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Circular Energy: The EU's pathway to a circular and carbon neutral future

Lead contributor: Vlatka Katusic

The world’s security, stability and prosperity are challenged by a wide, multifaced spectrum of threats ranging from traditional armed conflicts, terrorist attacks and asymmetric warfare to pandemics, environmental risks and conflicts, climate change and other human-induced or natural disasters. Most countries and large organisations are engaged in a transformative process to enhance their resilience, and secure sustainable and competitive economies. Strategies, policies, legislation, and action plans are the key drivers to meet these objectives. This chapter  argues that the EU has developed a comprehensive toolbox that contains political and legislative energy and climate-related actions ranging from the conceptual to the funding level that can enable the transition to climate-neutral and circular models. Since its establishment in the fifties, this is the first time in EU history that the Union has been so determined to pursue its objectives through an all-inclusive approach engaging EU institutions, governmental entities, industry, and the European citizens.  In this respect, the EU’s energy toolbox has an instrumental role in helping the Member States and the EU to become a resilient, competitive, and prosperous economy. 

Establishing a climate-neutral economy requires, a transformative change in mindset, industrial and business models. It means diversifying and reducing EU’s energy dependencies and becoming resilient and autonomous. Climate neutrality is the end state of EU’s ambitions to build a resilient Energy Union. This transition will enable the EU to diversify its energy dependencies, decarbonise the economy, advance research and innovative solutions, and ensure energy security to its member states and partners. 

By introducing the reader to the instrumental drivers ranging from policies, strategies to legislation, and funding to meet ambitions and objectives. Practitioners will dive in the EU most advanced and comprehensive packages for achieving the goal of building an energy resilient Union and becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Along this chapter practitioners will understand the need for a mindset change to build on the past and not be refrained from it for a more promising future. This is essential for reaching the EU’s climate-neutrality objectives by 2050. While this transition requires a whole-government and whole-society engagement best practices, disruptive clean technologies and circular models should be applied. According to the European Commission’s second annual 2021 Strategic Foresight Report – “The EU’s capacity and freedom to act” cutting to net-zero the GHG emissions by 2050 could help reduce EU’s energy dependency from around 60% today to 15% and “this should be supported by significant progress on the circular economy. 

The chapter presents the EU toolbox , including the key instruments helping and enabling the Member States and the EU to become a climate-neutral economy. It also emphasises the importance of incorporating the core principles of the circular economy from the outset in the development and implementation of any action to ensure competitiveness and efficiency in the long term. 

What's inside

How do we achieve climate neutrality?

Building a resilient Energy Union with a forward-looking climate change policy is the backbone for achieving climate neutrality. Discover a promising pathway to ensure sustainable, competitive, and affordable energy while boosting economy, prosperity and improving citizens’ quality of life.

What to include in the energy toolbox?

Explore the European policy and legislative landscape that shows how the European Union developed a well-advanced and comprehensive legislative package to build a resilient energy union and become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

What is the political approach for the transition?

A comprehensive overview of critical political strategies at the national and European level exposes the association to the effective implementation of the EU ambition to boost the green transition and ensure a resilient Energy Union where the European citizens access secure, competitive, and sustainable energy.

What type of action plans can we consider in a transition?

Based on general objectives such as What must be done? What tools are needed? When will it be finished? Discover how the European Union has developed different action plans defining the process to achieve climate neutrality and transit to a circular economy.

What is the role of National Energy and Climate Plans?

National Energy and Climate Plans are the frameworks helping EU Member States present their plans to meet the EU’s energy and climate-related objectives. Explore now these plans that enable following the member states’ climate and energy objectives, policies, and measures for ten years.

What is the link between energy legislation and circular economy?

Learn now how energy directives and regulations enable and drive countries to reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiency will create and/or enhance the necessary understanding of ensuring sustainability and competitiveness in the long term by integrating the core principles of circularity from the outset.

How to address the challenges of achieving climate neutrality?

Achieving climate neutrality by 2050 will be more challenging for some European Union Member States and Regions than for others. Explore now how the EU provides financial support and technical assistance to help those most affected by the move towards a climate-neutral economy.

How to move towards climate-neutral and circular economies?

Circular economy principles applied in all sectors and levels are critical in accelerating the efforts to achieve energy and climate targets and deliver against the commitments in line with the Paris agreement. Discover how to build on the past and not refrain from it for achieving 2050 climate neutrality