Climate neutrality for corporate and public entities: Commission takes the lead

“Going green” is becoming challenging and prestigious for both businesses and public organisations, including central, regional and local governments in the EU-27. Main intention is to reduce negative “imprints” on environment, ecology and climate equilibrium. The European Commission, which has many premises in Belgium and other neighboring countries, is showing the optimal ways to “go green” and be “institutionally” sustainable. 

Most governments’ and corporate entities are facing presently a number of immediate and emerging challenges, starting from rapid technological advancement and digital transformation, to changing workplace structures, reducing pollution, saving energy and responding to climate crisis. Besides, the world of work is changing for the people employed, and the present pandemic has only accelerated trends towards flexibility and digitalisation of the workplace.
It is no wonder that the European Commission (employing over 32 thousand civil servants and occupying several premises in numerous states is leading in this vital challenge by example, embodying EU values and playing its part in implementing the policy solutions, which it recommends the member states to follow and implement.
General reference to Commission’s facts-sheet in: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/api/files/attachment/872232/HR%20STRATEGY_Factsheet%20template_HR_GREENING%20EN.pdf.pdf

About “going green”…
The work of dealing with sustainability has been going on in the Commission for a number of years: thus, since 2001, the Commission has developed and implemented the regulation on eco-management and audit scheme, EMAS; the work resulted in the integration of environmental concerns into this main EU’s executive institution’s daily operations. As a positive result, these efforts delivered major environmental, organisational and financial benefits over the last two decades. For example: a) between obtaining formal EMAS registration in 2005 and 2019, the Commission has reduced energy use in its buildings by 65% and CO2 emissions by 86%; b) office paper has been cut by 71%, and water use by 58%; c) non-hazardous waste production is down by 38%; and d) the per capita cost of energy consumption by Commission buildings has been reduced by more than half, representing accumulated savings for the taxpayer of more than €100 million.
But the Commission’s ambition is to provide an example for other states and become climate-neutral by 2030, which requires a whole new level of action. Given its central place in shaping European policies, monitoring their implementation and working with a range of stakeholders, the Commission is taking the leading role. It is determined to set a good example in the transition towards a climate neutral society, working together with other EU, international and national public organisations and private businesses.

Achieving European “green ambitions”
It was decided that the Commission will become climate neutral by 2030: thus, by making its climate neutrality pledge under the European Climate Pact it adopted in 2020, the Commission whereby invite EU citizens, communities, organisations, governances and business to participate in climate action and foster the EU’s goal to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The Commission’s climate-neutrality pledge by 2030 means: reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 60% compared to 2005, and compensating remaining emissions with carbon removals. It will achieve this reduction by clear evidence and a thorough analysis accompanied by an action plan with specific measures, which cover the following four areas.
= Buildings and workspace represented 43% of Commission emissions in 2019: a new real estate policy in Brussels and further action at other sites will reduce emissions by 30% between 2019 and 2030. E.g. in Brussels, measures will include a 50% reduction in the number of buildings managed allowing economies of scale in certain services (with a 25% reduction in overall surface). This is coupled with flexible working/teleworking and a gradual shift to dynamic collaborative workspaces. Improvements will also be made to the environmental performance of the building stock. The Commission will also study, quantify and mitigate the climate impact of teleworking.
In Luxembourg, office moves, particularly to the new Jean Monnet II building by 2025, will have a substantial impact, while smaller sites (Ispra, Geel, Petten, Seville, Karlsruhe) will see the renovation of buildings and the construction of new, greener ones.
On-site energy productions will be developed through the installation of photovoltaic panels and solar water heating, for example.
The New European Bauhaus values will also be reflected when developing the Commission’s presence and actions at its site For example, the Commission is already actively engaged in a partnership with the Brussels Region in designing the new European Quarter and the new mobility plans.
= Staff work-related travel represented 28% of Commission emissions in 2019: by organising smart and intelligent missions and greener modes of travel, emissions should be cut by 50% by 2024. Internal guidelines on work-related travel will be revised, and an IT tool integrated into the work-related travel management system will monitor emissions linked to such travel, making it easier to opt for greener travel and accommodation choices.
= External experts’ travel subsidised by the Commission to attend expert meetings represented 14% of Commission emissions in 2019; the objective is to reduce these emissions by 50%. The Commission will mirror the efforts made on staff work-related travel using a mix of online, hybrid and in-person meetings, and will monitor emissions.
= IT infrastructures and assets represented 5% of Commission emissions in 2019. For this strategic area, the Communication maintains a balance between greening actions and an increased use of ICT, with a reduction of 30% of emissions expected by 2030. Measures include gradually reducing the number of local data rooms to a maximum of three by the end of 2022, streamlining IT and decommissioning obsolete systems, and reducing the individual digital carbon footprints of staff through awareness-raising campaigns.
All these measures intend to ensures coherence with other aspects of the European Green Deal, such as sustainability, circular economy, preservation of the ecosystem and biodiversity, etc.

“Transitional” impact on local communities
Measures concerning flexible working, work-related travel, external experts’ travel and the corporate vehicle fleet (expected 100% zero-emission fleet by 2027) could lead to less work-related travel and the use of greener and more sustainable modes of transport, which will reduce traffic congestion and pollution in cities. For example, the Commission will continue to adapt its staff commuting by bikes and using charging points for electric vehicles.
It will cooperate with local authorities at all sites to increase safe mobility, such as additional safe bike lanes. The future organisation of the Brussels Schuman roundabout is an example of close cooperation with the Brussels authorities to promote soft and greener mobility.
The Commission will also increase incentives for staff in Brussels to use sustainable methods of transport, by gradually reducing parking spaces by at least 35% by 2030.
It will implement a digital tool to allocate parking spaces: with smarter monitoring and planning, as well as increase in telework and use of public transport, a reduction of parking spaces by at least 35% is realistic.
A commitment to the preservation of nature and biodiversity will also impact Commission sites and their surroundings. It has already launched several nature and biodiversity programs, particularly at its non-urban locations: e.g. the Petten region is one of the greenest Commission sites, with more than 80% of it left for wildlife; part of the site is counted as a Natura-2000 ‘dry heath’ habitat. In Ispra, projects to restore and protect native trees are planned in order to stimulate biodiversity and develop the site’s natural heritage.
Besides, in urban sites there have been volunteer-led efforts in the Commission and other EU institutions to develop small-scale initiatives, such as herbal or vegetable gardens at some buildings. In Luxembourg, the future Jean Monnet-2 building incorporates areas that promote biodiversity. The Commission is evaluating what more it can do, especially in Brussels, where it has launched a study on the various options for improving biodiversity in its buildings and close surroundings.
More information in the following Commission’s web-sites: -Press release on the HR Strategy and Greening; – Factsheet – A new HR strategy for the Commission; – Factsheet – Greening the Commission; – People first – the new Commission HR Strategy; – Communication on the HR Strategy; – Communication on Greening.

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