The 5th Forum on Eco-Innovation, held in Budapest, Hungary on 16 October 2008, explored emerging environmental technologies in the fields of recycling, waste and bio-based products.
The Budapest event brought together high-level stakeholders from business, the R&D community, policy makers and non-governmental organisations to discuss whether emerging technologies are opportunities to tackle environmental challenges or if they are increased risks for society. The Forum was organised jointly by the Hungarian Ministry of Environment & Water and the European Commission as part of the EU Environmental Technology Action Plan (ETAP).
“Environmental technologies and eco-innovation are tools to help meet the Lisbon criteria in terms of job creation and competitiveness,” said Imre Szabó, Hungarian Minister of Environment & Water, who opened the event. “We have high expectations for these new technologies. But we have to be careful to strike a balance between the advantages and disadvantages.
“Europe is relying on eco-innovation as part of the climate-change package. A joint effort is required between scientists, investors and decision makers. And we need to show the world that ‘old’ Europe can play an important role in meeting global needs through eco-innovation.”
The focus of the Forum was on the markets identified by the European Commission in the EU Lead Market Initiative (LMI) announced in mid 2008. These are promising emerging markets in which the EU has the potential to become world leader and where public authorities can play a major role in accelerating the uptake of new and innovative environmental technologies.
Presentations provided participants with an overview on challenges and issues for emerging technologies for discussion in the working sessions: On the one hand, rapid evolutions in the fields of biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, information & communication technologies and robotics offer major opportunities to address environmental challenges. On the other, as their importance grows, potential negative side-effects gain increased attention and give room for contradictory debates.
A panel of key stakeholders presented their perspectives, identified key issue areas together with the nearly 150 delegates and elaborated recommendations for change – see BOX.
“We are at cross roads in Europe in terms of big strategy as the current Commission has only one year more to run and the European Parliament is due for re-election,” pointed out Timo Mäkelä, Director for Sustainable Development, Environment Directorate-General, European Commission, in his closing remarks.
“The financial crisis should not overshadow our environmental concerns. We need to think about the concept of eco-technologies and their social impacts. And strategy reviews must be based on increasing scarcity of resources and energy. ETAP has delivered. Its forthcoming review will take into account the issues raised in Budapest by all the stakeholders.”
5th ETAP Forum on Eco-Innovation, Budapest: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/archives/ecoinnovation2008/2nd_forum/index_en.htm
Stakeholder discussions highlighted a series of issues to be tackled to encourage emerging technologies for eco-innovation:
‘Budapest Forum focused on support required to encourage emerging technologies for eco-innovation’ (Commission press release): http://ec.europa.eu/environment/archives/ecoinnovation2008/2nd_forum/pdf/final_press_release_etap_budapest_081020.pdf [81 KB]