European policy consultants
Rural development and renewable energy

European Resource Efficiency:
"Vision 2020 – the role of resource efficiency for Europe's future"


Janez Potocnic, Commissioner for the Environment, formerly Slovenian Minister for European Affairs.

In a speech to the European Resource Efficiancy Forum (13th November '12) he said that in the context of financial and economic crisis we have to explain that there are jobs in green growth; and in the medium term context of 3 billion new middle class consumers by 2030, we have also had to explain that resource efficiency could be the basis for future competitiveness.

This, he said, is pro-business, not business as usual.

Employment in eco-industries has been growing by around 3 % per annum over recent years. In the UK the CBI reckons that one third of economic growth during the crisis period can be attributed to green sectors.

He concluded:
"Today our focus is on growth and jobs, on exit from the crisis.
But I'm convinced that even if we would successfully manage financial and debt crisis we would still face serious challenges connected to our competitiveness. At least in the majority of Europe. These emerge predominantly from globalisation and the necessary adaptation to the new global reality and challenges we face together... all these challenges are in one or another way basically connected to two things: the growth of population and the growth of per capita consumption.

The only answer I know is working in the direction of knowledge based, low carbon, resource efficient economy. Because knowledge and innovation are our strength here in Europe, and because transition to the sustainable future is simply inevitable.

Resource efficiency is for us, in import dependant Europe, not only the question of environmental preservation, it is also the central question of our future competitiveness.

on 14th November, the Commission will adopt the Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources, with proposals including:
• Water balances and accounts for all river basins as the basis for water efficiency targets to be set by Member States,

• EU standards for water re-use,

• Increasing the efficiency of water-using devices in buildings through ecodesign, and

• Improving implementation of the "polluter pays" principle, in particular in agriculture, through metering, irrigation efficiency, water-pricing and better economic analysis.

Janez Potocnic identify three main challenges to deliver resource efficiency on the scale that is needed:

First, it is essential that national governments play their role, since the majority of the relevant policy tools are based in the 27 national capitals.

The Commission has made extensive recommendations on energy efficiency and transport, and will continue to push for phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies.

Member States need also to be encouraged to exploit the growth and jobs potential in waste and water management, or green public procurement.

His second challenge is investment.

Mr Potocnic refers to himself as an "innovation optimist, for it is innovation – through the application of existing and new technologies, through new business and market systems, new behaviour and through design – that has the possibility to move us onto a different growth paradigm."

However, the warnings of an enlightened few will not do enough to persuade a critical mass of economic actors to invest in resource efficiency. That is why we need to provide the right incentives, to get the prices right and to use public instruments to leverage private investment.

He will be launching a round table of investors in 2013 to look at how the Commission can address the obstacles to public and private investment in resource efficiency; encouraging investment in areas with highest potential for our future competitiveness, which is the logic behind the revised industrial Policy adopted by the Commission in October, and we put the circular economy and resource efficiency at the heart of it.

His third challenge is that resource efficiency alone – getting more value from fewer resources – will not be enough. The McKinsey report estimated that the key improvements in resource efficiency it identified could provide for about 30% of the increased demand we can expect by 2030.

So we need more than just increases in resource productivity, we must also use those same resources again and again... we have to explain that resource efficiency also means creating a closed loop economy.

This means designing for recyclability, repair and re-use; developing new business models, better markets for secondary raw materials, and sustainable sourcing.