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Janez Potočnik

European Commissioner for Environment

Towards a more resource efficient Europe

Launch by Commissioner Potocnik of the Commission Flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy: "A resource-efficient Europe"

Brussels, 26 January 2011

I am happy for the opportunity to present to you the communication on resource efficiency which the Commission adopted today.

As you know, we have embarked on a Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

We are taking this strategy forward through 7 flagship initiatives. Today, the Commission presents the last of the 7 flagships, namely that of resource efficiency.

Our objective is to support the shift to a resource-efficient, low carbon economy that makes better use of natural resources in order to achieve sustainable growth.

Our starting point is simple: we need economic growth, but what kind of growth? It cannot only be about quantity but must be more about quality. In the 20th Century the world population grew four times, and economic output 40 times. We increased our fossil fuel use by 16 times, our fishing catches by 35, and our water use by 9.

Continuing our current patterns of resource use is not an option. If we continue business as usual, we will quickly hit the physical limits of our planet.

So we have to make sure that in promoting the economic growth that we badly need we do not sow the seeds of a potentially graver crisis, one that is irreversible. We can bail out banks; we can bail out the economy; we cannot bail out the planet.

With today's communication on resource efficiency, we present our conceptual and policy framework to drive the gradual transformation of our economy.

I would like to define the main messages as follows:

  • First, resources are understood in the broadest sense. It is not just about resources in goods. The resources we talk and care about range from raw materials such as fuels, minerals and metals, to food, soil, water, air, biomass and ecosystems.

  • Second, resource efficiency becomes a common denominator for developing our policies on climate change, energy, transport, industry, agriculture, fisheries, biodiversity and regional development. It concerns many of my colleagues in the Commission; that is why the development of this communication was steered by President Barroso.

  • Third, this interlocking approach can only be achieved with a consistent policy mix that makes the best use of synergies and that addresses trade-offs between different policy objectives.

  • Fourth, this approach requires the building up of a solid knowledge base and common analytical work underpinning many different initiatives. It will also require a lot of investment in research and innovation to reap the benefits that green and other technologies can bring.

  • Fifth, this is a truly global agenda. Our trading partners are all moving the direction of green growth. We want to work with them, of course. The Rio+20 summit in May next year will be devoted to green growth. The Commission will be actively contributing to making that summit a success.

  • Sixth, this is not about promoting a green niche in the economy. It is about greening the entire economy. That is why we will integrate resource efficiency within the "European semester" process as from next year.

What I would like you to retain from today's communication is that through more resource efficiency, clearer long-term policies and investments in green innovation, we are strengthening the basis for growth and jobs and delivering on our climate, energy and environment objectives.

From my many contacts with business, I know that business is moving in this direction. Business clearly sees the constraints and opportunities for its growth in the mid to long run.

The question is whether policy makers and politicians are ready to shape the economic framework conditions in order to support business in this direction.

With today's communication, the Commission shows that it has the conviction, the leadership and the policy framework for doing this.

Resource efficiency is a strategic necessity for Europe but also an economic opportunity we cannot afford to miss.

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