Climate policy focuses too much on numbers

Europe’s focus on CO₂ footprints in its climate policy underestimates the urgency of our climate crisis.

This year, the consequences of climate change have been more clear than ever by impacting millions of people all over the world through forest fires and heat waves. Additionally, an energy crisis forces people and companies to drastically rethink their consumption. This last development might be a considerable step towards CO2-reduction, but not without its victims. The skyrocketing energy prices make it harder and harder for people to make ends meet.

This predicament shifts the way we look at our fight against greenhouse gas emissions. An often shared criticism of climate policies is the economic costs it brings. Now that the vulnerability of the energy sector is magnified by the massive price changes, the question becomes: can we afford to live the lifestyle we are used to?

A much forgotten and integral part of the energy transition is reduction. We simply can not sustain the current energy demand without eventually depleting the world’s resources or ruining the world with climate change. Combined with the vulnerability and unpredictability of the fossil energy market, a strong push towards reduction becomes absolutely essential and urgent.

However, due to the antiquated attitude of reluctance towards forward-looking sustainability policies, the EU focuses its efforts on measuring, instead of reducing. Yes, it is important to start measuring your CO2 impact as a business. However, this should only be an element of the first step in your CO2-reduction programme: planning. After this, businesses should set targets and study reduction possibilities. The real work starts thereafter: actually reducing energy consumption and CO2.

EU’s current policies regarding CO2 in business (i.e. CSRD and the EU-taxonomy) should be more actively focused on reduction, instead of only measurement. The Titanic would not have been saved by figuring out the exact dimensions and positioning of the hole, actually finding a solution for all the water coming in might have. This is why the EU should focus efforts on ensuring a CO2-reduction programme in European businesses, based on reporting progress towards a reduction goal.

In the Netherlands, the CO2 performance ladder is widely used as a structure for such reduction programmes. This framework has resulted in hundreds of tons of CO2 reduction in the Dutch building sector alone. It gives companies a way of structuring their CO2 reduction programmes based on a constant loop of advancement. Companies are challenged to look internally for reduction possibilities, instead of forced to report their CO2 performance and wait on EU-rules for reduction that might not fit their business.

Hence, we ask the EU to go further. Our planet, people and purses need a focus on energy reduction in order to have a sustainable future. We need it now more than ever.