Green Deal, Green Recovery, Green Economy

June 26, 2020

Climate protection as a way out of the crisis

The corona pandemic has put the economy in a critical position, a fundamental change is unavoidable for many industries. Yet, it also gives us the opportunity to correct old mistakes and set us up for the future. A legal framework for this is supposed to be provided by the EU´s Green Deal. However, that legislation is too slow to provide an answer to the challenges as they currently exist. With the concept of climate neutrality, companies have an immediately effective tool at their disposal, which can also provide new impetus for a way out of the crisis.

Under the keyword "Green Recovery", many companies, initiatives and organisations are calling for the reconstruction of an economy "after Corona" to be linked to strict ecological conditions. And indeed: the EU's "Green Deal" wants to provide the framework for this new start. The legislative package aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Many climate protection measures that were previously considered unaffordable for cost reasons could thus finally be realised.

In that sense the Green Deal is intended to be both a benchmark and an instrument to make the economy as a whole sustainable and resilient after the crisis. It is based on a massive investment programme in real estate and infrastructure, the initiation of renewable energy projects, the transformation of transport towards green mobility and the financing of an EU Just Transition Fund. These measures are very welcome and are also important to enable structural changes towards climate protection.

However, in its current form it will probably not be able to set the course towards "green" as quickly as the pressing problems of climate change actually require. Numerous environmental associations criticise the fact that the law is imprecise and vaguely formulated and almost without exception pursues long-term objectives. Even the interim goal of a Europe-wide CO2 reduction to at least 55 percent by 2030, which is still considered too low, has not yet been made binding by law. A "green recovery" under these conditions is therefore only of limited use for climate protection. So what should companies be guided by that want to align their strategies for the future?

Climate neutrality: it can go faster

One thing is clear: when relaunching the economy corporate climate protection and climate-neutral products should receive more attention than before. It can already be achieved much more here than what is currently formulated in the legal requirements.

For the goal of climate neutrality the Green Deal sees above all long-term mechanisms such as CO2 savings and avoidance, an increased CO2 price for the energy sector and energy-intensive industries, and controversial technologies such as carbon storage (CCS). However, concrete specifications for how this should be implemented are left out the text. Moreover, it completely neglects instruments that can be immediately effective such as CO2 offsetting and the corresponding financing of carbon offset projects – although this instrument is even defined with the "Clean Development Mechanism" (CDM) in the Kyoto Protocol: Climate neutrality is achieved when emissions generated in one place are offset by measures in another place to the same extent.

Of course, reduction and avoidance of emissions have to be the goal on the long run. But still, the neglection of CO2 offsetting is all the more difficult to understand as a climate-neutral global economy cannot be achieved by 2050 without CO2 compensation. It also ignores the fact that, in the context of CO2 compensation, the carbon offset projects financed by it support exactly the biodiversity that is required by the law as support for climate neutrality.

Sustainability for climate and economy

The continuing high number of participants in information events on climate protection such as the ClimatePartner Academy since March 2020 proves that companies see it as part of their general responsibility. And also, especially in times of crisis, as a differentiating feature within their industry. Many would prefer to start preparing for the future now rather than later and to position themselves accordingly.

They don't have to wait for political guidelines and decisions, because there is already a way: We at ClimatePartner see climate neutrality in accordance to the Kyoto Protocol as an effective means to pave the way towards a sustainable and environmentally friendly economy that also promotes innovation. Collecting CO2 emissions, identifying avoidance and reduction potentials and offsetting unavoidable emissions through certified carbon offset projects - climate neutrality implemented in this way does not only mean an active contribution to climate protection. It also enables a precise observation, formulation and optimization of internal processes and strategies with which companies can position themselves more resistant to crises.