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  • Dear Readers!

    This editorial was written and ready for print and focused primarily on the EU’s Green Deal. And then coronavirus spread around the world and the text had to be revised. Despite the current situation, though, the Green Deal remains one of the most important projects for the European circular economy. And many other things have happened as well – the question surrounding DSD, for example.

    It is now official. On 22 April 2020, the first Cartel Panel of the Higher Regional Court [Oberlandesgericht] of Düsseldorf dismissed our appeal against the Cartel Office’s decision. Their ruling surprised us as we were sure that we had the better arguments in favour of us acquiring Duales System Deutschland GmbH. But we live under the rule of law and we will, of course, accept their decision. What we need to do now is to take the time required to take a detailed look at the Panel’s reasons for dismissing our appeal and then carefully decide what our next steps should be. In light of the fact that all other major competitors operate in this market, it will be interesting to see to what extent REMONDIS will get involved in the Dual System in the future.

    It is not so easy to look ahead at the moment, though, faced with the current coronavirus emergency. When the first media reports came through on 29 December last year that China had informed the WHO that it had an unexplained cluster of people suffering from an unidentified lung disease, no one realised just how hard or how fast this virus would affect the globalised economy. It is practically impossible to estimate the costs incurred by the economy grounding to a halt as a result of the virus. And it is not just the private sector that has felt the impact. Many city and district authorities were already in financial difficulties before the crisis began. Their situation can only get worse, now that their revenue from local business tax and their takings from their local amenities have plummeted. Maybe it is time to set aside old arguments and enter into long-term partnerships with the private sector that will benefit both parties – especially when it comes to delivering essential public services. Setting up public private joint ventures dedicated to providing essential services could help mitigate the consequences of the crisis. At the end of the day, ‘a load shared is a load halved’. One positive coming from these unprecedented times is the increased sense of solidarity among the population and towards many sections of the economy. REMONDIS, too, is there to help and support its municipal partners – during this crisis more than ever.

    Past pandemics have rarely lasted longer than two years. At some stage – whether with or without a vaccine – public life and business will return to normal. This will be the moment when it will become clear to all that our planet’s biggest problem – climate change – has not solved itself. Once again, the spotlight will be turned on the European Union’s Green Deal. Looking at a list published from within the EU, there is a danger of important regulations being watered down, especially in the area of the circular economy. In contrast, the German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina, expressly advises against neglecting climate action and environmental protection following the Covid-19 crisis in its ad-hoc statement published on 14 April 2020. In fact, it recommends the exact opposite. The economy must be kick-started so that it can grow again and should, it says, be “guided more firmly than before by considerations of sustainability, not least because this offers vast potential for economic growth.” Climate change is and will continue to be the biggest challenge for the future and REMONDIS, being one of the leading water and recycling businesses, will continue to put forward its solutions and play an important role.

    With this in mind: stay safe and stay positive.

    Thomas Conzendorf

Completely climate neutral by 2050

  • The European Green Deal was officially launched by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in December 2019. Its goal: for the whole of the European continent to be climate neutral by 2050. With the circular economy included in the Green Deal, it is certainly to be welcomed that the efforts of this sector have finally been acknowledged and appreciated. The pioneering role that the recycling sector in general – and REMONDIS, one of the leading recycling businesses, in particular – have been playing to promote qualitative growth by conserving resources and combating climate change is increasingly being recognised. This is a role that they have been playing for many years now, serving businesses and private individuals and protecting the environment. The recycling industry’s innovations and technologies are also effective as they have a positive impact on all of the sectors that are relevant for the Green Deal to be a success. Starting with the development of closed loop concepts for the mobility sector, to solutions for generating renewable energy, all the way through to producing recycled raw materials for industrial and construction firms. The message is clear: if the Green Deal is to succeed, then efforts across the EU to grow and improve recycling activities must be further intensified.

“To absolutely decouple growth from resource use, we must change the way we produce, market, consume and trade, and the way we deal with waste.”

EU Circular Economy Action Plan

This generation’s defining task

“It [Green Deal] resets the Commission’s commitment to tackling climate and environmental-related challenges that is this generation’s defining task.” This was one of the opening statements made by the new Commission in its official communication when it launched one of the biggest projects to be faced by this generation just two weeks after taking office. The name has been adopted from the American “New Deal”, a series of economic and social reforms that were enforced by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1938 in response to the Great Depression.

Ambitious objectives

A first proposal for a European climate law was announced as a legal framework for the Green Deal at the beginning of March. This aims to enshrine the 2050 climate neutrality objective in legislation. The commitments put forward by the EU Commission are certainly ambitious:

  • From 2050 onwards, more greenhouse gases should be removed from the atmosphere than are emitted across Europe.
  • Plans are to increase the EU’s greenhouse gas emission reduction target for 2030 to up to 55% compared to 1990 levels (currently 40%).
  • By 30 September 2023 and every five years following this date, the EU Commission shall assess the progress achieved by all the member states.
  • From 2030 onwards, the EU Commission shall have the right to amend the Climate Law should it become apparent that the 2050 climate neutrality objective will not be able to be achieved with the measures undertaken up to that point.
  • of European CO2 emissions are directly linked to materials management

The circular economy is key

  • The Commission has not yet set out concrete plans for all the different sectors to describe how the increased climate objectives can be reached in practical terms. Everyone is in agreement, however, when it comes to the subject of the circular economy: it is seen as being indispensable for achieving European climate neutrality by 2050. One of the objectives put forward in its EU Circular Economy Action Plan, which was presented during a press conference at the beginning of March, is for the volumes of municipal waste in the EU to have been halved within a decade.

    In the document, the EU Commission underlines the fact that 66% of CO2 emissions are directly linked to materials management. For this reason, the circular economy is one of the main drivers of climate neutrality and should be included in the national climate action plans that member states are obliged to draw up as part of the Paris Agreement. The significance of the way waste is handled is also highlighted in the introduction to its new strategy. “To absolutely decouple growth from resource use, we must change the way we produce, market, consume and trade, and the way we deal with waste.”

     

    Many of the points that the EU has now specifically put on its agenda correspond with those that REMONDIS has been initiating and implementing for many years now. It, too, has been calling for such a development across Europe in position papers.

    • According to official sources, the circular economy with its new waste management and recycling laws will make up half of all EU efforts to become climate neutral by 2050. It is, therefore, a fundamental pillar for the European Green Deal – one that has been given the highest priority

Covid-19: simply delaying matters

Public and business life began shutting down while we were putting together this issue of REMONDIS aktuell as the Covid-19 pandemic spread around the world. CO2 emissions have dropped temporarily as industrial businesses consume less energy and the number of trips made by plane and car has dropped dramatically. However, the first countries had already begun to slowly ease the massive restrictions that had been imposed on their populations by the time this issue was sent to print. Politicians, business leaders and doctors expect public life to eventually return to normal – certainly by the time herd immunity has been achieved. This will be the moment when it will become clear to all that the problem we have been facing with climate change had simply been put off for a while. It is and will continue to be the biggest challenge that humanity must overcome. REMONDIS, being one of the leading water and recycling businesses, will continue to put forward its solutions and play an important role as part of the Green Deal.

On 14 April 2020, the German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina, published a number of recommendations, one of these being that measures taken to protect the environment and tackle climate change should not be neglected after the Covid-19 crisis. In fact, it recommended the exact opposite. The economy must be kick-started so that it can grow again. This should be “guided more firmly than before by considerations of sustainability, not least because this offers vast potential for economic growth”, the scientists write in their paper. “We must continue down the path we set out for ourselves and the EU Commission’s “Green Deal” must, in particular, be implemented,” commented paleoclimatologist, Gerald Haug.

A number of people from the world of politics and business are calling for the environmental restrictions on industrial businesses to be eased or postponed after the coronavirus crisis – a suggestion the experts at Leopoldina most definitely reject.

During her speech at the XIth Petersberg Climate Dialogue at the end of April, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel also stressed the need to keep climate protection in mind when taking steps to restart the economy following the Covid-19 emergency. “We face difficult discussions about distribution,” she said. “It will therefore be all the more important, when launching economic stimulus packages, that we keep climate protection very firmly in view.” One of the biggest positives to come out of the coronavirus crisis could be, therefore, the restructuring of the economy to reflect greater sustainability by targeting investments towards climate-neutral production and logistics.

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