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Climate neutrality: Pathways for achieving the European Green Deal Objectives

The European Union is committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. This move is necessary if we want to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2 °C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5 °C, as agreed by the world’s nations in the Paris Agreement. Firm action must be taken now to achieve this ambitious goal. Horizon 2020-funded researchers have developed models and tools that are able to assess costs, risks, trade-offs and co-benefits of policies and investments, hence supporting administrations and businesses in taking the right steps towards a climate-neutral continent.

Climate Change and Environment

Carbon neutrality means net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide (CO2). Whilst not an impossible mountain to climb, it requires a deep transformation across key emitting sectors and societies. Massive reduction in burning fossil fuels, greener technologies, cleaner transport, a more efficient and circular industrial base, and massive upscaling of renewable energy capacity will be at the heart of achieving this goal. Maintained societal momentum will need to support this Herculean effort. And of course, there’s the matter of financing such transition.

Moving forward with the European Green Deal

The European Green Deal announced by the European Commission in 2019 lays the groundwork for the changes ahead of us. It is a comprehensive roadmap that details actions to reduce GHG emissions by boosting the efficient use of resources, restoring biodiversity and cutting pollution across the continent and beyond. The route ahead envisioned in the Green Deal also outlines the investments needed and financing tools available, as well as concrete steps on how to ensure a just and inclusive transition that benefits everyone, thus encouraging large-scale societal acceptance. To capture political determination and provide direction, a European Climate Law is being put in place, turning the 2050 commitment into a legal obligation and a trigger for the investment needed.

The importance of EU research funding

Horizon 2020 – and starting from 2021, its successor Horizon Europe – are crucial for the implementation of the EU’s climate policies and at the same time the wider Sustainable Development Goals. This CORDIS Results Pack features eight projects from Horizon 2020’s dedicated Societal Challenges funding stream (climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials). Their outcomes show how policies and financing initiatives can steer the EU towards climate neutrality by embracing the complex interplay between the energy system, the economy and consumer behaviour. We have listed the eight projects under three distinct sub-themes to better illustrate how these projects are contributing to GHG reduction and also to highlight the links and synergies between them. The largest group of projects, comprising CD-LINKS, COP21:RIPPLES, DEEDS, EUCalc and INNOPATHS, supports the design of transformative policies enabling the EU to transform its society and economy in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2050 climate-neutrality ambition. Then, COACCH and SOCLIMPACT are two projects that are working on the impacts of climate change and adaptation needs, including required investments to reach climate neutrality. Finally, the REINVENT project has been providing solutions on mobilising industry that needs to transform and modernise – this is important as industry accounts for around 20 % of Europe’s GHG emissions.