At the start of March, the Commission published its new EU 2020 strategy, “A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”, which included a commitment to “Sustainable growth – promoting a more resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy.”
In order achieve this transition, the Commission proposed a “Flagship Initiative” on a “Resource Efficient Europe“:
The aim is to support the shift towards a resource efficient and low-carbon economy that is efficient in the way it uses all resources. The aim is to decouple our economic growth from resource and energy use, reduce CO2 emissions, enhance competitiveness and promote greater energy security.
In the months since this announcement, the big question has been: What does this actually mean in practice?
During this period, the Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik has been making clear his views on the importance of Resource Efficiency, for example in this speech to an event at Oxford University:
“..what the world doesn’t need is a blinkered pattern of consumption; production and usage that strips our planet without working out something fundamental from the word go: we don’t have enough to go round!
Resource efficiency for me is the philosophy against the next great extinction. We are trying to throw away, the throwaway generation.”
At Friends of the Earth Europe we decided that this was a good time to organise an event to discuss this initiative, and how to make sure it makes a real difference.
The event (which was in a small room & totally full, so I didn’t promote it here) happened last Thursday in the European Parliament; the presentations are now on-line, and in a few weeks we will upload a full write-up.
The presentations cover a range of issues, including how the supermarket REWE in Austria is using the SERI/FOEE resource use indicators, how business resource efficiency is being improved in North Rhine Westphalia in Germany, why Europe needs a binding energy efficiency target, and (from me) how measuring Europe’s resource use can help improve our resource efficiency, in particular the future pressures on land.
What the presentations don’t include (but will be in the write-up) is the introductory presentation by Robin Miege of DG Environment, and the panel discussion with contributions from DG Agriculture, DG Enterprise and DG Employment.
A number of points struck me in these presentations and discussions:
- The Commission (probably President Barroso himself) will launch a ‘Communication’ on the Resource Efficiency Flagship Programme in January.
- There is lots of work going on within Commission DGs as part of this communication & the various processes that will follow it. This includes studies, and more cross-Commission work than is normal.
- Although the Commission are doing a lot of internal communication on this subject, there is not much external visibility of these discussions.
- DG Environment are going to publish a ‘Road Map’ on Resource Efficiency in June or July, probably preceded by a consultation in January/February.
- Other DGs have linked processes going on, which should reflect or be part of this Flagship, including reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, a new Energy Efficiency Action plan and a Transport White Paper.
- There are also links with other EU2020 Flagship Initiatives, including on Innovation, Industrial Policy and Jobs & Skills.
The big question is: Will this Flagship Programme (and EU2020 as a whole) result in real policies that lead to a substantial reduction in Europe’s levels of resource use?
Of course, we also need to make sure that we are actually measuring our resource use, otherwise we won’t actually know if new policies are really reducing our resource use!!!