Leveraging material efficiency as an energy and climate instrument for heavy industries in the EU
Material efficiency is indispensable to reaching agreed targets for industry's energy and carbon emissions. Yet, in the EU, the energy- and emissions-saving potentials of this strategy continue to be framed as secondary outcomes of resource-related policies. Understanding why material efficiency has been overlooked as an energy/climate solution is a prerequisite for proposing ways of changing its framing, but existing studies have failed to do so. This paper fills this gap by triangulating interviews, policy documents and three policy theories: namely, historical and rational choice institutionalism, and multiple streams framework. Factors discouraging material efficiency as an energy and climate strategy include: difficulties in reframing the prevailing rationale to pursue it; the inadequacy of monitored indicators; the lack of high-level political buy-in from DG Energy and Clima; the ETS policy lock-in; uncoordinated policy management across Directorates; the lack of a designated industry lobby. Policy solutions are proposed. Before 2030, these are limited to minor amendments, e.g. guidance on embodied energy calculations or industry standards. Post-2030, more radical interventions are possible, such as introducing new fiscal drivers, re-designing the ETS emissions cap or benchmarks for allowances. This evidence suggests that the transition to a low-carbon industry will require Member State- and industry-level action.