BRUSSELS – The European Union’s biggest business leaders threw their weight behind a plan to make the bloc climate-neutral, a commitment that could be adopted at a leaders’ summit this week.
“Europe has the technology and the political will to take the lead in transitioning towards a climate-neutral, resource-saving sustainable future,” the European Round Table for Industry (ERT) said in a policy document released Sunday. “The global environmental and long-term economic benefits are obvious, while the cost of global inaction would be intolerable,” said the group, which counts household names such as L’Oreal SA’s Jean-Paul Agon, Siemens AG’s Joe Kaeser and BP PLC’s Helge Lund among its members.
The EU is debating this week plans to zero out its greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of this century. Barring pushback by a small group of countries led by Poland, EU leaders will formally commit to the target when they meet in Brussels on Thursday. On Wednesday, the bloc’s executive arm will present a road map of the regulatory and legislative steps toward this ambitious objective — the so-called European Green Deal.
Ahead of the announcements, ERT members said the EU should seek to garner global support for the transition, including via a global carbon pricing scheme. In the absence of such an accord, the bloc must adopt protective measures “to avoid carbon and investment leakage and guarantee a global level playing field for competition,” according to ERT’s policy document.
The EU is already considering such measures, including adjusting restrictions on state aid for companies, changing public procurement rules and penalizing imports from countries with looser emissions controls, according to a draft of the summit’s communique seen last week. A revised draft is due to be circulated to national delegations in Brussels on Monday, as negotiations between EU member states on the exact wording of the commitments continue.
Business support for the package is key, as this week’s announcements are precursors to legislation that will disrupt every major industry. Airlines and shipping may be hit by higher fuel taxes, carmakers will have to adapt to stricter emissions costs and coal plants will be effectively discouraged. No stone will be left unturned in a frenzy of legislative proposals that will be unveiled in the months ahead, according to an early draft of the European Commission’s Green Deal road map.
ERT’s backing for Europe’s transition is the latest in a series of private sector and big business announcements lending support to climate protection initiatives, amid growing public pressure.
Earlier this month, Repsol SA became the first oil major to align itself with the Paris climate goals, saying it will eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions from its own operations and its customers by 2050.