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Speech - Environmental challenges need both global and local solutions

European Commission - SPEECH/13/1009   03/12/2013

Other available languages: none

European Commission

Janez Potočnik

European Commissioner for Environment

Environmental challenges need both global and local solutions

Video message for the Sustainability Days Oresund event (Malmö, Sweden)

Malmö, 3 December 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to start by thanking the organisers for inviting me to address your yearly conference on sustainability. This year your discussions will focus on national and regional challenges and on how to turn these challenges into opportunities for growth.

Pressures on demand for materials, rising costs, import dependency, and the environmental impact of the use of materials are global challenges that call for local solutions. This is why today I would like to place these same challenges into a wider European perspective.

Europe was the first continent to experience industrialisation and urbanisation. But it is only now – centuries later – that we have really started to understand the value of nature and natural resources for our economy. Today, it is widely acknowledged that - if we want to maintain the high standards of living we have become accustomed to in Europe - we will need to make a fundamental transition towards an economic model that meets our needs at a much lower environmental cost.

This is why the EU has placed a resource‑efficient, low‑carbon economy at the centre of its political action through the Europe 2020 Growth Strategy, and its interrelated priorities for sustainable, smart and inclusive growth.

It will be industry and the private sector that will have to carry the transition forward. Companies need to change how they create, deliver and capture value. The choices they make today, will determine the choices consumers will make tomorrow.

As policy makers, we must help the business sector keep ahead of the curve in adapting to this global megatrend of increasing resource competition and constraints. Public authorities and governments need to provide direction, incentives and leadership in order for enterprises to make the right investments in change. We need to work towards consistent restructuring measures. We need to build predictability and confidence for our businesses in the long and medium term in order that they are ready to invest in the short term.

The Roadmap to a resource‑efficient Europe, we adopted in 2011, provided the basis for our sustainable growth agenda, with the overarching aim of de-coupling economic growth from resource use. Now, together with Member States, we have taken this policy further with the 7th Environmental Action Programme adopted recently.

Boosting sustainable, resource-efficient, low-carbon growth will remain one of the Commission's priorities for the next 7 years and we will continue to support this through our policies and funding initiatives.

Waste management is an excellent example where EU legislation has been promoting innovative solutions that act upon the way resources flow in the economy and provide solutions to optimize resource use.

Another example is the Eco-design Directive, aimed to ensure that products are designed to be durable and repairable, and that they can be easily dismantled and recycled when they reach the end of their useful lives.

We are also developing environmental footprinting, and encouraging companies to measure and improve the life cycle performance of their products and to provide comparable, credible life-cycle analyses to inform consumer choices.

Next year I intend to come forward with a package of measures to help with the transition to a more circular economy. Our objective is to move away from today’s linear economic model where we - mine, manufacture, use and throw away - towards a more circular model, where one industry's waste becomes another's raw material, where we get the greatest value out of resources and products by repairing, re-using, re-manufacturing and recycling them.

We will review the targets in our waste legislation, and put forward ideas on the product design and consumer side. Another key element of the package will be to set out the results of the work on a headline target based on raw material consumption, to monitor the EU's progress in de‑coupling growth from resource use. This has to be seen in the wider context of measuring the quality of our economic growth and prosperity better, going beyond GDP. The package is also linked to the on‑going policy work on sustainable food and sustainable buildings.

The Commission will also put forward an action plan on green entrepreneurship centred on SMEs, and a green jobs communication focusing on key economic sectors and emerging skills development.

In addition, next year I intend to organise “Let’s Clean up Europe” Day on the 10th of May.

This initiative will aim at raising awareness and mobilising a wide range of stakeholders – citizens, companies, schools, NGOs, and other organisations - to roll up their sleeves and do something practical for the environment. Actually it will not be so much about removing the trash from our neighbourhoods, it will be more about cleaning the trash accumulated in our minds. I invite you to mobilise your members and networks, and to join me to make this day a success.

***

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The problems that you will address at this conference today are pressing. And there are no quick-fixes. Our global challenges require actions at all the levels, from local to global. We can only find comprehensive solutions and achieve concrete results if we all work together. Mobilising all stakeholders in search of practical solutions is an excellent way of ensuring that we do.

The very city in which you have gathered is a source of inspiration on the pathways we need to take to sustainable growth. Malmö is a city undergoing a major transformation from an old industrial centre with numerous brownfield sites, to a dynamic, green and industrially‑efficient city.

I look forward to the outcomes of your discussions.

Thank you for your attention!


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