You might have heard of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; you might have heard of the Paris Climate Agreement. But I hope you have already heard about the European Green New Deal. The European Green New Deal has made headlines in the last months. What is it, how will it fuel the green transition and what opportunities will it bring to young engineers?
It is no secret that climate change and environmental degradation pose a very real threat to the globe. Increasing carbon emissions, air and water pollution, a growing human population, the disruption of natural processes, and encroachment on wild areas – all these trends necessitate tangible actions to prevent irreversible damage. And it is important to do so in a collaborative, environmentally just manner, ensuring fairness to disadvantaged peoples.
To accelerate this green transition, the European Commission introduced the Green New Deal (GND) in December 2019. It is essentially a comprehensive growth strategy which transforms climate and environmental challenges to opportunities. Its first and foremost objective? To achieve no net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050!
The GND has many points of emphasis: clean energy, circular economy, biodiversity, farming and agriculture, technological innovation, sustainable mobility, energy efficiency. To address these points, many various types of policies and mechanisms will have to act in synergy.
For one, carbon tariffs and the development of Emissions Trading Systems (ETS) will be critical, to motivate countries to curtail their greenhouse gas pollution. Another step will be increasing subsidies for renewable energy while decreasing subsidies for fossil fuel polluters. Horizon Europe, an investment programme, will aid in research and development of green technologies such as batteries, clean hydrogen, and low-carbon transportation. Many start-ups within the EIT InnoEnergy ecosystem are already capitalising on these opportunities. EIT InnoEnergy also recently announced the European Green Hydrogen Acceleration Center (EGHAC); its goal is to catapult investments in green hydrogen and decarbonise energy-intensive industries including steel.
Altogether, the plan is to finance the GND through the InvestEU investment plan, mobilising one trillion Euros of resources. This size and scale make it one of the largest movements in recent times. It also holds vast potential for job creation and market opportunities, a promising sign for recent grads. In fact, the GND has sparked remarkable youth dialogue, which has reverberated throughout Europe.
Any discussion on the GND would be remiss without mentioning the NextGenerationEU. Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant unemployment and economic slumps worldwide. In order to recover, the EU has put forth the NextGenerationEU, a 750 billion Euro plan to invigorate the economy. It holds the green transition as the central means of recovery, demonstrating the potential for stimulating the economy and simultaneously promoting a more sustainable society and achieving climate goals.
I often hear about the GND in my courses; again, the magnitude of the scheme, and its presence in recent news, make it an ideal case study, subject of a class paper, or example from a professor to relate course topics.
As either a current or prospective EIT InnoEnergy student, you may wonder: how can I interact with these mass policy schemes, to enact change? What does it mean for students studying sustainable and renewable energy?
There are several ways to get involved. At the local level, you can try joining a university club working on policy initiatives or preventing food waste; for example, the KTH Students for Sustainability in Stockholm. As an EIT InnoEnergy student, you can also join the CommUnity by EIT InnoEnergy, connecting with shareholders, industry actors, and policymakers. There are also pan-European organisations such as the European Youth Energy network, an initiative to connect and empower students across Europe. And on Fridays, you can join Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement in solidarity, going on strike for climate. The GND is not only about top-down change, but bottom-up change, too.
Looking forward, the GND will bring huge opportunities to students, recent graduates, and young professionals. Now more than ever, skilled engineers will be highly sought after to bring about the energy transition. With investments being made across various industries, and more and more jobs being created, now is the time to jump start your career and tap into the potential of the Green New Deal.
by Emilia Chojkiewicz, EIT InnoEnergy Master School student