The food industry is the largest manufacturing industry in Europe, capturing 15% (1,244 billion³ €) in terms of turnover, 12.8% in terms of value added employing 4,2 million people. The industry is responsible for a large share of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. Half of the GHG emissions in the food chain come from agriculture (followed by consumers 18%, and food processing 11%) which makes it the second largest sector for GHG emissions in EU28. Agriculture is responsible for 9.6% of the GHG emissions in Europe. A large share of GHG emissions stem from the production of meat and dairy products. The complexity of the food chain makes it difficult to produce exact integrated estimates of GHG emissions. Estimates for the emissions from the meat and dairy related sectors are as high as 661 Mt CO2-eq. Aspects such as high levels of food waste are also considered highly carbon-intensive.

The food and drink industry has changed from being a supply-driven sector to increasingly being market driven. This has led to increased influence of large retailers but also of consumers in general and various social groups and social movements in particular. Despite a technological potential to decrease carbon emissions in the production of food, changing consumption patterns to increasingly vegetable-based diets and the prevention of food waste are important actions to decarbonize the food industry. Through its direct link to issues such as agriculture and health, the food industry is a crucial industry with regard to its broader environmental and socio-economic relevance. We evaluate the emergence of decarbonisation innovations in this broader context. Examples include the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan in the UK, the European Waste Reduction Awards program, numerous short-food supply chain initiatives, and civil society vegan movements, to name a few. With the individual and collective decarbonisation potential being largely unexplored, this study will bridge this gap.




The European pulp and paper industry is at a crossroads with a slowly falling paper production since 2007 and the opportunities provided by a growing demand for new bio-based products. With an annual paper and board production of around 90 million tonnes, Europe is the second-largest producer globally. The global production has been fairly stable at around 400 million tonnes per year during the past five years. The pulp and paper industry provides 180,000 jobs in Europe directly, and 1,5 million in the value chain. It has a turnover of €75 billion and adds €15 billion to the EU GDP. 

The annual emissions from the pulp and paper industry in the EU are estimated to 33 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. While the carbon intensity has declined considerably in the past decades, the industry is actively pursuing strategies to further decarbonize its footprint, including its whole supply chain. CEPI:s Two Team Project is a recent example. This industry could also play an important role in the decarbonisation of other sectors. With its large turnover of biomass, the pulp and paper industry has the potential to be at the heart of a future bioeconomy, serving as a platform for the production of range of bio-based products, including paper, and also chemicals and energy Developing the bioeconomy is crucial to reduce the use of fossil-based products, but it could also revitalise the European pulp and paper industry, and rural areas across the EU. Biomass is a renewable, but limited, resource, making sustainable biomass production, paper recycling, and efficient fibre use an integrated and vital part of a sustainable development strategy of the European paper industry.




Satisfying the plastic demand for the growing population with fossil resources will have an enormous impact on the environment. During the past 50 years the annual global production of plastic has increased dramatically from 1,5 to over 310 million tonnes. Currently Europe is the second largest producer of plastics, with an annual production of approximately 60 million tonnes. The European plastic industry consists of around 62,000 companies and 1,45 million employees and, including manufacturers and converters, it is expected to have an annual turnover of €350 billion. 

To achieve a desirable sustainable future with low carbon dioxide emissions the plastic sector needs to decarbonise. The plastic industry is currently locked in to fossil feedstock and energy and the global plastic production accounts for 4-8% of the fossil oil use. The estimated use of carbon to satisfy the current plastic production in the European plastic sector corresponds to potential emissions of 160 Mt CO2. Furthermore, about 40 Mt of CO2 are emitted during the production process in steam crackers which deliver the platform products ethylene and propylene. Additional carbon dioxide emissions also originate from electricity and steam production which are needed to process platform products to final plastic. So there is an annual CO2 turnover of at least 200 Mt directly connected to the plastics sector. To reduce the emissions, the EU commission has set targets to increase plastic recycling and decrease the use of plastic bags. Incentives towards a sustainable plastic sector is also emerging from the production side, and plastics made from renewable resources such as biomass, algae and carbon dioxide are expected to be a sustainable solution to reducing the carbon footprint.




The European steel industry is the second largest in the world after China, producing about 170 Million tonnes per year, generating a turnover of about €170 billion and direct employment of about 330,000 skilled staff at over 500 steel production sites in 24 EU member states. The steel industry serves key markets such as construction, automotive, and appliances sectors, and is closely integrated into these value chains. This makes the steel industry a key sector in the future industrial structure of the EU. It was hard hit by the economic crisis, which has resulted in reduction of overcapacity in the past years. International trade and competitiveness are key to the European iron and steel industry, and have had a negative impact in recent years due to global overcapacity and national (export) strategies. The current business environment is challenging for the European steel industry, yet also a driver for innovation. Innovation takes place both at the product level (e.g. high-strength and other special qualities) and at the production process level. 

While energy intensity has reduced significantly over the past decades, the industry remains a large source of emissions (220 Mt CO2 in 2010) due to preferred use of coal and energy needed to reduce iron oxides. The ULCOS project is a unique example of a public-private partnership to develop the next generation low-CO2 steelmaking processes. Steel is one of the most recycled materials in the world, and traded globally. Increased recycling offers an opportunity to reduce emissions further, while demanding innovation to produce steel for the high-quality markets served by the European industry. The future strategies of the sector need to integrate these elements, and the project will do this from a value chain perspective, combining upstream and downstream transitions.