and water resources.

Mission 2 is predominantly oriented towards the pursuit of environmental sustainability, but it also has considerable digitization content. The investment actions will be accompanied by specific reforms aimed at promoting the energy transition and the use of renewable sources, providing the necessary infrastructure for their integration into the national electricity system.

The interventions will be consistent with the European Circular Economy Action Plan, with the aim of reducing the net production of waste and the landfill of all processed waste, and will ultimately contribute to the achievement of the EU objectives, made even more challenging by the review of existing legislation at European level (“Fit for 55 package”, which aims to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030).

The PNRR is currently under revision of the Italian Parliament and will undergo a final check with the local institutions and the social partners. The Government will also publish a governance model that identifies responsibilities for its implementation, ensures coordination with relevant ministers and monitors progress on spending.

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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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Updated EU climate plans: opportunities for businesses at national level

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.

Updated EU climate plans: opportunities for businesses at national level

Ambitious, achievable and beneficial for Europe” is how European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, characterized her updated EU climate plans. She unveiled her proposal to cut CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030 during her first State of the Union Speech on 16 September. New measures to reach the objective will affect all sectors of the economy from transport, construction to energy. It accelerates the transition to a climate-neutral Europe by 2050, as laid down in the overarching European Green Deal. Therefore, the European Commission is also calling on Member States to step up their efforts. The updated climate targets on a European level provide a unique framework and opportunity for businesses to shape and be part of the green transition at national level.

Stepping up our climate efforts: “We can do it!”

The Commission based the increased 55% target on an assessment of the National Energy and Climate Plans for 2021-2030 (NECPs). The NECPs are ten-year plans, in which EU Member States outline how they will address climate-related issues such as energy efficiency, taking up renewables, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, interconnections and research & innovation. The evaluation of these national climate plans on EU-level showed that the EU is to surpass the current 40% reduction target, enabling the increase of the target to 55% by 2030. Or in Von der Leyen’s words: “we can do it!” As this demands a further increase of energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy, the Commission will present new proposals by June 2021:

  • The Renovation Wave: the renovation of public and private buildings to improve their energy efficiency;
  • Revision of the Energy Efficiency Directive: the alignment of the binding measures that limit energy consumption with the new climate targets;
  • Guidance for the Energy Efficiency First Principle: ensuring energy saving is a priority in policy-making and investment.

In addition to the EU-level evaluation of the National Energy and Climate Plans, the Commission will carry out an assessment of Member States’ individual plans in October, as part of the State of the Energy Union Report, expected by the end of the year. The assessment will evaluate if Member States are on track to achieve the current 40% and proposed 55% emission reduction targets, looking at areas such as energy efficiency and the share of renewables in the national energy mix as mentioned above.

Opportunities to shape the national green recovery

Expectedly, Member States will have to bring their National Energy and Climate Plans in line with the new emission reduction target, if it is approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. Although the new objective may look challenging, combined with the Recovery and Resilience Facility, it offers a unique opportunity for businesses to become part of the green recovery in their countries. The Recovery and Resilience Facility is at the core of the Next Generation EU plan and offers an unprecedented €672.5 billion of loans and grants to Member States to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. The budget is to be spent in line with the (increased) European climate ambitions. In order to benefit from the budget, Member States draft their national recovery plans outlining how these will contribute to criteria including environmental sustainability.

European Green Deal Impact Scan

As a result, a momentum arises for businesses to help national governments shape a sustainable recovery. Additionally, companies can benefit from European investment in the green ‘flagship areas’ that are to be included in the national plans. These focus areas include the development of renewables, energy efficiency of buildings and sustainable charging and refueling technologies for transport. With the deadline for preliminary drafts of Member States’ national recovery plans set on 15 October, now is the moment to deliver input.

Next steps

The Climate Law Regulation was proposed by the European Commission in March 2020 and is currently being discussed in the European Parliament and Council of the EU. The institutions will need to come to an agreement and approve the 55% emission reduction target. Next to that, Member states are invited to submit their preliminary draft plans under the Recovery and Resilience Facility as of 15 October 2020. The final deadline for submission is 30 April 2021.

With the first deadline for the National Recovery and Resilience Plans fast approaching, it is important to timely deliver input in order to have your ideas heard. If you would like more information on the EU climate plans, or other files that could impact your business, contact Dr2 Consultants. Also, visit our Sustainability webpage for more information.

 

 

EU flag

Back to work: EU legislative proposals – 2020 outlook

As the summer recess is coming to an end, the European Commission will start preparing the EU legislative proposals that are still in the pipeline for 2020, according to the work program. As the second semester of the year will be a packed one, it is key to timely prepare input in order to have your priorities heard.

Following our blog on the EU initiatives that were open for feedback over summer, Dr2 Consultants now guides you through the main remaining proposals for 2020 in the transport, sustainability and digital sector. You can find these below in that particular order.

Transport up-to-speed with the new decade

Emerging developments such as the decarbonization of transport, digitalization and the global COVID-19 pandemic have stressed the need to review the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) Regulation. The TEN-T policy aims to develop and implement a Europe-wide infrastructure network linking ports, highways, airports and railways. With the upcoming revision of this EU legislation, the European Commission aims to bring TEN-T up-to-speed with the ongoing green and digital transitions. The Commission is expected to put renewed emphasis on the strengthening of urban nodes, the update of infrastructure requirements, and the alignment of the TEN-T policy with the EU’s environmental policies.

The Commission is currently finalizing the evaluation of the TEN-T Regulation. The different modes of transport are still invited to contribute to dedicated case studies in the course of September. The European Parliament is currently preparing an own-initiative report on the TEN-T policy. The Transport & Tourism committee will discuss the draft report on 3 September. The Commission is expected to publish a roadmap and a public consultation later this year. A legislative proposal is foreseen for summer 2021.

In addition to the TEN-T, the Commission is expected to publish the EU’s Strategy on Sustainable and Smart Mobility. With this strategy, the Commission intends to adopt a comprehensive strategy to reduce transport-related greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2050, and to ensure the transport sector is fit for a clean, digital and modern economy. A public consultation has been opened in the summer and is open for feedback until 23 September.

Visit our Transport page.

Green energy and sustainable production

The energy-focused sibling of TEN-T will also be subject to a revision this year. The Trans-European Energy Network (TEN-E) Regulation aims to link European electricity, gas and oil infrastructure into a single network, consisting of nine corridors. TEN-E focus areas are smart grids, electric highways and the cross-border carbon dioxide network. This EU legislation is considered to be instrumental to realize the renewable energy objectives across the Union, for example in stimulating the hydrogen economy. The Commission will come up with a legislative proposal for a revised TEN-E regulation.

European Green Deal Impact Scan

In addition, several EU legislative proposals will be initiated that will have an impact on producers. Proposals that tackle packaging waste, deforestation and industrial emissions are currently in the pipeline. Striving towards a circular economy, the Commission will promote waste reduction by reviewing the Packaging Directive. This may include improved design standards and increased recycled content in packaging materials. Possibly, packaging design standards will also change as a result of the Deforestation Regulation, which could include labelling requirements and verification schemes to increase the transparency of supply chains. Finally, the Industrial Emissions Directive may require additional sectors, such as farms and extractive industries, to implement available sustainable production techniques. Public consultations on the three initiatives are upcoming this year, and the respective legislative proposals are scheduled for 2021.

Visit our Sustainability page.

Trustworthy AI and shared data spaces

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly affecting our society. Applications can bring about revolutionary changes in healthcare, governance, research, production and many other areas of our society. On the one hand, opportunities such as the precision of diagnosis, the prevention of car accidents and more efficient farming are promising. On the other hand, AI carries several potential risks, including racial, gender or other discriminatory biases, infringements of our privacy and reduced governance accountability.

Amidst global competition, the European Commission aims to distinguish the EU approach with its emphasis on European values. The EU strategy must embrace opportunities, while protecting citizens from potential harmful impacts. The European approach for trustworthy artificial intelligence will propose ethical requirements for AI, following the general strategy presented in the White Paper, stakeholder consultations and the draft guidelines presented by the High-Level Expert Group on AI in 2018. The initiative will be a review of the draft guidelines, on which stakeholders will be invited to deliver input through the upcoming roadmap.

Another aspect of the EU digital strategy is the regulation of the growing volume of data. Data can give valuable insights that drive innovation in areas such as medicine, mobility and policy-making. The creation of common European data spaces will allow citizens, businesses and organizations to access non-personalized data from different Member States, pooled across different key sectors. European privacy rules (GDPR) and competition law continue to be applied. Although the roadmap has already closed, input can be delivered through the upcoming public consultation. Adoption by the College of Commissioners is expected by the end of 2020.

Visit our Digital & Tech page.

Next steps 

Commission proposals on the EU legislative initiatives mentioned above are expected by the end 2020, or in the course of 2021. As the Commission is preparing for a proposal-packed final quarter, it is key to reach out early to have your interests set on the agenda.

Want to know more about the upcoming initiatives, COVID-19, or other files that might affect your business? Please contact Dr2 Consultants to see what we can do for you.

Summer recess – what’s next?

As EU leaders agreed on a new proposal for the new Multiannual Financial Framework and the Recovery Plan on 21 July, the European Parliament was given good food for thought over its summer recess. However, the new long-term budget is not the only priority on the EU agenda. The Commission is already chewing on a series of proposals to be expected later this year and in 2021. In fact, now is the moment to deliver input on some key, planned legislative proposals, as the Commission launched a series of public consultations that are open until after summer. Let’s have a look what is next after the 2020 summer recess.

Transport: smarter and greener

The green and digital transition as the twin priorities of the Von der Leyen Commission are also reflected in the upcoming transport initiatives. To deliver the ambitious European Green Deal climate neutrality objective, the mobility sector needs a 90% emission reduction by 2050. The Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility, expected towards the end of the year, will be the overarching strategy for the delivery of the twin transitions in this area. Stakeholders can contribute to the public consultation until 23 September.

Expectedly, the strategy will include the integration of alternative fuels, in line with the recently published hydrogen strategy that already outlines a pathway for the deployment until 2050 in all modes. The strategy is also complemented by the upcoming FuelEU initiatives for the maritime and aviation sector. The FuelEU Maritime initiative, aimed at boosing alternative fuels in shipping specifically, is open for feedback until 10 September. The public consultation on ReFuelEU Aviation, initially planned for the first quarter of 2020, is still to be expected ahead of the Commission proposal this year.

Sustainability: a bigger role for tax

Taxation will become a more important instrument for the Commission to align consumer choices and business investments with its climate targets. On 23 July, public consultations on both the revision of the Energy Taxation Directive and the creation of a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism were launched. Having been unchanged since its adoption in 2003, the Energy Taxation Directive will be subject to a thorough review. The exact changes are yet to be determined based on the consultation outcome, however, what is clear is that it will include a correction of the minimum taxation rates for electricity, gas, and coal, as well as a tax exemption reduction for fossil fuels. The proposal, which is part of the European Green Deal, is scheduled for June 2021. The consultation is open for feedback until 14 October.

In addition, the Commission proposes a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism to prevent ‘carbon leakage’. This ‘CO2-tax’ internalizes emissions in the price of a product, so production does not shift to countries with lower climate ambitions. The exact instrument is still to be determined, and could take the form of an EU-wide import tax or an extension of the Emmission Trading System (ETS). The latter has already seen critical responses, as this may not be in line with WTO rules. The Commission plans to scrutinize the issue and present a proposal later this year. The revenues would directly contribute to the ‘own resources’ of the EU budget for the next seven years that would help finance the new €750 billion recovery plan. Stakeholders can deliver their contribution to the plan until 28 October.

Digital: fit for the COVID-19 reality

Following its pledge to make Europe ‘fit for the digital age’, the Digital Education Action Plan and the Digital Services Act are also high on the Commission’s agenda. The Digital Education Action Plan, due to be published in September this year, will be part of the Next Generation EU program. The COVID-19 crisis has seen schools and universities close their doors and increasingly turn to remote, digital teaching. The Action Plan aims to promote high-quality and inclusive education and training in the post-COVID digital reality. Feedback on the proposal can be delivered until 4 September.

Part of the Next Generation EU financing is the digital tax element of the Digital Services Act, to be presented by the end of 2020. The Digital Services Act is an attempt to regulate online platforms when it comes to illegal goods, product safety, political advertising and offensive content. The initiative may face intense debates before its approval, as previous attempts to implement an EU-wide Digital Taxation mechanism have so far been unsuccessful. The consultation remains open until 8 September.

Next steps

The Commission’s proposals on the above initiatives are expected before the end of 2020, except for the Energy Taxation Directive which is due in June next year. From the above-mentioned public consultations, it is evident that the European Commission is gearing up for a busy end-of-year period. Early (proactive) action is desirable for stakeholders that aim to represent their interests on these files, which will also be closely examined by the European Parliament and Council of the EU in 2021 (and later).

Want to know more about the upcoming initiatives, COVID-19, or other files that might affect your business? Please contact Dr2 Consultants to see what we can do for you.