15-16 JUNE 2016 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Moving towards green industry

<p>This year, the Earth will reach the critical 400ppm CO2 level, which is very close to the 450ppm critical threshold, equivalent to a two degree Celsius rise in global temperature, beyond which the consequences of climate change are uncertain. In parallel, annual global material extraction has grown by almost 80&nbsp;% in the past 30 years to around 70 billion tonnes today. Societies in industrialised countries would need to dematerialise by a factor of 10 to meet the demands of the Earth's future population.</p> <p>The private sector drives economic development by being producer, investor, innovator, and technology and service provider. It forms the basis for growth and prosperity, whilst at the same time creating external effects that put our planet's health at risk.</p> <p>This event will serve to analyse and critically discuss the pivotal role that the private sector can and must play in the context of attaining an environmentally sustainable model of industrial production and realising the post-2015 development agenda.</p>
Lab 2
Session type: 
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 13:00 to Wednesday, November 27, 2013 - 14:15
Key Points: 
  • We urgently need to speed up the transition to a cleaner and more energy efficient economy.
  • Only through a massive transformation in government policy and the business model will this happen.
  • Industries can finance their own transformation if public money is used to leverage and support them.
  • There are green technologies already developed by industry that it is unable to push because the legislative framework is not in place.
  • Industry, government and civil society must work together across the value chain.

Experts from the public and private sectors explored ways to fast-track the transition to green industry and to pinpoint bottlenecks. There was consensus that the solution will not developed solely by government, NGOs or industry, but requires a collective effort to find new approaches and enter into partnerships.

Christophe Yvetot, Head of Brussels Office, United Nations Industrial Development Organization – UNIDO, pointed out that green industry platforms play a key role in fostering dialogue among the private sector, governments and civil society. They can bring visibility to private sector actors that are performing well and incentivise others to follow. UNIDO has concrete examples of how transformative partnerships can mobilise the private sector.

These range from cross-border protocols to government-led targets for reducing energy consumption and engagements within a sector or industry. For example, the leather sector in Bangladesh has reduced pollution from waste by 90 % and water consumption by 50 %. According to Yvetot, public money can help businesses finance their own transformation, whether by helping them to implement new technology and training, or supporting them when setting up in a new country.

Carina Vopel, Head of Unit, Resource Efficiency and Economic Analysis, Directorate-General for the Environment, European Commission, said EC policy units are ‘increasingly working with industry and enterprises and not against economic interests’ and that a structural transformation across the economy is needed.

Governments – which have become very risk averse because of Europe’s economic difficulties – need to take a longer-term view. ‘We need to work actively towards a circular rather than linear economy, where one industry’s waste becomes another’s raw material,’ she added, noting that it is ‘a tall order, but we must try to measure and disclose future risks, social and environmental costs and have them reflected in legislation’. Shale gas is a prime example, she said. ‘We think of green tape as being the cost, but in the long term, it’s an economic way of thinking.’

An example of the circular economy was given by Brigitte Dero, General Manager of the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers of VinylPlus. She pointed to the recycling of flooring from London Olympics facilities in British schools. The coalition of 180 companies in the vinyl sector grew out of a reaction to environmental lobbying and now fosters cooperation across the value chain. Such voluntary intiatives can create frameworks without having to wait for legislation and open the industry mindset.

Richard Northcote, Member of the Executive Committee and Head of Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainability, Bayer Material Science, provided insight into the frustrations experienced by businesses that spend money developing green technology only to find they cannot market it because it is too expensive and the regulatory framework is not in place.
‘As an industry we are finally coming around to seeing that collaboration is the way forward,’ he said. ‘Green industry is a key driver of economic growth as long as everything else is in place to allow the innovation of private companies to be taken in by society.’ Businesses need access to the right people, but they also have to establish a relationship of trust with legislators, which may mean addressing the legacy of the past.


‘It’s frustrating when you hear governments talking about innovation and you say “We’ve done this, broken through the barrier, here is a new technology” … and they say, “Great, we need more like this”. No you don’t! You need to implement what you’ve got!” I hear this in Europe and in the United States, but never in China. China uses it straight away. For instance they went straight to producing electric cars.’ Richard Northcote, Member of the Executive Committee and Head of Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainability, Bayer Material Science

  • Land, livelihoods & sustainability

    Despite increasing urbanisation, over 70 % of the world’s poor live in rural areas, with more than 1.3 billion living without access to electricity. Fertile land, clean water and air are all in decline and climate change and biodiversity loss are close to the limits beyond which there are irreversible effects on human society and the natural environment.

    The EU therefore seeks to reduce poverty, increase food security, ensure affordable access to energy, prevent land degradation and protect natural resources.

    In its Communication on the future of EU development aid, ‘An Agenda for Change, the EU resolved to help insulate developing countries from agriculture and energy shocks – such as scarcity of resources, supply and price volatility – to provide the foundations for sustainable growth, and to ensure poor people have better access to land, food, water and energy without harming the environment.

    Following the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, in its February 2013 Communication ‘A Decent Life for All’, the EU proposes principles for an overarching framework for post-2015 that would provide a coherent and comprehensive response to the universal challenges of poverty eradication and sustainable development. To achieve these ambitious objectives, moving globally towards an inclusive green economy is crucial. This encompasses several closely inter-related areas such as land, ecosystems and natural resources management, as well as sustainable energy and trade.

    In the same document, the EU stressed the importance of a land degradation neutral world as key to economic growth, biodiversity protection, sustainable forest management, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and food security.

  • Trade & private sector

    A thriving private sector is an important precondition to improving income and employment prospects and thus the eradication of poverty. International trade too is part of the path to sustained economic growth and development, but many nations need support and assistance to be able to fully reap the benefits of trade liberalisation.

    Since 2001 and the ‘Doha Development Agenda’, EU trade-related assistance (TRA) has been provided to support partner countries, amongst other things, in drafting trade strategies and negotiating trade agreements, and support the private sector in accessing export markets and promoting sustainable trading schemes. Going beyond TRA through its ‘Aid for Trade’ (AfT) package, the EU assists developing countries to design and implement trade policies that cover issues such as trade-related infrastructure and adjustment costs.

    EU support to private sector development is given to reduce barriers for business, build capacities and improve the business environment. Support is also provided for training to improve skills and encourage the transfer of know-how and technologies. At the institutional level, the EU supports chambers of commerce, industrial federations, SME associations, and promotes reliable local financial institutions.

    In the Council conclusions on the 2011 Communication ‘An Agenda for Change’, the EU resolved to support the creation of enabling business environments to attract foreign direct investment and increase productivity, recognising the need to work more closely with the private sector as its role in development grows. Trade aspects were further developed in the 2012 Communication ‘Trade, Growth and Development’.

    In its February 2013 Communication ‘A Decent Life for All’, the EU Commission noted an 80 % rise in developing country exports between 2000 and 2009 and its leading role in the success of duty-free and quota-free access to all least developed country products under the ‘Everything But Arms’ initiative. It called on the post-2015 framework to be developed in close partnership with all stakeholders, including the private sector.