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EU environment and climate ministers - EU must speed up ambitious policy on circular economy




The second day of the informal meeting of EU environment and climate ministers focused on expanding the circular economy into new areas. The ministers discussed the solutions offered by the circular economy to mitigate climate change and halt the loss of biodiversity.

The informal meeting of environment/climate ministers was held on 11 and 12 July in Helsinki.  Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella also attended the meeting. Commission Vice President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen and Per Klevnäs, partner at Material Economics, delivered keynote speeches on the circular economy.

Materials recycling breeds new business opportunities

“Climate change and biodiversity loss are the greatest challenges of our time. By moving from a single-use culture to a circular economy, the EU alone could halve industrial greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Improved recycling of materials would also reduce the pressure on nature caused by consumption. The EU’s competitiveness must be based on sustainability, on mitigation of climate change and sparing, long-term use of renewable natural resources,” said Environment and Climate Change Minister Krista Mikkonen.

According to the ministers at the informal meeting, the goal must be a society that does not squander natural resources but creates new business opportunities from scarcity and problem solving. Manufacturing and consumption must be based on six Rs of sustainability: refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycle. 

Speeding up implementation of circular economy

According to the ministers, the EU must continue its ambitious policy supporting the circular economy. Among other things, the ministers discussed the need to draw up a new circular economy action plan, a circular economy 2.0 that is, to speed up the implementation of the circular economy and expand circular actions into all priority sectors. New measures are needed especially in areas related to construction, textiles, mobility and food.


Finland’s aim is to prepare conclusions on the circular economy based on the ministerial discussions, which the Environment Council will then discuss in the autumn. The conclusions will set out how the new Commission should promote the circular economy over the next five years.

Sustainable solutions key goal for Finland’s Presidency

Finland will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from 1 July to 31 December 2019. In this capacity, Finland will chair the formal Council meetings in Brussels and Luxembourg and the informal meetings of ministers held in Finland.

Sustainable development forms a common thread throughout the meeting arrangements for the Presidency. Meetings have been centralised in the capital, Helsinki, to minimise emissions from transport. Finland will produce very little physical material just for the Presidency and has decided on a no-gifts policy. The money earmarked for Presidency gifts will be used in full to offset carbon dioxide emissions from air travel by delegates.

“Finland holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU at a crucial moment. The time to solve the sustainability crisis is now. By working together, the EU can find solutions to both the climate crisis and to stopping the sixth mass extinction. Our window of time is closing. We must raise the EU’s profile as a global leader in climate action to the next level,” Mikkonen said.

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