Energy Transition Needs to Accelerate Urgently, Says EU’s Scientific Advice Mechanism

There are many possible pathways towards a carbon-neutral future — and achieving it by 2050 is possible but requires urgent action. This is the conclusion of a group of top scientists tasked by the European Commission with advising on how to facilitate the energy transition in Europe.

The European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism published two major documents on a systemic approach to the energy transition in Europe yesterday:

In these documents, the experts underline that the energy transition is far from a purely technical challenge. To make the transition a reality, we need to solve a huge systemic problem, coordinating countless individual voluntary decisions on investment, consumption and behaviour across Europe.

This means transforming the entire European energy system — a change which will affect every part of our society and require huge investment during the transition. It must be done in a socially equitable way. And we already need to accelerate progress if we want to achieve the EU’s target of net zero emissions by 2050.

Professor Peter Lund, chair of the SAPEA working group that wrote the report, said:

“The SAPEA report does not recommend an unequivocal policy package for Europe, but rather a set of policy options addressing various important facets of the overall challenge of the energy transition to reach carbon neutrality.

“However, as a central conclusion, any successful policy must involve a carbon pricing mechanism, in both the EU Emissions Trading System and Effort Sharing Regulation sectors, that delivers a sufficiently high carbon price while putting the pricing in a socially just frame.”

Professor Antonio Loprieno, the chair of the SAPEA Board and President of ALLEA, added:

“The transition of the energy system to tackle climate change is a key challenge and priority for the European Union, and its implications will impact on all parts of our societies, including a range of technical, economic, and social aspects. It is particularly important, that policymakers are well informed by science while making decisions on such complex issues.

“This report takes a multidisciplinary and systemic approach and provides evidence-based observations for achieving the EU’s emission targets by 2050 from an energy system transition perspective, thus brings the best and newest scientific knowledge into policymaking.”

 

SAPEA is part of the European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism. Together with the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors, it provides independent scientific advice to European Commissioners to support their decision-making. SAPEA brings together outstanding expertise from natural, applied, and social sciences and humanities, from over a hundred academies, young academies and learned societies in more than 40 countries across Europe. ALLEA is involved in SAPEA as one of its European academy networks.

Learn more about SAPEA and their Evidence Review Reports here

 

 

 

 

ALLEA President Takes over as Chair of SAPEA

ALLEA President Antonio Loprieno became the new chair of the Board of SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies). SAPEA is part of the European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism and brings together outstanding expertise in engineering, humanities, medicine, natural and social sciences from over 100 academies, young academies and learned societies across Europe.

President Loprieno took over the Chairmanship from Sierd Cloetingh, the President of the Academia Europaea, on 15 June. He will lead the transition of the EU-funded project towards its next phase.

“This is an exciting time to become chair of the SAPEA Board, with important new projects on the horizon and more public interest than ever in the role of scientific evidence in policy. I thank Sierd for his excellent leadership until now, and I look forward to contributing to the ongoing success of SAPEA”, said Loprieno, fellow of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences.

The SAPEA Board consists of the presidents of the five European Academy Networks, who work on a voluntary basis and act as a central body for decisions on joint activities within SAPEA.

About SAPEA

Together with the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors, SAPEA provides independent scientific advice to European Commissioners to support their decision-making. It also works to strengthen connections between Europe’s academies and Academy Networks, and to stimulate debate in Europe about the role of evidence in policy-making. As one of five academy networks in Europe, ALLEA is involved in the SAPEA project.

Professor Antonio Loprieno assumed the Presidency of ALLEA in May 2018 and was re-elected in 2021. He studied Egyptology, linguistics and Semitic studies at the University of Turin in Italy, and has served as Rector of the University of Basen (2006-2015) and President of the Jacobs University Bremen (2019-2020), among other responsibilities.

History and Future of Knowledge – Interview With ALLEA President

How is the nature of knowledge changing? What is the impact of the digital revolution on the roles of universities, academies and science advisors? Is the democratisation of knowledge always a good thing?

Professor Antonio Loprieno, ALLEA President, discusses these questions with Toby Wardman of SAPEA. They also discuss how to digitally unwrap an Egyptian mummy, whether there is such a thing as objective truth, and how loudly Toby can scream when his audio is muted.

Listen now

New Evidence Review Report: Can Biodegradable Plastics Help Reduce Plastic Pollution?

SAPEA, one of ALLEA major projects, just published a new evidence review report presenting the latest scientific evidence on biodegradability of plastics in the open environment. What does ‘biodegradable plastic’ mean?  Can biodegradable plastics help reduce plastic pollution? What policies should be in place to ensure that biodegradable plastics are beneficial to the environment, compared with non-biodegradable plastics? These questions are in focus of this new evidence review report.

In the report, a working group of leading experts nominated by academies across Europe conclude that biodegradable plastic has a role to play in reducing the accumulation of plastics in the environment. However, its role is limited to some specific applications. In other cases, including single-use packaging and plastic bags, it would be better to reduce the amount of plastic we use — or to re-use it, recycle it, or, where we can, compost it in industrial plants.

The SAPEA experts also stress that calling something ‘biodegradable’ does not mean that it will biodegrade in all conditions. Whether an item will biodegrade harmlessly depends not only on the item itself, but which environment it ends up in, what it breaks down into, and how long that takes.

SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) brings together outstanding expertise in engineering, humanities, medicine, natural and social sciences from over 100 academies, young academies and learned societies across Europe. It is part of the European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism.

Read the evidence review report

SAPEA Science for policy podcast

In September, SAPEA – one of ALLEA’s flagship projects – launched a series of podcasts on science advice for policy. Invited experts and science advice practitioners reflect on how far we should rely on science to make political decisions,  what makes a good science advisor, what to do when the evidence is incomplete or controversial,  what happens when science advice goes wrong,  and other questions on science-policy interactions.

So far, six episodes have been published. They feature:

  • Clarissa Rios Rojas, a research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge.
  • Mark Walport, a member of the SAGE committee, and former chief scientific advisor to the UK.
  • Vladimír Šucha and Marta Sienkiewicz, editors of the Joint Research Centre’s new science advice handbook.
  • Bart Koelmans, a chair of the advisory groups on microplastics pollution for the UN and EU.
  • Rolf Heuer and Pearl Dykstra, respectively the chair and deputy chair of the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors.
  • Peter Gluckman, the chair of the International Network for Government Science Advice, and a former chief science advisor to New Zealand.

The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and YouTube.

Covid-19 and our food: How is the current crisis affecting how we eat?

The Covid-19 pandemic has altered many aspects of our daily lives, including our trip to the supermarket, the access to food at times of uncertainty or how we eat when we spend more time at home. SAPEA just started a webinar series dedicated to “Sustainable food system” and the first webinar opened the discussion asking how Covid-19 has changed the way we eat. Experts debated the shifting consumers’ attitudes towards food as a public good instead of as a commodity, and confronted the conclusions of a recent SAPEA report with the challenges observed during this crisis.

 

 

Webinar series

Co-hosted by Europe’s academies and other partners, the webinar series will explore different aspects of Europe’s food system following the publication of SAPEA’s major evidence review report A sustainable food system for the European Union and the scientific opinion of the European Commission’s Chief Scientific Advisors. Future webinars in the series, planned for the autumn, will examine the EU’s new Farm2Fork strategy (co-hosted with the EU Food Policy Coalition) and the role of agroecology and technology in sustainability (co-hosted with a European academy). 

ALLEA is involved in SAPEA as one of the five academy networks in Europe. SAPEA is part of the European Commission’s Scientific Advice Mechanism.

For more information visit SAPEA website.

Check out the report here.