New research points the way to a resource efficient Europe
Wednesday 08 June 2011
By EU Reporter correspondent
Doing more with less’ is a basic business concept, and a new issue of Science for Environment Policy says environmental policy should follow this lead.
We need to drastically rethink the way that we consume natural resources, such as minerals, water, fossil fuels and land, according to the special ‘Resource Efficiency’ themed issue, in order to tackle resource depletion, climate change, water scarcity, pollution and poverty, among the seemingly endless litany of environmental and social issues needing urgent attention.
The EU will shortly release a roadmap towards a resource efficient Europe (due mid-2011), which will set out a vision for how our economy can prosper without continued overconsumption of resources.
The roadmap forms an important building block in Europe 2020 - the EU’s growth strategy for the coming decade. The special issue of Science for Environment Policy, published by the European Commission’s Directorate-General Environment, explores research into how Europe can move towards this more sustainable society.
Key studies highlighted within the issue stress the need to move away from economic measures of societal progress, such as gross domestic product (GDP), toward measures for quality of life.
This would help enable a world which is citizen-enhanced, culturally diverse and ecologically committed. With global resource scarcity no longer a remote prospect, the issue also highlights the need to consider how we measure sustainable development.
Material Productivity, commonly used by policy makers to measure sustainable development favours high income and often high consumption countries because it considers GDP per unit of materials consumed.
This may reflect the efficiency of resource use, but does not adequately take into account total consumption. The researchers suggest that a fundamental rethink is needed to achieve ‘dematerialisation’ of the economy.
Achieving a more sustainable society needs action from policy makers and manufacturers and the report provides suggestions for both groups, arguing that policy makers need to place limits on resource extraction and at the same time suggesting strategies for manufacturers to improve efficiency.
Ultimately, consumers also need to buy into a lower consumption lifestyle, updating and upgrading existing technologies rather than replacing them. ‘Put simply, we must do more with less’ said Prof. Dr. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Co-Chair, International Resource Panel, UNEP and guest editor of the issue.
“Much research points to a need for an economic transformation to increase resource efficiency. While this is a major challenge, it is an achievable goal; a fivefold increase in resource productivity is possible. We just have to think big.” “However, thinking big does not mean thinking hastily. Carefully considered, step-by-step changes are essential for a shift to a sustainable future.”
The Resource Efficiency issue of Science for Environment Policy can be downloaded free from: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/index_en.htm
It follows a special issue published earlier in May which focused on the Global Green Economy, also available as a free download.