Metals are Europe’s climate compass. Here’s why

(EurActiv, 7 Nov 2019) The future of Europe’s metals industry will be an early indicator of whether the EU has succeeded in uniting its Green New Deal and Industrial Strategy, write Tomas Wyns and Gauri Khandekar.

Tomas Wyns and Gauri Khandekar are researchers at the Institute for European Studies, VUB.

In the immense challenge of reducing Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, there is one industry that emerges as the real pathfinder of the way forward: Europe’s non-ferrous metals industry.

A European industrial base for metals is a strategic necessity given their essential role in virtually all climate technologies. In our new report released this month, we explore the sector in detail.

We find that Europe’s metals industry is a “bellwether” for the transition of European energy-intensive industries. It shows the direction of travel required, having made huge advances towards decarbonisation through its high levels of electrification, circularity and emissions reduction. Those are key steps that every other industrial sector will have to follow in the next three decades.

The metals industry – a climate frontrunner

Europe’s non-ferrous metals industry has reduced its emissions by 61% since 1990, an amount matched only by the chemicals industry. But what really sets the sector apart is its high levels of electrification and circularity.

Metals producers are by far the most electrified of the ‘energy-intensive’ industries, with 58% of their energy needs coming from electricity. That means the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions can theoretically be reduced by 81% in a decarbonised power system (compared to 1990 levels).

That’s already a major step towards the EU’s 2050 objectives, and one which should then be backed up by further innovations capable of tackling the remaining 19%.

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EurActiv, 7 Nov 2019: Metals are Europe’s climate compass. Here’s why