Even though the European Union is still chipping away at its 2020 targets for emissions reduction and energy efficiency, that hasn't stopped the trading bloc from setting goals for 40 years out.
Among the ambitious plans on the table, the 27-nation EU is focusing on "cost-efficient ways to make the European economy more climate-friendly" and energy efficient. Its biggest hopes including cutting most of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as well as lowering its oil bill through technology and renewable energy. To pull this off, the EU will need to invest an average of €270 billion (US$386 million), or 1.5 percent of its GDP, annually over the next four decades. Those are big numbers with big implications for anyone living or doing business there.
From a business perspective, for instance, companies will be accountable for meeting proposed policies measuring energy efficiency and carbon footprints, and they will have to prove they have taken sufficient steps to cut their energy use. The flip side of the coin is that EU officials expect an increase in climate-focused activities to create 1.5 million jobs by 2020. That's a huge number, considering that much of the continent will be nursing a debt-induced recession hangover; high unemployment rates are predicted to linger for the next few years.
It makes sense to think ahead. Many of these projects will require significant infrastructure investment, and there will be a learning curve before energy-use behaviors fully change. Nevertheless, there are some hurdles to consider, as Pike Research recently pointed out. EBN's Anna Young echoed many of these concerns a few months back. (See: Opportunities & Challenges As Europe Sets New Emission Goals.)
The most obvious challenge involves getting all the countries to collaborate more closely and eliminate the transport, energy, and policy silos that still can be found within EU operations. Finding innovative ways to link these silos systematically will be critical for governments, companies, citizens, and creative-thinking problem-solvers with track records for improving public-private partnerships.
In a report this month, "European Union Clean Energy Policy: Potential Implications of the EU 2050 Greenhouse Gas Targets for Smart Energy and Transportation," Pike said that three words likely will dictate how these policies are rolled out and implemented: smart, intelligent, and integrated. The report also says:
Coupling economic growth with carbon reduction transitions is not an easy task. In fact, many other countries and regions are shying away from this task. The EU is taking a big risk, but a calculated one, and it is the birth of the smart and intelligent generation of technologies that has enabled this risk to be taken. The impact these plans will have on the smart industry in Europe is to embed them between now and 2050 into everyday life for the current 501 million inhabitants.
This seems like a gem of an opportunity for electronics and high-tech companies to get in on the ground floor testing energy solutions, whether they involve massive public structures or devices that energy-conscious consumers can use. The EU and its citizens -- already quite progressive with their stand on environmental protection -- are committed to staying on the bleeding edge of this. It goes to show that the world may look like it revolves around smartphone and iPad sales, but the long tail is on energy resourcefulness, at least in this part of the world.
Let me know where you see the need for supply chain or high-tech expertise, and how feasible this grand plan sounds. By the way, if you're interested in learning about some of the green-friendly projects being developed around Europe, check out these videos about Barcelona, London, and Paris.