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European Commission

Janez Potočnik

European Commissioner for Environment

"How can we do more with less"

Launch of high-level panel on Resource Efficiency

Brussels, 5 June 2012

A few minutes ago we closed the first meeting of the European Resource Efficiency Platform. As the Vice-Chair of the Platform, I am sharing this podium with the Chair, John Bruton, former Prime Minister of Ireland, who has also served as EU Ambassador to the US. I am grateful for his commitment in this initiative and wish to thank him for that.

I also have the privilege of being accompanied by two personalities who made guest interventions at our meeting today, and who have provided our Platform with valuable food for thought:

  • Dame Ellen MacArthur, who sailed solo non-stop around the world when only 24 years old. She has since then launched the Ellen MacArthur Foundation with the goal of “accelerating the transition to a regenerative, circular economy”.

  • Jeremy Grantham is the co-founder of one of the largest asset management companies in the world. His Grantham Foundation seeks to raise awareness of urgent environmental issues and supports individuals and organizations working to find solutions.

Let me start by a brief reminder on why we are here today. Resource efficiency is my guiding priority as Environment Commissioner. We have for too long treated our economy, environment, and wellbeing as separate. Now we face a situation where both our economy and our environment are in a crisis.

We have no choice but to face the reality of increasing resource constraints and prices. Resource efficiency is not a choice - a policy option - it is inevitable. Our choice is whether to start to transform our economies now, to develop greener sources of growth and jobs and improve our resource productivity, or to react when we are forced to by collapses, resource shortages and price-hikes.

Only a sustainable exit from the crisis can prepare the EU for the economy of the future. This economy will not be based on the resource intensive growth we saw in the 20th century. Global tendencies of population growth, depletion of natural capital, of the EU economy change the way we think about the competitiveness cutting edge of Europe. In the Europe 2020 strategy, the European Commission already put forward a vision of a greener, more resource efficient, low-carbon growth and development for the coming decade and beyond. The Resource Efficiency Flagship recognised our dependence on a wide variety of resources, from water to energy, from raw materials to biodiversity, and from soil to timber.

Businesses already face the challenges of increasing prices of key resources and respond by trying to use those resources more efficiently. Our entrepreneurs are applying innovative minds to improving resource productivity. But there is still a long way to go. For that, business is looking at policy makers to provide the framework in which investments in resource efficiency can be made with confidence, and in which their efforts towards greater resource efficiency will be rewarded.

This Platform will ensure that policy makers, businesses, research and citizens are all pulling in the same direction. Broad political engagement will ensure that resource efficiency is integrated properly in other policies – energy, transport, agriculture, construction, to name a few. Different levels also need to be involved, so that while thinking global, we can act local. Active commitment from wide range of businesses will ensure that resource efficiency is not just about encouraging the green sector of the economy, but about greening throughout the economy.

The Resource Efficiency Platform is not just a "talking shop". The guidance and advice I am expecting from its 34 high level members will provide tangible input to out policies to deliver the milestones and vision of our Resource Efficiency Roadmap.

In terms of outcomes, you can expect a first set of recommendations for immediate measures in about 12 months. The final outcomes of the work will be presented by the end of the mandate of the Platform in mid-2014; these will be recommendations for the longer term, beyond the life-span of the Platform.

In substance, discussion will be focusing on the key resources, sectors and policy areas defined in the Roadmap to a resource-efficient Europe, with work organised around three key axes:

  • Circular economy / greening the economy

  • Setting objectives and measuring progress (namely looking into indicators and policy targets)

  • Framework conditions for investments in resource efficiency (How can we stimulate this and ensure the necessary financing?)

Interlinkages between issues – competitiveness, social and employment aspects, as well as the global dimension – will be highlighted in our reflection throughout.

I also see the Platform as the hard core of a strong coalition that I want to see grow in the future, in which members engage their wider constituencies to prepare for the transformation we will inevitably face.

***

You may ask: why does the Commission rely on such a small, hand-picked group of individuals for advice. We don't of course; not exclusively. The European Resource Efficiency Platform is part of a bigger picture. The Commission is bringing together stakeholders in a wider setting to debate on resource efficiency challenges and opportunities. We will offer opportunities to all interested parties to make their views known.

An online platform, a web based collaboration and information forum also being launched today, will be home to a series of exchanges and consultations in the coming months. This is also where you will find information on the members and works of this group as well as the proceedings and conclusions of its work.

Thank you for your attention.


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