The Green Deal is at the heart of the new European Commission’s policy programme. Its overarching objective, for the EU to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050, has recently been reinforced in Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s 2020 State of the Union address. The first Research and Innovation calls on the Green Deal, under Horizon 2020, have just been launched and they indicate strong relevance to SusChem’s R&I priorities in sustainable chemistry.
On 16 September, President von der Leyen pledged that the European Commission will drive a sustainable and transformational post-Covid recovery that will give Europe a global platform to lead economically, environmentally and geopolitically. She also revealed that the European Commission is proposing to increase the 2030 target for emissions reduction from 40 % to at least 55 %, putting the EU on track for climate neutrality by 2050.
The Green Deal is seen as a once in a lifetime opportunity to modernise the EU’s economy and society to be more sustainable and inclusive. To achieve this, sustainable research and innovation will play a central role by accelerating and supporting the necessary transitions, developing and deploying sustainable solutions, and engaging with citizens.
Horizon 2020 green deal calls
To respond to the urgency and ambition of the European Green Deal objectives, Horizon 2020 is supporting additional Green Deal related research and innovation in its final call. These Green Deal calls were officially launched on 18 September, with total funding of close to €1 billion to respond to the climate crisis and help protect Europe’s biodiversity.
Given the urgency of the challenges to be addressed, the Green Deal call aims for clear, discernible results in the short to medium-term, but with a perspective for long-term change. There will be fewer, but more targeted, larger and more visible funded actions, with a focus on rapid scalability, dissemination and uptake.
Project proposals in response to the call should address one of eight thematic areas and/ or two horizontal areas: strengthening knowledge and empowering citizens. The deadline for proposals is 26 January 2021 with selected projects starting work in the autumn. More information on the Green Deal and the call will be shared during European Research and Innovation Days with a dedicated Information Day on the Call on the afternoon of 23 September followed by a virtual Brokerage event on the 24th. A factsheet on the Green Deal call can be accessed here. The eight thematic calls cover: Increasing climate ambition, Clean, affordable and secure energy, Industry for a clean and circular economy, Energy and resource efficient buildings, Sustainable and smart mobility, Farm to fork, Biodiversity and ecosystems, and Zero-pollution, toxic-free environments.
Many of the key initiatives under the Green Deal are highly relevant to and reliant on Sustainable Chemistry and Industrial Biotechnology through innovation in advanced materials and processes. There is a high level of relevance and coherence between call topics in all thematic areas and SusChem’s Sustainable Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA) with the latter connecting its technology priorities with Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency, Low-carbon economy, and Environmental and Human Health.
For example, the Green Deal thematic area 3 on ‘Industry for a clean and circular economy’ includes Topic 1: ‘Closing the industrial carbon cycle to combat climate change’ and Topic 2: ‘Demonstration of systemic solutions for the territorial deployment of the circular economy’. There are strong links with SusChem technology priorities on advanced materials, advanced processes and enabling digital technologies for progressing further the valorisation of biomass or CO2 as alternative feedstock, sustainable production of renewable electricity, and waste valorisation processes (chemical recycling). Similarly, in the Green Deal thematic area 4 on ‘Energy and resource efficient buildings’, there are links to technology priorities on advanced materials including circularity-by-design with relevance to buildings.
The SusChem SIRA’s research & innovation priorities on renewable energy storage, hydrogen production, batteries and advanced materials can add value to thematic area 5 on ‘Sustainable and smart mobility’, and calls in thematic area 6 covering agriculture from ‘Farm-to-Fork’ will find links, especially, with the Industrial Biotechnology topics in the SIRA including alternative food technologies and sustainable agriculture.
The Green Deal momentum will be continued in the EU next research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe, which will start in 2021. In synergy with other EU initiatives, Horizon Europe aims to leverage national public and private investment and jointly foster and deploy new technologies, and sustainable solutions across Europe and the world. Over 35% of Horizon Europe funding will be directed towards climate objectives.
As Europe’s ambitions and emission targets grow, the need for research and innovation projects to deliver breakthrough technologies and disruptive models at a scale and pace not seen before also grows. These initiatives will build the basis for a complete transformation of all value chains and have a major impact on society.
A sustainable chemical sector can support and lead this overall transformation, but to do this also requires a profound revolution in chemical production. The SusChem SIRA outlines in detail the actions that are required to achieve this, and in turn achieve the Green Deal objectives, including better use of mineral and organic resources, increased use of alternative feedstock, electrification of chemical processes, new catalytic processes, biotechnology‑driven processes, new and innovative eco‑designed materials, and use of waste energy flows.
SusChem looks forward to working with all its stakeholders to support the achievement of the Green Deal objectives.