Briefings

The European Low Carbon Transformation: If not now when?

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The European Low Carbon Transformation: If not now when?

Europe at a crossroads

The transition to a low carbon economy is already in motion. International revenues from companies providing goods and services related to climate change already exceed the aerospace and defence sectors and could reach nearly €1.35 trillion by 2020 (see note 1 below). Europe has long recognized the benefits of the low carbon transformation and has played a leadership role at home and internationally by adopting commitments to reduce its emissions ahead of any other major economy.

Now is the time to accelerate the pace of the European low carbon transformation. Massive investments will be made in the next years to upgrade and create infrastructure that will operate for several decades. A critical question is how these investments can move Europe toward a low carbon pathway in the long term. If Europe delays the pace of the decarbonisation agenda, it will miss the most cost-effective opportunity in a generation to clean up its infrastructure.

The recession adds new impetus for accelerating the low carbon transformation in Europe. Lower emissions due to the economic downturn create a historical opportunity to increase the pace of Europe’s decarbonisation. Recent analysis shows that the fall in emissions caused by the recession has reduced the cost of achieving the 30% target well below the estimates for reaching 20% when that target was agreed as EU policy in December 2008 (see note 2 below). Science also calls for faster action: the world has about five years to begin the low carbon industrial transformation required to move to a 2°C world (see note 3 below). The IEA has estimated that every year of delay in climate action will add an extra €336 billion to the clean investment needed globally between 2010 and 2030 in the energy sector.

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