Communication for Sustainable Development

EU urged to stop "dreaming" and start regulating a resource-efficient economy

BRUSSELS/BELGIUM, 10 MAY 2010 - Janez Potocnik...Image via Wikipedia
Green groups have urged the European Union to implement concrete policies that will build on its new roadmap for achieving sustainable economic growth by 2050, after critics claimed the latest EU plan to enhance resource efficiency was too "vague".

Environment commissioner Janez Potočnik yesterday launched a roadmap outlining the first steps the bloc will take to boost resource efficiency across a range of sectors including transport, energy, food and buildings.

The roadmap highlighted a number of measures required to build a sustainable and resource efficient economy, including steps to remove subsidies that "lock the economy into an unsustainable path" and encourage companies to develop greener products.

Member states were also encouraged to replace labour taxation with more green taxes, and to offer incentives for businesses to invest in sustainable production techniques.

CBI director for business environment policy Rhian Kelly welcomed the roadmap, but said it was crucial to ensure any new policies also helped deliver economic growth.

"A competitive, sustainable and low-carbon economy relies on effective resource management and politicians should evaluate the role of public policy in this area," she said. "But any proposals must be subject to a full impact assessment to ensure we balance sustainability with improving EU competitiveness and securing critical resource supply."

However, green groups criticised the roadmap for failing to include concrete measures designed to ensure resource efficiency improves.

"Either we will regulate the EU to become a resource-efficient economy or we will keep on dreaming about it," said Pieter de Pous, policy director at Brussels based European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

The group welcomed a proposal to tackle indirect land use change impacts arising from existing renewable energy policies and hailed a commitment cut residual waste levels.

However, it also said it was "disturbed" by the Commission's plan to not use external auditors when assessing the resource efficiency impacts of its own policy proposals.

"Europe will need to find a way to exit the current euro-crisis which will lead to an absolute and significant reduction in its consumption of resources, if it is to avoid ecological default," said de Pous.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) similarly argued that the roadmap was too vague and lacked urgent measures required to reduce Europe's consumption of energy, water and land.

"From burgers to mobile phones, Europe's wasteful economies leave us perilously over-dependent on imported materials, jeopardising business and putting pressure on wildlife, the climate and the world's poorest people," said resource use campaigner Julian Kirby.

"Policymakers are right to commit to using resources more wisely and ensuring nearly nothing is wasted - but their plans still lack the details and deadlines needed to protect both our economy and the environment.

"The EU should end its drive for rainforest-wrecking biofuels, support planet-friendly farming practices and ensure our products are built to last."

He also called on UK Prime Minister David Cameron to improve Defra's much-criticised waste review, which was issued earlier this year.

"With Wales outstripping English recycling rates and Brussels aiming for a genuinely zero-waste economy, David Cameron must update the disastrous Waste Review with an ambitious plan to cut waste, boost recycling and make British manufacturing more efficient," he said.

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