The 29th Annual Conference of the EEAC Network will focus on the digital transformation within a European context, and the issues and opportunities it raises for sustainable development. Two levers and important elements of the transformation, both central to the European Green Deal and the European Digital Strategy will be explored in particular. These are, firstly, the relationship between the green and digital transformation (the twin challenge), and, secondly, the ethical and social implications of this transformation, including the application of Artificial Intelligence Systems (AI) in the European area. Curious to learn more about the conference? Please visit the conference page on this website.
This summer, the European Commission launched a series of policy initiatives to contribute to the achievement of a net emission reduction of 55% by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050. This pathway towards climate neutrality will include a transition that is as necessary as it is complex. Therefore, this transition requires informed decision-making, supported by the best available scientific knowledge.
It is in this context that the EEAC Network and the Institute for European Environment Policies (IEEP) will organize a webinar during which several experts will: 1. reflect on the role of (scientific) advice in policymaking, and 2. discuss how the role of science can be optimally organised and utilised in the context of European climate policymaking, with special attention paid to the role of the future European Climate Change Advisory Board.
The webinar – entitled ‘‘Toward net-zero: Sound policies need science’ – will take place on Monday September 20th , 2021 ( 09:00-11:15 CET ) and is open to the public. Interested to join? Please use this link to register.
Covid-19 has had profound impacts on societal and economic well-being. As Ireland begins to recover from the pandemic, progress will need to be understood beyond traditional measures of economic growth. Ireland has committed to developing new measures of well-being and progress, and the latest report by the Irish National Economic and Social Council presents findings from a consultation designed to ensure that the well-being framework is shaped by the priorities of citizens and stakeholders.
Ahead of the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow in November 2021, the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) presented a policy paper entitled ‘Beyond Climate Neutrality’. In the paper, the WBGU recommends making national long-term strategies a key topic at the Glasgow climate conference in order to provide orientation for current climate policy. Up to now, countries have only been obliged to submit short-term ‘nationally determined contributions’ (NDCs) to climate-change mitigation. These need to become far more ambitious and to start promoting policies conducive to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.
In the WBGU’s view, therefore, countries must also be obliged to formulate and communicate long-term strategies that go beyond climate neutrality and aim for global climate stabilization, offering guidelines for strengthening NDCs and a basis for an internationally coordinated sustainability policy. This view was given a valuable boost by a ruling handed down on 24 March 2021 by Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court, which imposed on German legislators a constitutional obligation to formulate long-term strategies to reduce CO2 emissions beyond 2030.
Long-term strategies should contain three separate priorities for this purpose, the WBGU argues: they should first stipulate a rapid and complete phase-out of fossil-fuel use, second, aim at the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of ecosystems, and third, make strategic preparations for the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.
The strategies should furthermore aim for multiple benefits with other sustainability dimensions, such as health and poverty reduction, WBGU continued. Finally, it is extremely important to take into account the international impacts of the measures laid down in national long-term strategies, such as the consequences of planned imports of green hydrogen, the WBGU concluded. Read more
The EEAC Network issued its newsletter for June. In this edition, the latest council publications are introduced, as well as news from EEAC member councils. The newsletter also includes an overview of recent (online) cooperation and exchange activities among advisory councils on climate change, the environment and sustainable development and there stakeholders. Read More
The German Council on the Environment (SRU) just released an opinion (in German only) on the potential role of hydrogen. In its opinion the Council argued that hydrogen can play an important role in climate protection, but will remain a scarce and precious energy carrier. The Council recommends concentrating all efforts on the market ramp-up of green hydrogen from wind and sun. Even as a transitional measure, policymakers should not rely on fossil-generated hydrogen, the Council stated.
The reason for not relying on fossil generated hydrogen is the impact of the production. The production of hydrogen from fossil fuels causes significant greenhouse gas emissions – even if hydrogen is produced from natural gas in combination with CO2 capture and storage (CCS). There are also environmental and health risks associated with CO2 storage, the Council argues.
The council also warned that the reasoning that green hydrogen and synthetic energy sources could be used everywhere, does not mean that it would make economic and ecological sense. It makes sense to use hydrogen in parts of industry and in international shipping and aviation, the Council stated. The SRU furthermore pleas for a certification system with sustainability criteria to ensure that the production of green hydrogen does not exacerbate environmental problems such as land or water shortages. This is especially true for imports.
To conclude, the Council pushed for infrastructures of hydrogen, natural gas and electricity to be planned in an integrated way. The basis for this must be the climate targets, the Council stated. As soon as the translated version of the position is made available, it will be uploaded on the website of both the SRU and the EEAC Network.
The German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina have produced a joint position paper presenting paths to climate neutrality. In it, the Leopoldina and the RNE highlight options for action to effect the changes needed within society, at political level and in the business world, in view especially of the urgency and the historic dimensions of the transformation we face. With the paper, the Leopoldina and the RNE are consciously not seeking to engage in a race to set the most ambitious target. They are instead offering an options paper for setting the right course and covering the key implementation steps. The position paper was presented at the RNE’s 20th annual conference held on 8 June 2021 and was handed over to the Federal Chancellor, Dr Angela Merkel. Read More
Today (17/6/2021), The Belgium and German Advisory Council for Sustainable Development – together with the EEAC Network – organized a webinar on corporate sustainability reporting. During his opening address EEAC Network Chairman, Arnau Queralt Bassa, said that he considers companies to be key actors for achieving the SDGs and the objectives of the Paris Agreement on climate change. However, I said, several reforms are needed if those companies are to contribute effectively to the goals!
He underlined the importance of a legal obligation for most companies to report on their possible or existing adverse impacts on sustainability. It was therefore, according to Arnau Queralt Bassa, no surprise that he welcomed the Commission’s initiative to come forward with stronger transparency requirements on companies regarding their impacts in terms of human rights violations, environmental pollution and climate change, in addition to employees and customers interests and alongside the financial interests of their shareholders.
According to the EEAC Chairman the proposed Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive would provide marked actors with a level playing field and legal clarity on the EU internal market, and would provide reliable and comparable sustainability information needed by investors and other stakeholders. Furthermore, Queralt Bassa continued, companies that consider environmental and social aspects, while being in touch with their stakeholders regarding these matters, will be better able to identify economic risks arising from sustainability issues, and therefore will also be able to manage those risks more effectively.
Arnau Queralt Bassa also acknowledged that some business representatives fear that the reporting costs will become too high. These concerns should not just be dismissed for the sake of pushing sustainability, he added. In his conclusion the EEAC Chairman raised the question whether the current and proposed corporate sustainability reporting initiatives by the EU will be able to provide improved information on the exposure of companies to sustainability risks and impacts, without putting too much burden on the motors of our European economy….
The Belgium Federal Council for Sustainable Development (FRDO-CFDD), the German Council for Sustainable Development (RNE) and the EEAC Network organized a webinar entiteled: “Corporate sustainability reporting: recent developments”. The webinar took place on June 17th.
Since the launch of the European sustainable finance action plan, the financial sector is asking for improved information on the exposure of companies to sustainability risks. Diverse stakeholders think that companies should better account for their social and environmental impacts. Moreover, companies facing increasing transparency requirements consider that the related reporting costs are too high.
The EU Commission’s proposal for a new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), and the proposal for an EU sustainability reporting standard-setting should address these various expectations and concerns.
Aim of the webinar
To give you further information about these initiatives and to highlight their implications for the financial sector, for stakeholders of sustainable development and for enterprises, the FRDO-CFDD, RNE and EEAC organized the webinar. The morning session focused on the EU reforms for sustainability reporting, and the afternoon session focused on their practical implications at the national level.
Over 150 people particiapted in the session on June 17th. Follow-up documentation and presentions will be made available on the website soon.