In the past years, businesses have been increasingly working towards a low-carbon economy. Direct GHG emissions from industrial processes have fallen by 38% in 2016, compared to 1990 levels. However, current mitigation efforts in the industrial sector need to be accelerated to achieve compliance with the Paris Agreement. Therefore, promising zero-carbon solutions are needed. A trade-off between deep decarbonisation, long-term solutions and short-term emissions reduction will have to be made. The implementation of a circular economy might present such an opportunity to transform the way in which we produce, source and consume products and services. Similarly, the EU bio-economy has great potential: in 2010, it had a turnover of almost €2 trillion and employed more than 22 million people (9% of total EU employment).
Another milestone in creating clear pathways for the European Industries is the recently published European Climate Foundation report on “Industrial Transformation 2050”, which builds upon the growing momentum for an EU industrial transition to net-zero amongst policy-makers and even industry, and sketches the blueprint of such an industrial strategy towards climate neutrality.
In the short term, increasing energy efficiency through more rapid deployment of low-carbon technologies, and deep electrification of industrial processes is the key to reducing industrial GHG emissions. Therefore, future investments should be centred around four pillars: energy efficiency and material savings, deep electrification, embedding industrial processes in the circular economy and innovation in zero-carbon breakthroughs for process-based emissions industries.
Jakub Szczeniak, Christian Bauer, Tom Kober
Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Switzerland