Current policies are not enough to deliver the Paris Agreement ambition to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. Preparation of a European strategy on long-term decarbonisation of the economy is a critical opportunity for a step change. To seize it, we need a strategy which considers the economy as a whole, and draws the lessons for early action and investment in each sector.
The European Commission is currently preparing a long-term strategy on decarbonisation, as a contribution to the next UN climate change conference, at Katowice in December. As part of that process, it has invited stakeholder views on the mitigation opportunities and types of transformation required in each sector. IEEP’s contribution emphasises the need to look, not just sector by sector, but across the economy as a whole, and to think through how the sectors will interact; with an over-programming of total emissions reductions to recognise the likelihood that currently unforeseen challenges will arise. Europe will need to move on from a reliance on incremental price signals to deliver radical change, and identify the areas where clear Governmental signals are needed to provide business certainty and unlock investment. And the strategy will need to prompt early investment in zero-carbon infrastructure, and in carbon sequestration – with the land use implications of climate mitigation becoming an increasingly important focus.
Finally, the strategy needs to prompt public debate about some of the difficult challenges in achieving net zero emissions. Innovation and private sector investment can deliver much more, but they can’t deliver enough. We need to start thinking about policies which can start to align our consumption patterns with the low carbon future we need to build for future generations.