Roadmap 2050, Europe’s challenge

Objective bioeconomy


The new version of the Roadmap 2050, published in 2017, puts the European paper and forestry sectors in the front line of the challenge which the EU has launched for industry: to identify, within industry, the means to be adopted and paths to follow to fight climate change. The date to meet this challenge is 2050, but the it has already started.

For some time Europe has been tackling the challenge against climate change, adopting a series of measures and strategies through the Quadro per il clima e l’energia 2030[2030 climate and energy framework] with which it has fixed very ambitious targets. The European Commission has indeed set a goal of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissionscompared with 1990 levels, a 27% increase in production of energy from renewable sources and also a 27% increase in energy efficiency, with the aim of obtaining further reductions in energy consumption. The framework, which is based on the 2020 climate and energy package was adopted by the EU leaders in October 2014.

The paper and forestry commitment

The European paper sector, together with the forestry sector, immediately put itself in the front line of the climate challenge. These industrial sectors use renewable raw materials and make products which lend themselves to circularity. From their commitment, and from a shared vision in 2011, was born the Roadmap 2050 The idea took shape following the identification by the European Commission of the goals to construct an industry which respects the principles of bioeconomy and one which succeeds in contributing concretely to reaching the 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The appeal was addressed to various industrial sectors so that they could study, internally, solutions and paths which might lead them to such a goal. The paper and forestry industries set to work and thus the first version of the joint document took shape, in which, in essence, is sketched out how the paper and forestry industries will look over the next thirty years. The methods and means through which to arrive at a reduction in CO2 emissions have been put down in detail, beginning with an increase in the energy efficiency of its own production cycles, the use of less polluting fuels, including for transporting goods, the introduction of electrical technologies in the process and the reduction of electricity consumption. In addition, the technologies to be developed by 2030 have been carefully analysed so that, once initiated, they become competitive by 2050, trying, therefore, to identify solutions which are not yet apparent commercially.

But the project does not only contain suggestions of the path to undertake to reach the European goals, it goes much farther. Indeed, alongside the target to reduce CO2 emissions, the European paper industry has set a target to increase by 50% the added value contributed to the economy by its own products; a factor which in future will become a prerequisite for each type of investment.

Roadmap 2050: version 2

As it is easy to understand, we move, however, in an area of continuous evolution to which are added the changes noticed over the years – the 2015 Cop21 Paris, Brexit, Trump’s election and the trend reversal in the American political climate – which have changed the conditions under which the climate and energy packet was approved in 2014 by the EU, and which, in turn, have contributed to the need for the European paper and forestry sectors to update the Roadmap 2050.

In 2017, therefore, the second version of the document was published, presented to the Miac Energy Conference organised by Assocarta during Miac 2017 by CEPI –Confederazione europea dell’industria cartaria [Confederation of European Paper Industries] –

«To achieve the objectives set it is of the utmost importance to understand what type of sector the paper industry will be in thirty years time and define what we can create with our products». Nicola Rega, climate change & energy manager for Cepi.

The first step undertaken in the drafting of the new 2017 Roadmap was to identify the role of the paper industry within the European economy. «The paper sector is quite unique», explains Nicola Rega, CEPI’s director for climate change & energy,«because it represents less than 1% of the European greenhouse gas emissions, even though it is the fourth biggest energy intensive industry sector in Europe. And it is also very active in these areas. Suffice to say that, according to CEPI data from 2005 up until today, the reduction in the sector’s CO2 emissions is around 26%, and in order to achieve this, the paper industry invests an average of 3.5 billion euros each year».

Future development

The direction in which the sector is developing was analysed. «The costs to meet the 2050 goals have been calculated in detail, specifically identifying 24 billion euros intended to reduce greenhouse gases and 20 billion euros to invest in creating added value. It is assumed that the growth will derive, in particular, from the sector’s traditional products, for which machinery which is very similar to that currently in use will be utilised. This aspect», emphasises Rega, «is important because it is said that the European paper industry of the future will be different from nowadays, but still very similar». On the other hand, with regard to investment for decarbonisation, currently of direct emissions – which are around 32 million tonnes of CO2 – are added indirect ones – 12 million tonnes inherent in the use of electricity and another 5 million for transport – to make a total of 49 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. «We have analysed the types of intervention required in order to reach a substantial reduction of 12 million tonnes of CO2 by 2050. Definitely a strong component will be formed by investments in energy efficiency – which will lead to a reduction of 7 million tonnes of CO2 – followed by those for changing to using new fuels – another 8 million – with prospects of changing from coal to biofuel and from natural gas to electricity. There will be further possibilities linked to the use of a more flexible energy system – an anticipated reduction of 2 million tonnes. Finally, there will still be a lot to do to bring advanced technologies, which are just beginning to emerge, to the market. Using these will achieve a reduction of 5 million tonnes of CO2, but, to be efficient, they will have to be ready by 2030».

Shared strategies and policies

The goals that the sector has set itself, both in terms of reduction of emissions and regarding the creation of greater added value, require shared industrial policies and strategies at European level. Over the next few years it will be essential to «align the conditions required to support the investments. Everything regarding new products, Industry 4.0, training and bioeconomy will have to be the point of connection for synergistic actions between research, support and finance policies», explains Rega. In order to carry out all of this, action must be taken to get them to come together, to «reduce regulatory costs for companies, simplify access to finance, align investment cycles in the sector, avoid investing in technology destined to become obsolete within a few years, and stabilise the regulatory and legislative system so as to allow for planning investment for the future».

Equally essential will be the commitment of companies. The European paper industry is already doing a lot in order to be one of the main players in the sustainable future and the development of the bioeconomy. It is also thanks to the commitment of the sector, which for some time has adopted sustainable management practices for forests, that the European forest heritage has begun to thrive again: it was calculated, indeed, that in the ten years 2005 to 2015 the forests in Europe have grown by 44 thousand km2.

A lot has also been done to implement the circularity of paper products and recovery of fibres in the production cycle; in 2015 Europe reached a record of 71.5% for paper recycling.

The Roadmap 2050, therefore, is part of this panorama and represents one of the many examples of the sector’s commitment. A commitment which will also continue over the next few years.