The international sustainability debate

The international sustainability debate: towards a sustainable Europe by 2030

According to the EU, which is an important part of the UNFCCC, Member States face a number of challenges on the road to sustainability. The main challenge for this paper is environmental debt from overuse and depletion of natural resources, which endangers the ability to meet the needs of future generations. The approach to this problem seems simple, according to the discussion paper: “live well within the limits of our planet”. However, this does not apply to the changes in production and consumption of materials, food, energy, mobility and the built environment that are necessary to achieve the goal of a sustainable future. That is why four pillars have been set out in the discussion paper:

1. From linear to circular economy.

This involves changing production and consumption patterns, with an emphasis on product design (sustainability, reparability, re-use and recyclability), waste management (prevention, material recycling, energy recovery and landfill prevention) and consumer awareness. In this context, companies should, for example, enable renewable raw materials and industrial by-products to be converted into bio-based products, such as fuels, chemicals, composites, furniture and fertilizers. And by 2030 all plastic packaging placed on the market in the EU must be recyclable in an economically viable way. For example, plastic bottles must contain at least 25% recycled materials from 2025 and at least 30% from 2030. The further implementation of the rules on registration of chemical substances (REACH) is also expected.

2. Sustainability of the agricultural and food sector.

The agricultural sector in the EU has made real progress in climate and environment, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% and nitrate levels in rivers by 17.7% since 1990. However, in order to modernize the economy, protect the environment. and digesting the quality of the food, the existing imbalances in the food (production) chain must be further improved. From agriculture and fisheries to the food and drink industry, transport, distribution and consumption. Announced measures in this context include: an EU Action Plan against food waste, more attention to animal welfare, sustainable use of pesticides, beneficial use of bio-waste and leftovers. In addition to greening the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2020, work must also be done on greater transparency within the food chain so that consumers can make an informed choice.

3. Future-proof energy, buildings and mobility.

Because clean energy is critical for sustainable future energy needs in this context more sustainably produced, stored and consumed to further reduce the impact on the environment and protect the health of citizens. So much so that it exceeds the already binding energy targets and what has been agreed in the Paris climate agreement. As buildings account for around 40% of energy consumption, more use of efficient and clean electrical heating, smarter buildings and appliances and better insulation materials, should also be made in full compliance with the principles of the circular economy. And because the current transport sector for almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, causing a growing emission footprint should also be in this sector towards 2030 give priority to clean and affordable alternative, zero-emission vehicles on the roads EU and optimal use of digital technologies to reduce fuel consumption. In addition, more needs to be done with the use of recycled material in vehicles and transport infrastructure to achieve more efficient recycling.

4. Socially just transition.

The transition to sustainability also affects workers in the companies involved, and sometimes entire regions. On the one hand, the transition to sustainability will create new jobs, but on the other, traditional jobs will disappear or change, partly due to digitization and automation, which can create temporary friction in the labour market. With regard to the labour market, for example, it is still uncertain what the effects of artificial intelligence will be. The transition to sustainability also requires investment in effective and integrated social protection systems, including quality services such as education, training, lifelong learning, childcare, out-of-school care, health and long-term care.

For example, specifically with regard to companies, the discussion paper states that they play an important role in this sustainability transition. That is why responsible entrepreneurship that can lead to more sustainable profit and growth, new market opportunities should be made a core part of as many companies as possible. This includes accountability. According to the memorandum, this can and must be much more effective over the years. Law & More will keep an eye on which measures will underlie this for your company. Incidentally, according to the EU, the Paris climate agreement does offer business opportunities in the field of sustainability, because the EU has a global lead in the field of renewable energy, energy efficiency and the development of low-carbon technology (technology that releases little or no CO2). Would you like to see what sustainability means for your company in the short or long term? Then contact Law & More.

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