The ambition to make Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050 will only be successful if everyone – from individuals to organisations, to local and national governments – takes action.
The European Commission, with its 32,000 staff and offices in each EU country, is leading by example and marking Earth Day 2022 with a Climate Pact pledge to become climate neutral by 2030. This involves achieving ambitious but realistic goals, including making buildings more energy efficient, being smarter about work-related travel and making IT infrastructure greener.
First things first. What is a Climate Pact pledge?
The European Climate Pact is bringing people together to build a more sustainable Europe for all. People, organisations, businesses and cities can get involved in the Pact by making a pledge to take real action. As an individual, you can – for example – pledge to take fewer flights, or move your money to a bank that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels. Businesses, organisations and cities can make one of two types of pledges: a Pathway pledge, which represents a range of different climate-friendly actions, or the more ambitious North Star pledge, which involves significant and measurable actions that contribute to greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The North Star pledge is exactly what the European Commission has committed to.
What action is the European Commission taking?
The European Commission’s North Star pledge involves making the institution climate neutral by 2030, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by around 60% compared to 2005 levels and compensating the remaining emissions with carbon removals. In addition to becoming climate neutral, the Commission also hopes to inspire other organisations to take action and become part of the climate solution.
“If society needs to change, we, as an institution, must also transform the way we work, and demonstrate our ability to set the example of moving towards a sustainable and climate-neutral society,” says Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Budget and Administration.
“We are setting ourselves a target of becoming climate neutral 20 years earlier than the EU’s Member States. We have already done a lot to reduce the environmental impact of our operations, and we need to step up our green actions even further to become a frontrunner in the transition towards a climate-neutral society.”
So this could make a big difference! Why is it especially important now?
The European Commission has been working on a detailed Action Plan to ensure that the target set is both feasible and impactful. And today is the 52nd iteration of Earth Day – the perfect occasion to raise awareness of the need for organisations to take climate action.
What does this pledge actually involve in practice?
The European Commission’s North Star pledge covers three key areas: buildings and workspace; work-related travel; and IT infrastructure and needs.
- Buildings and workspace represented 43% of emissions generated by the European Commission in 2019. As a result, the Commission has developed a new real estate policy for its buildings in Brussels and elsewhere, which will reduce emissions by 30% between 2019 and 2030. To do this, the Commission will reduce the number of buildings it manages, while introducing a shift towards flexible working and increased teleworking. It will also improve the environmental performance of existing buildings by renovating them and generating its own green energy by installing photovoltaic panels and solar water heating.
- Work-related travel by staff represented 28% of Commission emissions in 2019, half of which can be cut by 2024 by organising smart missions and greener modes of transport. Internal guidelines on work-related travel will be revised, and a new IT tool will monitor emissions from travel, making it easier to choose greener options for travel and accommodation.
Measures concerning more flexible working, including increased teleworking, staff commuting, work-related travel and the corporate vehicle fleet (100% zero-emission fleet by 2027) could reduce work-related travel and encourage the use of greener and more sustainable modes of transport, which will reduce traffic congestion and pollution. Car parking spaces in Brussels will be gradually reduced by at least 35% by 2030, aided by the use of smart monitoring and planning tools. Regarding travel for external experts, the Commission will mirror the efforts made in staff work-related travel using a mix of online, hybrid and in-person meetings, and will monitor emissions.
- IT infrastructure and assets represented 5% of Commission emissions in 2019 and will aim to be reduced by 30% by 2030. To do this, the Commission will gradually reduce the number of local data rooms, decommission obsolete systems and reduce the individual digital carbon footprints of staff through awareness-raising campaigns.
What role will staff at the European Commission play?
With a workforce of more than 32,000 people in close to 200 places of employment across Europe, staff will be at the centre of the European Commission’s pledge to become climate neutral by 2030. The Commission is therefore in a strong position to contribute to improving urban environments – and to inspire others. Encouraging staff to use more sustainable modes of transport for example will have beneficial knock-on effects on local traffic congestion and air quality.
People working for the European Commission will be encouraged to take steps that have a positive impact on the climate, in line with the plan for Greening the Commission. An internal communication campaign will be launched through Count Us In, a partner of the European Climate Pact to inspire staff to take any number of four key steps:
What can I do?
You can be part of the change by making a pledge today! No action is too small. Individuals, organisations, businesses and cities are getting involved in the European Climate Pact by pledging and inspiring others to join.
Take a step to reduce your carbon footprint via the Count Us In platform – 16 steps have been selected with experts from the UN Environment Programme as the most effective ways for individuals to reduce their carbon footprint. As the European Commission has demonstrated, organisations and groups can also make pledges: over 235 organisations have already made pledges connected to everything from transport and energy to water and waste.
- 22 april 2022