Steel coils. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Steel coils. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Brussels — European heavy industries such as cement, steel and refining will need huge investment if the continent is to reach a goal of being carbon neutral in three decades, a new report says.

Spending on new technologies, ensuring a supply of clean energy and improving carbon pricing systems are among the measures required to meet the target, said the report, published on Thursday by an EU advisory group. Without them, local industry cannot be competitive against foreign rivals, the expert group on energy-intensive industries said.

Ursula von der Leyen, who will become EU Commission president on December 1, has laid out the broad strokes of an unprecedented policy to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, a strategy that would put the region ahead of its main trading partners China and the US in tackling pollution and making good on the Paris Agreement to limit global warming.

The commission is due to reveal more details about the plan next month.

Von der Leyen pledged to toughen an existing 2030 goal by cutting emissions by 50% or even 55% compared with a previous target of at least 40%. She wants to unlock €1-trillion (R16.2-trillion) of investment over the coming decade through the European Investment Bank.

The report by the advisory group, which includes energy-intensive companies, national governments and non-governmental organisations, calls for breakthrough technologies and infrastructure. Yet it warns these can only come with policy help. Its recommendations include:

• Energy-intensive industries are part of the EU emissions trading system, the world’s biggest cap-and-trade programme. To prevent the risk of companies relocating to regions without emission curbs, they get a share of free permits to discharge carbon dioxide.

• To better shield the industry as Europe boosts its climate ambition, Von der Leyen promised a carbon border tax, fully compliant with the World Trade Organization rules and initially imposed on a number of selected sectors.