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The European Commission’s strategic long-term vision outlines feasible pathways for Europe to lead the transition towards a climate-neutral economy by 2050 in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement. It invites EU institutions, businesses and societies to work together for a fair, prosperous and climate-neutral economy.

On 28 November 2018, the Commission presented its strategic long-term vision for climate neutrality by 2050, ‘A Clean Planet for all’. ‘The strategy shows how Europe can lead the way to climate neutrality by investing in realistic technological solutions, empowering citizens, and aligning action in key areas such as industrial policy, finance, or research – while ensuring social fairness for a just transition.

With global warming increasing, environmental damage and extreme weather threaten food production, public health, biodiversity and political stability. To avoid dangerous climate change, the Paris Agreement requires strong and swift global action from all parties.

The Commission’s strategic vision provides a detailed analysis of eight pathways for a possible future EU economy, outlining the feasibility and benefits of working together towards climate neutrality. The scenarios rely on both existing and emerging technological solutions, citizen empowerment and alignments across policy, finance and research. The long-term strategy envisions a socially fair journey to an EU economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with the energy transition working in close association with economic growth.

Building blocks

The pathways in the long-term strategy are based on seven building blocks: increased energy efficiency; increased use of renewables; a clean and connected mobility system; a competitive circular economy industry; connected high-standard infrastructures; a boost in the bio-economy and natural carbon sinks; and the use of carbon capture and storage.

Building the foundations for climate neutrality will require joint action across all of these areas at once. Creating cleaner mobility, for example, not only requires cleaner fuels and greater energy efficiency, but a sound infrastructure and an efficient organisation of the mobility system based on digitalisation, data sharing and interoperable standards. New energy sources will only transform the power system if capacity investments go hand in hand with increased customer involvement, interconnectivity, large-scale energy storage, demand-side response, and digitalised management.

The strategy envisions an EU framework that will foster research and innovation, scale up private investments, provide the right signals to markets, and ensure social cohesion. Achieving this vision will require an ambitious combination of technological innovation, investments and action in all sectors – but the analysis shows that it is feasible and brings benefits not only for the climate but also for the EU economy and citizens’ quality of life.

Cooperation is key

Europe’s clean energy transition is already under way. For decades, Europe has been leading the way in successfully decoupling greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth. The Commission’s vision calls for the EU to build on these achievements, but acknowledges that reversing the current emissions trajectory and achieving climate neutrality will require significant efforts and international cooperation.

Citizens also have a powerful role to play in driving the transition. Not only do lifestyle and consumer choices affect the rate of change, butthe strategic vision also cites citizen participation as an important factor in the future energy system.

Regional and local actors play a key role, too. The long-term strategy considers cities as laboratories for transformative and sustainable solutions, and envisions the EU capitalising on this through platforms such as the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

What now?

European Commission representatives have started meeting with national authorities, national parliaments, businesses, non-governmental organisations, and citizens across several Member States to discuss the key building blocks for long-term decarbonisation, as laid out in the strategic vision. On 14 March 2019, the Parliament adopted a Resolution on climate change in which it welcomes the publication of the strategic vision, discusses the pathways aimed at reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and considers the mid-century objective as the only one compatible with the EU’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Since its publication, ‘A Clean Planet for all’ has been discussed in various Council formations including environment, agriculture, and social and employment affairs. In June 2019, the European Council invited the Council and the Commission to advance work on processes and tools to ensure a transition to a climate-neutral EU. The European Council will finalise its guidance before the end of 2019.

Following the broad stakeholder debate, the EU is to submit its long-term strategy to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by2020, as requested under the Paris Agreement.

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