The main goal of the European Green Deal is to reach climate neutrality in the EU by 2050. To get there, everyone from individual people to communities, local governments to state authorities, and all other kinds of organisations have to be involved in finding solutions. Therefore, the European Commission launched the European Climate Pact.
The European Climate Pact is a movement that empowers all kinds of stakeholders to act on the climate crisis. It encourages real change that is science-based, transparent, and inclusive. Additionally, the importance of connecting people and organisations to learn from each other is emphasized. By providing a space where participants can share information and solutions and build networks it aims to increase the impact.
So, how can you or your organisation take part in the pact? Everyone can contribute their share in fighting the climate crisis. By making a climate pledge, stakeholders commit themselves to concrete action. This involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also other environmental and sustainable issues can be addressed. Until now, about 3,800 pledges have been made covering topics from carbon emissions, energy, and water to adaptation and waste.
The European Commission provides different schemes that can support companies and other organisations with the implementation of their pledge. EMAS is one of them. The EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is a premium management instrument developed by the European Commission for organisations to evaluate, report, and improve their environmental performance.
The implementation of EMAS is based on the recurring principles of Plan-Do-Act-Check. Organisations have to assess their environmental impact and establish an environmental policy that sets short- and long-term goals. From there, a plan for action can be established to introduce the needed changes in the business. Annually, the organisations monitor their progress and report on it in an Environmental Statement. Furthermore, an accredited third-party independent environmental verifier checks compliance with all applicable environmental requirements within the framework of EMAS. This progress successfully systemises environmental actions and ensures its continuous improvement.
The climate pledges strive to commit people, companies, and organisations to a bigger goal in the fight against the climate crisis. For companies and organisations this requires long-term action in all their different operational areas. To simplify the realisation of the pledge EMAS is the tool that carves the path in a clear and structured way. The voluntary environmental management scheme provides a transparent and verified framework for checking that the climate pledges are implemented in practice.
Moreover, it is not only beneficial for pledgers to adopt EMAS, but also the other way around, EMAS-organisations can profit from taking part in the European Climate Pact. Since they already have an environmental policy with ambitious goals in practice, EMAS organisations can use these to pledge. As a reward, they will get access to the Climate Pact network and can find partners to exchange their knowledge with or even work together.
The European Commission’s Pledge and EMAS
One organization that made a climate pledge with EMAS is the European Commission itself.
The Commission committed to an ambitious and realistic plan to gradually reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 60% compared to 2005 and compensate any remaining emissions in 2030 with high quality carbon removals, as presented in the Communication and action plan on Greening the Commission, adopted on 5 April together with the new HR Strategy. This pledge gives visibility to the corporate climate neutrality commitment on the Climate Pact platform and encourages pledges from other organisations and stakeholders.
To find out more about the intra-connection of EMAS and EU Climate Pact, we talked with the Commission’s corporate EMAS coordination team: Celso Sanchez Martinez - EMAS Management Representative, Michael Rourke, Elisabetta Tonin and David Da Camara-Gomes – EMAS Officers and Sofia Gregou – Responsible for Corporate EMAS Communication and Training.
Which role does EMAS play in the Pledge of the European Commission to become Climate Neutral by 2030?
Sofia Gregou: The Commission is determined to be a frontrunner of the transition towards a climate neutral society. To achieve our goal, staff engagement will be crucial; everyone has a role to play! EMAS has already established a two-way communication with staff thought it corporate staff awareness campaigns and trainings, as well as an extensive and highly motivated network of EMAS Correspondents and EMAS Site Coordinators in every service, site and gradually even the EC Representations. Thought the EU Climate Pact, we are urging EC colleagues to pledge individually and act as “green ambassadors”, set up their own daily environmental challenges and spread the word among their colleagues and networks.
What are the benefits of using EMAS for the European Commission’s pledge?
Celso Sanchez Martinez: The improvement of the environmental footprint is the main benefit of having EMAS in our organisation, but not the only one. The management system has plenty of organisational benefits for instance, better operational and internal control, better image and credibility, attractiveness and increase of staff engagement. And last but not least, EMAS contributes to tangible and important financial savings. In fact, EMAS proved to be a robust system on which the Commission based its approach to define the targets towards its climate neutrality in 2030. Moreover, EMAS is considered being the appropriate tool to implement the actions and to report on that objective in a structured and sustainable approach.
Michael Rourke: EMAS requires that results be published, following verification of reporting by an external verifier. Year after year the data becomes more robust, and we are able to take on board comments and suggestions for improvement, which means for example that complex technical elements, such as the carbon footprint, develop gradually, taking into account the latest advice while considering our internal constraints.
Which role will EMAS play in the pledge’s implementation?
Celso Sanchez Martinez: To become climate neutral the Commission identified several actions in the Communication on its Greening. The manner we travel is probably the action, which could lead to the higher decrease in actual emissions. The idea is to take benefit of the lessons learnt from the Covid crisis to heavily decrease the professional travels, we hope to reduce by 50% the emissions due to professional travels (compared to pre-covid period). Many other actions are related to the management of buildings where the Commission aim to reduce office space and have better environmental performance installations, incorporating the new European Bahaus principles in its real estate portfolio. Another important aspect is the development of biodiversity plans in our urban headquarters starting by Brussels, the first actions of the plan will be implemented in spring 2023. The implementation of these actions, and many others, will be managed by through EMAS. This should ensure a robust and encompassing approach including reporting.
What are the benefits of using EMAS to reduce GHG emssions?
Michael Rourke: In the last few years, we have particularly developed the carbon footprint, relevant owing to the European Green Deal announced in 2019, and the Commission’s Communication on Greening that illustrated the Commission’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2030. Our carbon footprint takes into account-embodied emissions from our real estate, and IT, and service contracts and we have been able to develop internal reporting tools to better identify trends in missions emissions, a significant component of our carbon footprint. For the first time in 2021, we incorporated the impact on emissions of teleworking using data from national sources as well as the results of internal surveys into staff behaviour.
David Da Camara-Gomes: During the pandemic, the lockdown forced the massive use of telework, which influenced new ways of working. Estimating the environmental impact of teleworking has required a great deal of research. The methodology developed in 2022 using both public data and staff survey results enabled us to approach this estimate in the most systematic way possible.
Elisabetta Tonin: The Commission has also enhanced its inter-institutional outreachbyre-launching GIME, the Inter-institutional Group for Environmental Management, for exchanging environmental best practices in line with the EU Green Deal towards a climate neutral Europe by 2050. We discuss green “hot” topics like the calculation of the environmental impact of telework, the reduction of emissions related to business travel, the biodiversity enhancement, energy saving measures, carbon removals/carbon offsetting. Every institution brings to the table their internal discussions, perplexities and new measures in place in order to keep the inter-institutional dialogue alive. Air pollution, biodiversity, climate change, energy are all urgent topics to be addressed all over Europe. A change of direction is urgently needed from all of us, and, of course, the European institutions are frontrunners of the transition towards a climate neutral society and want to lead by example.
How is EMAS helping to foster staff involvement in an organisation and boost individual pledges?
Sofia Gregou: Besides the “usual” EMAS communication staff awareness campaigns, we also attempted to intra-connect for the first time more than 20 internal “greening” networks from grass-root initiatives by colleagues to more structural EU Policy Hubs, setting up an ambitious GREEN transition Multipliers Community since December 2022. Several new exciting environmental projects ideas were born and we are more than eager to see them develop and flourish during the coming years…
- Publication date
- 13 March 2023
- Directorate-General for Environment