Europe should embrace ‘clean revolution’

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.


Companies have to courageously embrace the clean revolution but political leaders have to be ambitious enough to allow the economic certainty to invest in the technologies of tomorrow in all of the EU member states, writes Steve Howard, chief sustainability officer at IKEA, in an exclusive op-ed for EURACTIV.

Steve Howard is chief sustainability officer at IKEA, one of the 70 companies calling on EU leaders to demonstrate foresight and leadership by increasing the EU’s CO2 emissions reduction target to 30% by 2020. 

“This century will be about low-carbon growth – a clean economy based on renewable energy and resources, a circular economy where there is no waste. In the last few years we have not only seen the impacts of extreme weather, but the reversal of a hundred-year decline in commodity prices.

Laws of supply and demand can not be ignored forever. It is becoming clear that the strategic assets of the 21st Century will be the renewable resources from water, wind, sun and what we can grow in the ground. The winning economies will be those that embrace this change and unlock opportunity.

Business is investing in the clean economy. But across society, we need to unlearn the old ways of the industrial economy that has grown up in the last two hundred and fifty years. This can only be achieved through a combination of strong government policies and incentives, and business innovation and investment.

Our politicians need to strengthen the European climate policy framework, which creates the incentives that will allow us to transition into a competitive and sustainable economy. The policy framework must be right to facilitate the necessary business growth and send a clear signal to investors.

Increased investment in modern low-carbon technologies will lead to greater energy security. The development of ‘home-grown’ power generation and energy-saving technologies will lead to the creation of jobs that will help strengthen our economy. Past industrial transformations, from the steam age to the information revolution, have stimulated the economy and led to waves of innovation. This clean revolution could be exactly the stimulus the EU economy needs.

Only ambitious political leadership will allow the economic certainty to invest in the technologies of tomorrow in all of the EU’s member states. If the EU delays, climate change and the global economy will not wait for us – they will both take advantage of our slowness to act.

IKEA is one of over 70 companies that are calling on European politicians to demonstrate foresight and leadership by increasing the EU’s carbon cuts to 30% by 2020.

We support this initiative not only because we know that climate change is happening now, but because with the right leadership the EU can be a leader in the low-carbon economy and maintain our competitiveness on a global stage.

At IKEA, we have a strategy in place where all stores and buildings will be supplied with 100% renewable energy and by 2015 we plan to improve our overall energy efficiency by 25% compared with 2005. 

Many of our new stores use solar, wind and biofuel energy. Extra insulation is added to older stores, as well as motion sensors for lights to help reduce energy consumption.

New stores are built near public transportation, which means lower fuel emissions. We are investing in bringing energy-efficient products to market such as LED lighting and induction hobs. We work with our suppliers to save both energy and money and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, both in the manufacturing process and for heating, cooling and ventilation.

We are continuously working with our product suppliers to improve energy efficiency in production, and to use more renewable energy in production. In Central Europe we have examples of suppliers who have increased their energy efficiency, one of them by as much as 50%.

The IKEA production unit Swedspan in Orla (Poland), for example, directs all its production waste to a biomass generator. This will ensure all heating energy needs and close to 20% of the electricity need. This is the first UT-HDF factory in Poland to use bio-mass technology.

This is not enough, and we will do even more for our customers and for the future of our business.”

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