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IP/05/1674

Brussels, 21 December 2005

Commission proposes European strategy for the sustainable use of natural resources

The European Commission today proposed a new approach aiming at more sustainable use of natural resources. The objective is to reduce environmental impacts associated with resource use in Europe and globally in a growing economy. The impacts of unsustainable resource use include e.g. climate change as a result of fossil fuel use and overexploitation of clean water, soil and certain fish stocks. The strategy is focusing on improving knowledge, developing monitoring tools and fostering strategic approaches in specific economic sectors, Member States and internationally. The strategy is one of the seven 'thematic' strategies required under the 6th Environment Action Programme (2002-2012) and closely linked to the waste thematic strategy, which was also adopted today.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “Europe’s economy uses large amounts of natural resources. This is often done in a way that harms the environment, threatening the resource base on which we depend and thus future economic growth. It also contributes to growing waste mountains. We need an overarching approach that measures impacts of resource use and informs policymaking so we can take appropriate action. This can bring us a decisive step closer to sustainable development."

Environmental impacts of resource use

Economic activities have always been a key driver of resource use. As the global economy grows, so does the use of natural resources such as land, forests, wildlife, soil, air, water, fossil fuels and raw materials. However, many current use patterns and technologies produce environmental impacts that jeopardise the future availability of resources. The recent Millennium Assessment Report,[1] conducted under the auspices of the United Nations, shows that 15 out of 24 ecosystem services that provide raw materials and support life on Earth are being degraded or used unsustainably, threatening the planet.

"More value - less impact - better alternatives"

The "Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources" develops a policy framework to reduce the environmental impacts of resource use in a growing economy. It is aimed at “more value – less impact – better alternatives”:

  • More value - creating more value while using less resources (increasing resource productivity);
  • Less impact - reducing the overall environmental impact of resources used (increasing eco-efficiency);
  • Better alternatives – if cleaner use cannot be achieved, substituting currently used resources with better alternatives.

This is to be achieved over the whole life cycle of resource use, avoiding that environmental impacts are shifted from one phase to another or to other countries. Since waste represents the last phase in the life cycle of a resource, the resources strategy will generate important information for the thematic strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste, supporting it in reducing waste.

Measures proposed by the strategy

Taking a time horizon of 25 years, the strategy proposes a number of specific measures. They include:

  • A Data Centre run by the European Commission to bring together all available knowledge on natural resources and inform decision-makers;
  • An International Panel to be set up in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide independent scientific advice on global aspects of resource use;
  • The development of national measures and programmes by Member States under the guidance of a High Level Forum with representatives from the Commission, Member States and other stakeholders;
  • The consideration of environmental impacts of resource use in economic sector action plans that the Commission intends to develop in the context of its strategy for growth and jobs;
  • Finally, by 2008 the development of indicators to monitor and regularly review progress towards the strategy’s goal.

Thematic Strategies

The other five thematic strategies the Commission is developing cover air pollution (presented on 21 Sept. 2005) and marine environment (24 Oct. 2005) as well as soils, pesticides and the urban environment.

Thematic Strategies represent a modern way of decision-making. They are based on extensive research and consultation with stakeholders, address the issues in a holistic way that takes into account links with other problems and policy areas, and promote Better Regulation.

See MEMO/05/497 for more details on the resource strategy.
The full strategy is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/natres/index.htm
A video news release on the strategy is available to television stations and networks free of charge at:
http://www.tvlink.org


[1] http://www.millenniumassessment.org/en/index.aspx.

A popularised version of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis Report can be found at: http://www.greenfacts.org/ecosystems/.


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