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European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

Janez Potočnik

European Commissioner for Environment

Eco-innovation and Circular Economy

Opening of 16th European Forum on Eco-Innovation

Hannover, 7 April 2014

First let me say a few sincere "thank-yous":…

to Barbara Hendricks, German Minister for the Environment

to the Mayor of Hannover and the organisers of Hannover Messe.

And to all the participants for their efforts to translate into action the opportunities offered by eco-innovation; for their contribution to transforming our current model of production and consumption into a resource efficient economy responding to society's future needs.

Over the last 4 years the European Commission has put resource efficiency at the heart of the European structural economic strategy – Europe 2020. Our environmental ambitions are increasingly seen as an integral part of our competitiveness strategy, not as a constraint to it. And I am not only talking about the promising green technologies that we see here at Hannover Messe. I am talking about the entire economy. Because if European companies of all sizes and in all sectors do not get ready for future pressure on resources they will not survive.

That’s why, in 2011 our Resource Efficiency Roadmap set out the overarching aim of decoupling our economic growth from resource use.

Germans have a worldwide reputation for efficiency, so perhaps it is not so surprising that they were quicker than most to understand the importance of resource efficiency. Germany has had a target for it for 10 years already. German manufacturing companies spend twice as much on material resources as they do on human resources, so it makes complete sense to use those materials as productively as possible.

I find myself – the European Commissioner for Environment – talking a lot about industrial policy, about cutting input costs, boosting competitiveness and creating jobs. But this “new environmentalism” approach is coherent with some more familiar environmental ambitions. Environmentalists have talked for many years about the importance of recycling – another area where Germany does relatively well. Recycling basically means that instead of burying materials in landfills when they have been used once, we pump them back into productive use. It is a circular economy system; it is resource efficient; it means we get more value added out of each ton of materials. And usually whilst using much less energy. We did not invent the idea of the circular economy, but today, in the face of global pressure on resources, the economic and business arguments for it have become overwhelming.

We must not waste the potential of waste1.

That is why, in a few weeks I will present revised targets for recycling waste and for reducing landfill. And this will central to a more comprehensive approach to moving to a circular economy, particularly in the sectors of buildings and food.

Much of the work to achieve this will have to be done by Member States and the private sector; but the European Commission is also working to shape the framework conditions to accelerate the transition to circular economy.

Since 2012 the Eco-innovation Action Plan has been addressing policies and regulatory frameworks, employment opportunities, finance and support to SMEs and international cooperation to help create stronger and more stable market demand for eco-innovation.

Our forthcoming Communication on Circular Economy and revision of the waste legislation places an emphasis on the need for a system change enabled by eco-innovation and its uptake across all sectors of the economy.

The projects showcased today and tomorrow show the type of solutions we need to encourage in the future.

This is why this edition of the Forum focuses on the main actors of the circular economy: what I call the “A, B, C” Authorities, Businesses and Citizens. All have a role in making sure that the potential for greater resource efficiency in cities does not go wasted.

Over the next two days, you will hear examples of how these actors can drive system transition.

Traditionally this Forum has always been a great opportunity for policy makers and businesses to meet. This year’s location the Hannover Fair - was perfectly chosen in this respect and enables us to introduce to a greater audience some of the EU initiatives supporting eco-innovation.

I therefore encourage you to visit the stands beyond this Forum and participate in the side events proposed by the Commission: the ETV Stakeholder Forum and the EMAS Award Ceremony.

Enjoy the Forum, and enjoy the Fair!

1 :

The Title of the Forum is "Wasted Potential".

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