The road to net-zero EU industry: We must reach our climate goals while ensuring that Europe is globally competitive

President of the European Economic and Social Committee, Christa Schweng, highlights the requirements for Europe to become globally more competitive and sustainable.

Europe's responsibility.

The EU has been spearheading climate action and has shown the world that it is possible to achieve ambitious emission reductions without endangering economic prosperity. The most important lever for global emission reduction is developing affordable low- or no-carbon, energy efficient technologies and bringing them to global markets. This means having a strong European manufacturing sector that can deliver these technologies.

Boosting competitiveness and sustainability is good news.

Only a competitive Europe can create prosperity for our businesses and people while also offering sustainable solutions to climate and environmental challenges. Sustainable practices are good news for companies: they help them become more efficient, reduce their costs, enhance their reputation and access new markets.

Watch the level playing field.

The current discussions on the US Inflation Reduction Act are an opportunity for the EU to act as one to ensure a level playing field for its industry and the related jobs We cannot afford to be overly reliant on any single country or region for critical goods, services or technologies. A key step towards greater sustainability and global competitiveness is to develop a fully circular economy and create functioning markets for secondary raw materials. The European Union must play a leading role in demonstrating that raw materials extraction and production processes can be sustainable. Europe is heavily dependent on the rest of the world for most of these materials. By rolling out good practices and working with like-minded third countries, the EU can foster global uptake of its highly demanding standards for the benefit of planet and people. Waste management policies and mandatory recycled contents in packaging and other products are also vital for setting in motion investments along the recycling chains.

To boost the competitiveness of European producers, we also need to ensure reciprocity in trade standards at economic, social and environmental level, to develop digital and circular skills, to promote research and to ensure fair prices that include higher input costs and costs for increased sustainability.

Bring civil society into the equation.

Constructive social and civic dialogue is essential for a successful transition to a net-zero economy, which will only work if businesses and workers are part of the solution. Together, we must build a competitive, sustainable and inclusive future for a Europe that works for businesses of all sizes and leaves no one behind.

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