COP26 Reinforces the European Green Deal

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COP26 in Glasgow kept the 1.5-degree target alive and called for an acceleration of climate action, including phasing out fossil fuels, financially supporting climate change adaptation in developing countries and stopping deforestation by 2030. The Paris Agreement Rulebook, finalized in Glasgow, will further facilitate carbon markets and international collaboration on emissions reductions.

The UN conference called for urgent, accelerated climate action, making the European Green Deal more relevant than ever. COP26 confirmed the EU is a frontrunner when it comes to taking action. The EU’s Climate Law, which entered into force in July 2021, and the Fit for 55 legislative package currently under discussion, are key, concrete initiatives to fulfil the 2015 Paris Agreement.

A Focus on Action

“Now that all parties agree to reach climate neutrality by mid-century, let us focus on making this objective come true through ambitious and coordinated initiatives.”  –Bernard Respaut, Chief Executive of the European Copper Institute (ECI).

Although the discourse among governments and multilateral institutions has moved beyond discussion of the need to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, there is still much work ahead to determine how to reach these goals. Collaboration is part of the solution. Transparent, constructive discussions between policymakers, economic actors and civil society are paramount to finding balanced solutions. Cross-industry cooperation will also help in decarbonising the production of goods and services. Decarbonisation cannot happen alone, especially in relation to reducing Scope 3 emissions or enabling access to non-fossil energy sources at affordable prices.

Revision of the EU Emission Trading System

Putting a price on carbon has been an important part of the EU’s policy mix to address climate change for the last 15 years. As the EU reviews its Emission Trading System, a balanced approach is needed that ensures the EU’s climate targets are reached without undermining industry competitiveness.–Anna-Maria Karjalainen, Director Clean Energy Transition at ECI.

As part of the Fit for 55 package, the European Commission proposed a revision of the EU Emission Trading System (ETS), which aims to ensure the sectors covered under the ETS deliver a 61 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030, compared to 43 percent under the current framework.

Every sector must contribute if Europe is to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. However, relocation of industrial production sites to countries with less stringent environmental standards must be avoided, as it would undermine this increased ambition. It is, therefore, crucial that the revision of the EU ETS include robust measures to ensure a level playing field between industry in the EU and elsewhere.

Copper is a key material for technologies enabling the transition to net-zero emissions. It is found in strategic sectors for decarbonisation, such as electrical systems, transport, buildings and industry. Many copper producers and smelters/refiners are making significant efforts to further decarbonise their processes, from using renewable energy to employing electric mining trucks. Significant investments are needed this decade to develop and deploy the innovative solutions essential to carbon neutrality.  It is, therefore, important to make sure that the revision of the EU ETS does not jeopardise these investments.

Revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

 “As noted by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and various stakeholders during COP26, buildings are critical to the transition to a net-zero future, as they are responsible for about 40 percent of the global energy consumption and about one-third of global GHG emissions.” –Quentin de Hults, Director Green and Healthy Buildings at ECI.

In 2020, the European Commission announced its “Renovation Wave” strategy to tackle the challenge of decarbonising the building sector. In December 2021, the Commission will propose a revision of the Renovation Wave’s main legislative instrument: the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). The Commission is expected to require carbon neutrality for new buildings, minimum energy performance standards for existing buildings and a lower carbon footprint for all buildings over their complete life cycle.

The EPBD revision’s timeline and level of ambition will affect opportunities for copper. ECI advocates for an ambitious framework to ensure buildings are contributing to the energy transition and that copper-based solutions participate in maximizing their green potential. Renovation plans are often focused on thermal insulation and heating systems, but plans should also include consideration for electrical installations and digitalisation. Electrical installations are the backbone of decarbonised buildings, connecting other highly efficient and clean copper-intensive solutions, such as heat pumps, photovoltaic panels, smart meters, electric vehicle (EV) charging points, building automation control systems (BACS) and batteries. It is important that these energy-efficient, safe and sustainable solutions are not ignored by the Renovation Wave and the EPBD.

Maximizing Copper’s Potential in the European Green Deal

Copper is the material of choice for enabling a fully digitalised, circular and carbon-neutral society due to its inherent properties, such as resistance against corrosion and chemical agents, mechanical strength and ductility, and electrical and thermal conductivity.” -Aurelio Braconi, Director Material Stewardship at ECI.

Copper is essential to sustainable development. Because it is infinitely recyclable, both primary (mined) and secondary (recycled) copper can be used to meet demand. These facts make copper a fundamental ingredient for a sustainable world and a green and climate-neutral EU.

However, a proper legislative framework must materialise in the EU as the Green Deal unfolds. EU laws on waste, products and chemicals must create the necessary conditions to fully leverage copper’s superior properties. Waste legislation should ensure higher collection rates of end-of-life products, as well as a higher quantity and cleanliness of the metals recovered from waste. To facilitate this legislation, the next generation of EU product law should require products to be fully recyclable. Finally, regulators must apply life cycle thinking to the management of chemicals, accounting for health and environmental safety via a risk-management approach, as well as the value these chemicals bring to society.

In the end, a balanced approach is necessary to have a holistic framework that reconciles chemical management with climate change and environment and health policy. This framework must support an integrated use of primary and secondary resources and combine both energy and material efficiency in the green transition.

Through such initiatives, the European Green Deal will continue to be a leading catalyst and facilitator of climate action to reach the goals set out in the Paris Agreement and at COP26.

15 December 2021

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