Countries across Europe and around the world are doubling-down on their commitments to more sustainable climate and energy practices, and Belgium is no exception. The EU aims to be climate-neutral by 2050 – by which point the entire European economy will produce net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. This objective is at the heart of the European Green Deal and in line with the EU's commitment to global climate action under the Paris Agreement.
As part of this Belgium has formulated specific targets per region (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels), in order to reduce its overall emissions by 2050. While every business and sector has a role to play in making changes to support these targets, the energy sector has a particularly critical role in the transition to a sustainable Belgian economy.
And it won’t happen overnight. Such transformational overhauls will take time, investment and determination by business leaders to achieve the collective sectoral shift needed to meet the 2050 targets. Belgian companies have to act now, starting with a clear an actionable plan from business leadership that re-centers Environmental Social Governance (ESG) responsibilities at the heart of corporate strategy. Delays in action will only compound the complexity of the challenges ahead. For the energy sector in particular, a critical strategic consideration is ensuring access to and management of natural resources, such as minerals and metals, that are important inputs into many renewable energy solutions.
It’s clear that a net-zero world is dependent upon renewable energies to replace traditional power sources, but the shift is not straightforward. There is a threat to supplies of the mined mineral and metals that drive these green technologies. Despite abundant reserves, access to these crucial resources has become highly politicized, with geopolitical power anticipated to shift from oil-dominated to metal-dominated countries. With a relatively small number of nations holding deposits, competition for these vital resources will be high as governments seek energy security.
Additionally, mining is under increasing pressure to become more sustainable. The materials require huge amounts of energy, labour and effort to extract, refine and consume, which can damage the environment and reduce biodiversity, and can be subject to poor working conditions.
Such potentially weak links in the supply chain don’t just impact the energy industry. They also affect sectors dependent on green technologies and energy storage solutions, such as infrastructure, transport and automotive, as well as those competing for resources that have multiple applications, such as industrial manufacturing and life sciences.
In our latest report, Resourcing the energy transition: Making the world go round, we explain how the circular economy can help address these challenges. Reusing, recycling and repurposing metals and materials can contribute to surety of supply, and potentially reduce waste, pollution and carbon emissions by minimizing the need for extraction.
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