EU Resources Efficiency plans grow a sustainable economy

The European Commission has launched publications relating to resource efficiency and the sustainable use of natural resources in the EU.

The head line driver is a prediction that if the EU alone carries on resources consumption at the current rates, the EU itself will require the equivalent of 2 planets to sustain itself.

The key document is a Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe (COM(2011) 571/3) (the “Resource Efficiency Roadmap”), which builds on existing strategies such as the Low Carbon Roadmap.

Whether some or all of the proposals will become law will remain to be seen but it is worth noting the milestones for 2020 because these are only a little over 8 years away. For those in, or financing those in, public procurement, consumer goods, real estate and waste management sectors (including energy from waste) these proposals are likely to be of importance particularly in assessment of investment in medium to long term plans or projects.

What is also very clear is the European Commission’s backing of life-cycling costing and accounting for environment externalities. These are very poorly understood by mainstream businesses and related professionals. Consideration may need to be given to skills in this area including teaching provided at our universities.

The Resource Efficiency Roadmap identifies the areas to be targeted for transformation. It sets out a number of milestones followed by the mechanisms intended to secure their achievement. These mechanisms include legislation, market-based instruments, refocusing of funding instruments and the promotion of sustainable production and consumption.

So, for instance, there is a call to change the focus of taxation away from labour towards resources and pollution, and to provide new incentives for resource-efficient products. There is, also, a recommendation to adapt prices to reflect the real costs of resource use.

The Roadmap seeks the establishment, by 2013, of targets and indicators providing predictability and transparency in resource efficiency, through a participative process involving policy makers, NGOs, business and consumers.

A greater role is envisaged for eco-design, eco-labelling, and the greening of procurement by public bodies. Significant emphasis is placed on energy efficiency in the public sector.

The overarching milestone is that by 2050 “All resources are sustainably managed, from raw materials to energy, water, air, land and soil. Climate change milestones have been reached, while biodiversity and the ecosystem services it underpins have been protected, valued and substantially restored.”

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