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EuCham - European Chamber - EU Commissioner for the Environment 2010-2014 Mr Janez Potočnik endorses Green Business Forum 2014

     


     
     
     



EU Commissioner for the Environment 2010-2014 Mr Janez Potočnik endorses Green Business Forum 2014

EU Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to address this forum today.

I warmly welcome this initiative that brings national and international companies together to discuss and exchange ideas on the economic opportunities of a transition to a green economy.

During the past 5 years as European Commissioner for the environment I have been promoting this transition to a green economy for Europe because I believe that this is an absolute necessity for Europe’s future growth model. The need for a transition to a green economy has become more and more mainstream thinking. Our economic system carries a legacy of decades of resource intensive unsustainable growth. We are far too tied to a linear economic model where we extract ever more resources only to quickly discard them as waste before their full value has been realized. At the same time global competition for resources keeps on increasing and will inevitably affect all countries not least an import dependent and resource intensive Europe.

Changing the way we produce, in the way we consume, in the way we live is thus unavoidable.

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But what brings you together today - it’s not the problem, rather the opportunities that a resource efficient Europe can bring, exploring new and sustainable sources of growth and prosperity. This vision it’s the heart of the resource efficiency flagship initiative of our Europe 2020 strategy which has the objective of decoupling growth from resource use and its environmental impacts, to achieve what the European Union’s 7th Environment Action Program calls “living well within the limits of our planet”. Momentum is building to move to a green economy where virtually nothing is wasted, where we get far more value from resources by designing products which last longer, which can be easily repaired, reused, remanufactured and which eventually can be recycled or safely returned to the environment.

Both business and citizens alike can make huge gains from resource efficiency improvements. It is estimated that measures such as better eco-design, better waste prevention and reuse could bring net savings to businesses in the European Union of up to 600 billion euros or 8% of their annual turnover. However, in spite of the expected benefits and solutions within our reach, the changes necessary will in many cases not happen automatically. They will require coordinated action across value chains, from product design to new business and market models, from new ways of turning waste into resource to a new preference of consumer behaviour.

This is exactly what the circular economy package adopted by the European Commission in July is about. This package proposes an enabling framework to address resource challenges in all fazes of a products life. It promotes measures which focus on design and innovation, on unlocking investment and on harnessing action by business and consumers, and it places waste policy and a review of the European Union waste legislation, including targets, at its center - because in a circular economy there should be virtually zero waste.

The package also includes a green action plan for SMEs, a green employment initiative and a communication on resource efficiency opportunities in the building sector.

Last but not least, the circular economy package makes the case for establishing a headline resource efficiency target for Europe, improving our current resource productivity by 30% would increase GDP by up to 3% by 2030 and create around 2 million more jobs than under a business as usual scenario. This is an ambitious but achievable goal which is important to provide a strong policy signal as well as predictability for business.

I trust that business will endorse these proposals and support the case for strong integration for off resource efficiency and circular economy thinking into the ongoing mid-term review of the Europe 2020 strategy. But what I hope for most of all is that companies will make the efficient use of resources an integral part of their own business strategies.

I wish you a successful forum with fruitful discussions and I thank you for your attention.

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