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Euroviews. EU leaders must double down on sustainability to secure a competitive and resilient future

European Council President Charles Michel addresses the media at the conclusion of an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, 18 June 2024
European Council President Charles Michel addresses the media at the conclusion of an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, 18 June 2024 Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
By Gonzalo Sáenz de Miera, Fleming Voetmann, Co-chairs, Corporate Leaders Group Europe
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

By improving European market integration, ensuring policy consistency, investing in infrastructure, and fostering cross-sectoral partnerships in supply chains, we can create a resilient and competitive economy, Gonzalo Sáenz de Miera and Fleming Voetmann write.

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As the dust starts to settle on the EU elections, there is no doubt that the political dial has shifted towards the right — but there is still a glimmer of hope that we can continue the important work from the last few years. What voters are calling for is stability and certainty. 

As business leaders, we are committed to supporting the implementation of an improved Green Deal. This deal remains the key tool to ensure Europe’s competitiveness and resilience on the world stage, and European decision-makers must capitalise on that rather than allow it to fall by the wayside.   

The European Green Deal (EGD) was adopted in 2020 as Europe’s new growth strategy, representing a bold step toward a more sustainable economy with cross-societal support. But after years of poly crises, from pandemic to war to inflation, Europeans’ concerns about the cost of living, security, and social disparities have grown.  

So the question is, how do we reconcile these concerns in the face of rapidly escalating climate change and put together a robust response?  

As progressive businesses, we are here to support this journey.  We know it will require effort, but we are ready to walk the talk, provided we have the certainty that EU policymakers will commit to delivering on the sustainability agenda.

Citizens want tangible results

We want to make the Green Deal’s objectives a reality and put forward concrete propositions to bolster European resilience, competitiveness and prosperity.

Our suggestion is to complement and rejuvenate the Green Deal with four additional deals. The first is a new industry deal that acknowledges the EU’s industrial base and supports the transformation of our model of production; the second is a new economic deal that creates the assets for Europe’s future; the third is a new social deal that involves citizens in an inclusive and fair transition, and fourth — a new political deal that embodies the EU’s values of liberal democracy, accountability and long-term vision.  

Achieving the goals set for 2030 while planning for 2040 requires a multifaceted approach involving industry, governance, social frameworks, and economic diligence.
A technician installs an array of solar panels on a roof, August 2022
A technician installs an array of solar panels on a roof, August 2022AP Photo/John Minchillo

Together, these deals, laid out in our report published on Wednesday, “The Green Deal and Beyond: A Business Agenda for a Sustainable, Competitive and Resilient Europe”, hold the key to positive systemic change. 

The direction set by the EGD so far has increased Europe’s resistance to shocks and remains a prerequisite for Europe’s competitiveness. However, its success depends on the right balance between immediate needs and long-term plans, and to maintain consistency across several key initiatives.

Achieving the goals set for 2030 while planning for 2040 requires a multifaceted approach involving industry, governance, social frameworks, and economic diligence.  

But it is clear from the recent election results that citizens want to see tangible results soon if they are to maintain their trust in it. This is indispensable. 

We need something that lifts collective aspiration

What we have seen in the last few months is that Europeans require a sense of ownership and a positive narrative that lifts collective aspiration. It requires concrete tools and instruments to allow the vision to be implemented in the daily life of citizens. In this way, one of the most critical areas for improvement is the single market.  

Overcoming national fragmentation is essential for creating a cohesive and efficient economy. Within the single market, energy plays an essential role.  At Iberdrola, for example, we believe the EU must adopt an ambitious approach towards market integration and renewable-based electrification of final energy consumption. We also advocate for a common energy taxation system, more grids and interconnections, more storage and stable regulations.  

Energy-efficient and decarbonised buildings would lower overall energy needs — plus reducing the costs of shifting towards renewable energy sources would incentivise investment in updated grid infrastructure and increase security.
The European Union flag inside the atrium during an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, 17 June 2024
The European Union flag inside the atrium during an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, 17 June 2024AP Photo/Omar Havana

Equally important is the adoption of a value chain approach and partnerships across different sectors.  

Take the example of retrofitting buildings.  At Velux, what we need is holistic planning when it comes to integrating economic, social, health and well-being benefits — alongside energy savings.

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Energy-efficient and decarbonised buildings would lower overall energy needs — plus reducing the costs of shifting towards renewable energy sources would incentivise investment in updated grid infrastructure and increase security.

There is also great potential for more sustainable construction materials, circular products and smart solution deployments. Proper value chain integration holds the key to growing sustainable markets in Europe. 

Green transition is not only inevitable — it's unstoppable

The bottom line is — sustainability is not just beneficial for the planet, it also underpins prosperity and competitiveness. The International Energy Agency (IEA) provides compelling evidence to support this.

For example, for every job lost in the fossil fuel economy, two new green jobs are created. What’s more, a third of European GDP growth can be attributed to clean energy.

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These statistics underscore the economic viability and necessity of the green transition. With competitive sustainability as a compass, Europe can channel investments towards the needed cross-border infrastructures, make the circulation of sustainable products and services easier, and harness the innovative potential of European companies.  

It’s a win-win-win for our economy, climate and people alike.  

The green transition is not only inevitable — it's unstoppable. But how we collectively shape it is what matters.

By improving European market integration, ensuring policy consistency, investing in infrastructure, and fostering cross-sectoral partnerships in supply chains, we can create a resilient and competitive economy. This must be the highest priority for the next set of European institutions.  

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The rewards — economic gains, job creation, and a healthier planet — are well worth it. The Green Deal’s vision of a sustainable and prosperous Europe is within reach. 

Gonzalo Sáenz de Miera, Global Director of Climate Change and Alliances at Iberdrola and Fleming Voetmann, Vice President of External Relations and Sustainability at Velux, are Co-chairs of the Corporate Leaders Group Europe.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at view@euronews.com to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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