EC outlines resource-efficiency strategy

20th September 2011


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EU member states should have virtually eliminated landfilling and halted biodiversity loss by the end of the decade, according to new plans from the European Commission (EC).

In a new strategy document published today (20 September 2011), the commission outlines measures that will safeguard the use of key resources such as water, clean air and ecosystem services, ultimately ensuring the European economy is functioning sustainably and competitively by 2050.

“Green growth is the only sustainable future – for Europe and the world,” said Janez Potočnik environment commissioner. “Industry and environment need to work hand in hand – in the long term our interests are the same.”

Milestones detailed in the “Roadmap to a resource-efficient Europe” include ensuring that by 2020 ecosystem services are properly valued by governments and businesses and that waste has become a managed resource.

While the commission is committed to developing a common approach to measuring and comparing businesses’ environmental footprints, member states are told they must do more to encourage consumers to move towards more resource-efficient products, shifting tax burdens towards polluters, ensuring product prices better reflect the costs of resources and promoting eco-design and eco-labelling.

Alongside increasing economic incentives that reward resource efficiency and investing public funds in better recycling infrastructures, governments must also phase out any subsidies that harm the environment because they prevent industries from investing into green technologies, are harming the environment.

The report focuses in particular on actions for the food, transport and buildings sectors as those are responsible for the greatest share of environmental impacts. Key targets for 2020 include cutting edible food waste by half and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 1% a year from 2012.

While environmental group Friends of the Earth complained that the proposals lack detail, UK industry body the CBI warned that the plans must take into account Europe’s place within a global market place.

“A competitive, sustainable and low-carbon economy relies on effective resource management and politicians should evaluate the role of public policy in this area,” said Rhian Kelly, CBI director for business environment policy.

“But any proposals must be subject to a full impact assessment to ensure we balance sustainability with improving EU competiveness and securing critical resource supply.”

Similarly, the UK's Department for Transport warned that challenge would be in delivering the intended benefits, not additional burdens on UK taxpayers or businesses.

“It is important that transport plays it part in mitigating climate change and other negative environmental and social impacts,” said a DfT spokesperson. “However, we would urge the Commission to consider alternatives to regulatory options, unless they are absolutely necessary.

“We will also continue to argue for flexibility over where emissions reductions are made within the economy as a whole, and would not support measures that would impact on the UK’s ability to take its own decisions on taxation.”

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