The scientific underpinning leaves no doubt: Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to be drastically reduced across all economic sectors to keep global warming below 2°C. Studies across EU Member States have shown that moving towards an energy system that uses 100% renewable sources is technically and economically feasible. Since the energy sector accounts for more than 80% of GHG emissions in the EU, this is an important message for policy makers. However, effective decarbonisation strategies need to tackle all sectors and find integrated solutions, also taking into account interactions and synergies between sectors, but also with other policy areas.
A transition to greenhouse gas neutral economies requires deep restructuring of infrastructures and technologies. While promising significant savings of fossil fuels, such a transition also requires huge investments in renewable energy production units, battery systems or power to gas/liquids-systems. Such technologies and infrastructures require certain mineral raw materials, which like Lithium or Rare Earth Elements could become economically and/or geopolitically scarce in the future. And although the overall material demand of renewable based energy and mobility systems will be lower than those based on fossil fuels, the increasing demand for specialty mineral raw materials will be significantly rising – as those mostly come from outside Germany and the EU, their sustainable sourcing does not only relate to security of supply, but also to issues of social and environmental standards in exporting countries.
Here, resource policy can play a crucially supportive role, either by working towards harmonized standards for extraction, or – which is more relevant from a sustainable supply perspective and from reducing energy demand vs. virgin raw material extraction – by increasing recycling rates of these materials. In addition, resource policy will also contribute to reducing GHG emissions, not only through a generally lower energy demand of recycling vs. virgin material extraction (at least up to a certain recycling rate), but also through lowering virgin material demand by improving resource use efficiency and hence also potentially through reducing the energy need for extraction, transport and manufacturing of a lower material demand (if rebound effects do not get into the way).
The decarbonisation conference focused on the climate-energy-resource nexus and highlighted synergies as well as ways for minimising trade-offs between decarbonisation and dematerialisation policies. The conference brought together findings from past and ongoing research projects that analysed resource ruck sacks of renewable energy systems as well as resource savings and GHG savings potential of changes to renewable energy and electric mobility systems.
Furthermore, policy implications were discussed, which reflected the need to consider deep system changes and pathways to decarbonisation and resource efficiency – which, although difficult to simulate in computer models, constitute significant watersheds between successful or failing policy efforts.
The conference will included sessions on:
- Resource footprint of a renewable energy system
- Resource footprint of a greenhouse gas neutral mobility system
- Policy strategies for addressing the nexus between resource efficiency policy and renewable energy transition
Some 100 European and international experts and decision makers from natural and social sciences, politics, business, civil society and the media from 20 countries attended the conference.