Green transition: What if heavy industry had the most to offer?

The EU’s transition to a low-carbon future is easier said than done, particularly for heavy industry. Start-ups and established corporates have been working with EIT Climate-KIC’s Re-Industrialise Flagship to test out ground-breaking solutions to these issues in real-life conditions, writes Ada Marmion – Re-Industrialise Flagship Manager at EIT Climate-KIC.

It’s climate talks time again! As the clock is ticking for major political decisions, the EU is dashing into its final sprint: in the space of just one week it passed the final hurdle of three of the Clean Energy Package’s core files, and published a comprehensive roadmap for cutting emissions across all sectors until 2050.

The challenge of decarbonising the industrial sector is particularly tricky, due to the sheer number of jobs which it sustains: today, one in every five jobs in Europe is industry-related (total of 50 million jobs), generating about a quarter of the EU’s GDP. But the industrial sector is also one of the biggest contributors to the EU’s carbon footprint with a total 857 MtCO2 emitted per year –  greater than the impact from all of Europe’s coal power plants put together (775 MtCO2) [Bellona industry report].

Can we invest in concrete options to transition the steel, chemical, cement, automotive, building, electronic and building sectors all the while creating long-term opportunities for the many? Can heavy industries – and the regions they have sustained for decades – actually take the lead?

Start-ups and established corporates have been working with EIT Climate-KIC’s Re-Industrialise Flagship to test out solutions to these issues in real-life conditions. “Re-Industrialise” means just that – transforming industrial activities from old to new. It means finding sustainable, green and climate-friendly innovations which can overhaul or disrupt the way an industry works.

For this, the flagship focuses on two regions: the Silesian Metropolitan Area, Poland’s largest industrial region with important challenges stemming from its local mining industry; and Germany’s industrial giant North-Rhine-Westphalia. These regions are arguably two of Europe’s biggest transition challenges, but that is the whole point. The regions are acting as test-beds for eventual replication at larger EU scale.

In both regions, our pilot projects look at how to refashion existing specialisation and infrastructure. We have found that the transition is not always about reinventing the wheel or investing in cutting-edge technologies. Quite often it’s about being smart – and creative – about how to repurpose what already exists. It’s about looking at the whole industrial system and intervening in multiple points to create a systemic change.

Want to learn more about systemic change and how to achieve it? 

Have a look at the entire article published on Euractiv .