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Driving Circularity: The role of energy policy and legislation

Lead contributor: Vlatka Katusic Cuentas

The world faces unprecedented energy, environmental, climate and sustainability challenges, including biodiversity loss, resource use, and pollution. The Paris Agreement is the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate change agreement  recognizing the necessity of applying a framework to tackle climate change’s cascading and transnational effects. Parties committed to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2°C while pursuing means to limit the rise even further to 1.5°C. There are movements, policy proposals and approved or under process pieces of legislation around the world pushing for new green deals designed to reduce emissions and foster greater sustainability. The challenge ahead is to achieve this ambition collectively, effectively, swiftly, and affordably apply the energy sector’s appropriate policies and regulations. This chapter advocates that the common ground for addressing this complex matrix lies in two inter-related processes: advance sustainable energy by applying circular economy principles.  Appropriate energy policies and regulations can play a vital role in accelerating the transition to a circular economy and integrating circularity in the various economic sectors while preserving a positive societal and environmental impact. 

By introducing the reader to the energy and climate realm, practitioners will find an in-depth analysis of the energy policy and regulatory framework relying on the EU’s and its 27 Member States work. Notably, the EU is a party to over 40 multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) , demonstrating the determination of its Member States to address climate change and environmental risks. In 2015, the EU published its Energy Security Strategy and, in 2019, its new energy rulebook, the Clean Energy for all Europeans Package. These publications marked the political and legislative commitment to cleaner energy models and reduced GHG emissions while boosting the economy and respecting the environment. Building on this momentum, the EU embarked on a transition towards a low-carbon, climate-neutral, resource-efficient, and the circular economy. Several other profoundly transformative initiatives followed, such as the European Green Deal, the new Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP), the Climate Law, the European Industrial Strategy, the Fit for 55 Package, the EU strategies for energy system integration, hydrogen and offshore renewable energy to the European Battery Alliance and the European Climate Pact reflecting the EU’s efforts to assist the EU Member States to pledge to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. 

Overall, the chapter explores and provides an understandable overview and analysis of the essential policies and legislative actions that the EU mobilises to move towards a circular, sustainable, and climate-neutral economy by 2050. It also aims to communicate information and examples in a timely and precise manner on implementing the circular economy from an EU climate and energy policy perspective and provide practitioners from public and private sectors with valuable and practical insights. 

What's inside

What is the link between energy and climate change

Discover now the environmental impacts of energy production and consumption and how they contribute to climate change. Learn how energy production and use across different economic sectors rely heavily on fossil fuels accounting for more than 75% of the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions.

What is the role of the circular economy in the energy sector?

Learn all about the multiplier effect of incorporating circular economy core principles in the energy sector. Explore how sustainable and circular production and use of energy resources bring opportunities to protect the natural environment as well as for economic growth.

Reshaping the energy system

The circular economy measures and uses resources more efficiently therefore reducing energy demand. Discover how to improve energy efficiency and enhance renewable energy targets through the re-use of recycled products, materials, and the efficient organization of all production and consumption chains.

What is renewable energy?

Sustainable energy is crucial in preserving natural capital. Discover the link between renewable energy and circular economy principles. In addition, learn how measures to increase the share of sustainable renewable energy sources in the energy mix can lower environmental and climatic pressures.

Which are instrumental drivers for the transition to a circular economy?

The current policy framework seems to be insufficient to overcome the challenges of the transition towards circularity. Explore the critical European policy drivers of the circular economy transition, and the importance of political will and goal-oriented policy frameworks to achieve climate-neutrality and circular economies.

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is the first-ever legally binding global climate change agreement created by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and adopted at the Conference of the Parties in Paris. Learn here all about the Paris Agreement and climate negotiations.

What is the European Green Deal?

Learn now the crucial aspects of the European Green Deal. Discover how this new growth strategy aims to decarbonize and transform the economy to circular and sustainable. Moreover, explore in detail how it will revolutionize the energy system and combat climate change by 2050.

What is the New Circular Economy Action Plan?

Learn all about the new Circular Economy Action Plan, and explore how it aims to boost growth, competitiveness, and EU global leadership and modernize the EU’s economy, targeting products’ entire life cycle. Get access to examples of three key value chains of the CEAP.