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The European Green Deal was officially launched by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in December 2019. Its goal: for the whole of the European continent to be climate neutral by 2050. With the circular economy included in the Green Deal, it is certainly to be welcomed that the efforts of this sector have finally been acknowledged and appreciated. The pioneering role that the recycling sector in general – and REMONDIS, one of the leading recycling businesses, in particular – have been playing to promote qualitative growth by conserving resources and combating climate change is increasingly being recognised. This is a role that they have been playing for many years now, serving businesses and private individuals and protecting the environment. The recycling industry’s innovations and technologies are also effective as they have a positive impact on all of the sectors that are relevant for the Green Deal to be a success. Starting with the development of closed loop concepts for the mobility sector, to solutions for generating renewable energy, all the way through to producing recycled raw materials for industrial and construction firms. The message is clear: if the Green Deal is to succeed, then efforts across the EU to grow and improve recycling activities must be further intensified.
EU Circular Economy Action Plan
“It [Green Deal] resets the Commission’s commitment to tackling climate and environmental-related challenges that is this generation’s defining task.” This was one of the opening statements made by the new Commission in its official communication when it launched one of the biggest projects to be faced by this generation just two weeks after taking office. The name has been adopted from the American “New Deal”, a series of economic and social reforms that were enforced by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1938 in response to the Great Depression.
A first proposal for a European climate law was announced as a legal framework for the Green Deal at the beginning of March. This aims to enshrine the 2050 climate neutrality objective in legislation. The commitments put forward by the EU Commission are certainly ambitious:
of European CO2 emissions are directly linked to materials management
The Commission has not yet set out concrete plans for all the different sectors to describe how the increased climate objectives can be reached in practical terms. Everyone is in agreement, however, when it comes to the subject of the circular economy: it is seen as being indispensable for achieving European climate neutrality by 2050. One of the objectives put forward in its EU Circular Economy Action Plan, which was presented during a press conference at the beginning of March, is for the volumes of municipal waste in the EU to have been halved within a decade.
In the document, the EU Commission underlines the fact that 66% of CO2 emissions are directly linked to materials management. For this reason, the circular economy is one of the main drivers of climate neutrality and should be included in the national climate action plans that member states are obliged to draw up as part of the Paris Agreement. The significance of the way waste is handled is also highlighted in the introduction to its new strategy. “To absolutely decouple growth from resource use, we must change the way we produce, market, consume and trade, and the way we deal with waste.”
Many of the points that the EU has now specifically put on its agenda correspond with those that REMONDIS has been initiating and implementing for many years now. It, too, has been calling for such a development across Europe in position papers.
According to official sources, the circular economy with its new waste management and recycling laws will make up half of all EU efforts to become climate neutral by 2050. It is, therefore, a fundamental pillar for the European Green Deal – one that has been given the highest priority
Public and business life began shutting down while we were putting together this issue of REMONDIS aktuell as the Covid-19 pandemic spread around the world. CO2 emissions have dropped temporarily as industrial businesses consume less energy and the number of trips made by plane and car has dropped dramatically. However, the first countries had already begun to slowly ease the massive restrictions that had been imposed on their populations by the time this issue was sent to print. Politicians, business leaders and doctors expect public life to eventually return to normal – certainly by the time herd immunity has been achieved. This will be the moment when it will become clear to all that the problem we have been facing with climate change had simply been put off for a while. It is and will continue to be the biggest challenge that humanity must overcome. REMONDIS, being one of the leading water and recycling businesses, will continue to put forward its solutions and play an important role as part of the Green Deal.
On 14 April 2020, the German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina, published a number of recommendations, one of these being that measures taken to protect the environment and tackle climate change should not be neglected after the Covid-19 crisis. In fact, it recommended the exact opposite. The economy must be kick-started so that it can grow again. This should be “guided more firmly than before by considerations of sustainability, not least because this offers vast potential for economic growth”, the scientists write in their paper. “We must continue down the path we set out for ourselves and the EU Commission’s “Green Deal” must, in particular, be implemented,” commented paleoclimatologist, Gerald Haug.
A number of people from the world of politics and business are calling for the environmental restrictions on industrial businesses to be eased or postponed after the coronavirus crisis – a suggestion the experts at Leopoldina most definitely reject.
During her speech at the XIth Petersberg Climate Dialogue at the end of April, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel also stressed the need to keep climate protection in mind when taking steps to restart the economy following the Covid-19 emergency. “We face difficult discussions about distribution,” she said. “It will therefore be all the more important, when launching economic stimulus packages, that we keep climate protection very firmly in view.” One of the biggest positives to come out of the coronavirus crisis could be, therefore, the restructuring of the economy to reflect greater sustainability by targeting investments towards climate-neutral production and logistics.