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Brussels, 19 September 2013
Statement by Commissioner Potočnik on receiving the United Nations' 2013 Champions of the Earth Award
"It is an honour and a privilege to receive the “Champions of the Earth Award”. I extend my deep appreciation to the United Nations Environment Programme for its work in sustainable development.
In the last years there has been a lot of talk about the economic crisis. However, beyond financial systems crashing, there is another crisis looming relating to our natural resources. Unless we change the way we behave and consume, we risk reaching a tipping point from which it will be very difficult to come back.
This year we reached World Overshoot Day on 20 August. This means that for the rest of this year we will be living from natural overdraft, because our resource consumption for this year has already exceeded the planet's ability to replenish.
By the middle of the century there will be 9 billion people living on the Earth. At the same time, most natural resources are becoming more scarce, more fragile and some are even disappearing.
We have based our development on cheap and abundant resources. But the basis for that growth model, are no longer there. Business as usual, is no longer an option. The only option we have, is to move from today’s resource-intensive growth, to one that is respectful of the limits of the planet.
We need a whole system change, and we all need to take part. Old ideas and old technologies won't do the job. We must accept the need for change, and – together – plant the seeds for that change to happen. And there is no time to waste. We have to innovate, invest and specialise in activities that will allow us to continue to grow even when resources are scarce.
In industrialised nations we must change our production and consumption patterns, and developing countries must avoid imitating our existing ones. The stakes are high and our responsibility to manage our own future has enormously increased.
I am certain that business and industry will be in the forefront of this transition towards green growth and a truly circular economy. Why? Because their future competitive position depends on it.
Economic policy without real integration of environmental policy is a short term illusion and frankly, there is no reasonable alternative to the ‘economy with sustainability in its heart’.
We need inspiration for transformative action across the world, and the "Champions of the Earth Award" provides that by recognising efforts in different corners of the world to improve management of world resources and to remind all of us of the environmental challenges that lie ahead of us."