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International Issues

Multilateral relations - Sustainable Consumption and Production


The last EU Informal SCP Experts Meeting took place in 10 June, Brussels, where the following presentations were given:

To live sustainably, the Earth's natural resources must be used at a rate at which they can be replenished. But the fact is that our consumer-driven society is putting an enormous pressure on the planet.

The number of consumer goods and industrial supplies imported into Europe has increased significantly in recent years. This means the negative environmental effects of our consumption occur not just at home, but also in countries all over the world which are producing the goods we use. Often, the producing areas are developing countries which are the least able to deal with the mounting pressures on the environment.

Many of these producer countries are growing both economically and in population number. As they become more prosperous, the global demand for resources and energy also increases. Sustainable consumption and production (SCP) policies offer a resource-efficient alternative for long-term development. The EU is working strongly both internally and internationally closely with other countries to promote a shift with SCP towards low carbon and resource-efficient economies.

This includes a strong involvement in the Marrakech Process, which is helping countries and regions globally to develop sustainable consumption and production programmes and policies. The EU also represents the European Region on the Advisory Committee to the Marrakech Process, which gives advice on the drafting of a 10-Year Framework of Programmes to link these initiatives. The EU action plan on sustainable consumption and production and sustainable industrial policy as an important contribution both to the Marrakech Process and to the 10-Year Framework of Programmes, as a regional action plan.

The European Commission (EC) established an informal SCP experts group too, in order to exchange information on international SCP related work, such as work of the Marrakech Task Forces, in between Member States, relevant United Nations Organisations and the EC.

Switching on to sustainability

To respond to the need for cleaner and more energy efficient industry in Asia, the European Commission has launched the €90 million Switch Programme. The programme targets small and medium-sized businesses and promotes the use of environmentally friendly technologies and practices, as well as a switch in consumption patterns towards less damaging products and services. It contributes to poverty alleviation both directly (through increased employment and income though increased production and greater competitiveness) and indirectly, by improving living conditions (through the reduction of water, waste and air pollution).

The European Commission also supports national roundtables on sustainable consumption and production to exchange experiences and best practice. Roundtables have already been held in China, India and South Africa. The European Commission also strongly backs the move by businesses in emerging and developed economies to develop international agreements on carbon emissions reductions in individual industry sectors to curb emissions and commit to specific emissions or energy efficiency benchmarks

Further efforts aim to promote the development and spread of low carbon technologies and environmentally friendly products and services. The EU continues its efforts for trade policy and industry dialogue to work towards the elimination of tariffs for such goods and services. The adoption of international environmental and energy efficiency standards is key to developing markets for more sustainable products, and can provide new opportunities for eco-innovative companies.