Climate and energy policy
The environmental sector is currently dominated by two main topics: new developments in European climate and environmental policies and the prioritized engagement with the subject of life cycle assessment.
For the most part, the current legal foundations in the European Union with regard to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, and energy efficiency apply until 2020. With the publication of the “2050 Roadmaps” in 2011, the European Commission attempted to achieve a resolution concerning a far-reaching reduction of CO2 emissions in the European Union by 2050. The European Council, however, refused to approve these roadmaps and, as a result, there is still no proper political mandate today. Against this backdrop, the Commission’s statement published in January 2014 regarding a “2030 package” can be understood as the attempt to realize the continuation and deepening of policies to transform the European economy into a low-carbon one, this time as a temporary solution with a shorter time horizon.
As expected, the statement calls for stepping up the achievement of this objective by setting targets for a 43% reduction of CO2 emissions by industrial facilities, which are subject to the emissions trading system, by 2030, measured against the status in 2005. An increase of the CO2 prices continues to be the objective.
Surprisingly, the statement also recommends retaining the system of free allocation of allowances until 2030—under current law it is supposed to be discontinued in 2020—and to increase the number of free certificates within the totalamount of permitted carbon emissions. In addition to other recommendations, the statement also contains the admission that some process-related emissions cannot be reduced any further as well as a list of measures to keep energy costs as low as possible despite continuing increased efforts to reduce CO2.
Even though these measures still need to be reinforced and worded more precisely, for the first time, it appears that the Commission has a growing understanding of the fact that real and serious emissions reductions require the existence of affordable low-carbon energy. It also recognizes the role of energy-intensive industries as part of the European value chains that provide the material foundation for the transformation process toward a low-carbon society. voestalpine welcomes this development and advocates that the European Council and then the European Parliament should address this paradigm shift and create a political and legal basis for it.
Life Cycle Assessment
In order to objectively and systematically evaluate the material steel with regard to its effects on the environment, it is necessary to analyze its entire life cycle. This analysis, the life cycle assessment (LCA) and/or eco-balance, is an important tool to analyze the sustainability aspects of products and processes on one hand and, on the other, to optimize material flows with regard to the most economical and efficient use of raw materials.
At the European level, activity associated with the LCA process is currently directed toward creation of product declarations (environmental product declarations or EPDs) for construction products and the calculation of ecological footprints for products and processes. The European Steel Association EUROFER is attempting to develop a uniform approach to producing EPDs for all steel products. The objective is to present the material steel in a way that is technically correct and uniform in order to guarantee an objective means of product comparison for customers.
Furthermore, voestalpine is participating in international working groups and research projects on the subjects of resource efficiency, material comparisons, and optimization of material flows. The top priority is to have an objective, data-based approach to product assessment and to avoid a distorted picture of how the material steel can be and is recycled.