At EU Green Week towards a Net-Zero Economy!

The EU Green Week was back from 3 to 11 June with two plenary sessions on 6 and 7 June in Brussels and more than 250 in-person and online partner events. These days have been dedicated to reflecting on how to achieve a zero-emission world, as well as sparking discussions on EU environmental policies and vital topics such as sustainable lifestyles, biodiversity, soil restoration and the circular economy. Legislation is essential to address these challenges and find solutions that establish a win-win relationship between ecosystem and human health. In line with the European Year Of Skills, partner events focused on skills for sustainable, resilient and socially equitable communities, as well as promoting the importance of protecting the environment through sustainable practices. 

Topic of this edition

The EU Green Week is an annual opportunity to discuss European environmental policy with policymakers, stakeholders and leading environmentalists from across Europe and the world. The theme of this edition is ‘Delivering a Net-Zero World’. As European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pointed out in her opening speech, we are moving towards a circular economy based on innovation and “last year, for the first time in history, the EU produced more electricity from sun and wind than from gas”. She also emphasised the strategic importance of initiatives such as Fitfor55, REPowerEU and the Net-Zero Industry Act that help us achieve our climate targets. In particular, the Net-Zero Industry Act is part of the Green Deal industry plan, which promotes investment in zero-emission technology to achieve the EU’s climate neutrality goals. The Act aims to increase the competitiveness and resilience of the EU industrial base for zero-emission technologies by reducing dependence on Russian fossil fuels and reducing strategic dependencies. The Net-Zero Industry Act reflects Europe’s commitment to play a leading role in the transition to net-zero technology and to contribute to the realisation of the Fit-for-55 and REPowerEU targets. 

Thematic panels and high-level discussions

The first day of the conference in Brussels consisted of debates and thematic panels, concluding with the LIFE Awards 2023 ceremony. The high-level discussion that opened the conference featured the Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius. During the debate, speakers took stock of recent and upcoming legislative proposals on the environment and discussed their potential to increase resilience and create jobs and business opportunities in all economic sectors. Space was then given to the topic of the war in Ukraine during a panel discussion on the impact of the war on the environment and restoration plans, including the PHOENIX reconstruction project. Next, the Zero Pollution initiative was addressed, a plan for the transition to a clean, climate-neutral and circular economy, considering innovative technologies and practices that can help reduce pollution, benefit the health of citizens and reduce inequalities. A number of important enablers, such as financing, enforcement, but also research and innovation, are needed to help achieve Europe’s goals. 

 The workshops on the second day

The second day of the conference was devoted to interesting expert workshops that offered an in-depth discussion on financing green projects, tackling environmental crime, environmental equity and finally the skills and mindset needed for the transition to sustainability. A specific workshop was dedicated to Green Assist, a new advisory initiative funded by the LIFE programme, that will give private and public project promoters, financial institutions or other project partners access to customised consulting services. These project-focused services provide valuable investment support, e.g., by supplying expertise, building a project pipeline, offering training and conducting environmental audits to improve SME performance. 

 In conclusion, the EU Green Week 2023 was an opportunity for discussion that gave space to the industrial sector and its role in the transition to a zero-emission economy, addressing the best ways to realise the ambitious goals set out in the European Green Deal for people, businesses and future generations of Europeans.