In September the European Commission released details of a major new environmental policy drive that will have far reaching effects on much of the EU’s activity, including that of the LIFE Programme.
“The world is evolving in many ways and like with any evolution we must adapt and evolve with it. The era of plentiful and cheap resources is coming to an end. Raw materials, water, air, biodiversity and terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems are all under pressure.” These were the words from Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik presented in the run up to September’s launch of the Commission’s Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe.
Tasked with transforming Europe's economy into a sustainable one by 2050, the Roadmap provides a high level policy framework that will influence EU actions (including those of the LIFE Programme) for the foreseeable future. The Roadmap identifies target sectors for special attention, noting how agriculture, construction and transport have between them some of the highest environmental impacts, and renewed efforts are required to tackle this challenge. LIFE projects have good track records in these sectors and LIFE’s role will remain important in helping find sustainable, resource-efficient solutions in such key sectors at Member State and EU levels.
Competitiveness is also prioritised by the Roadmap which promotes EU growth patterns based on the consumption of fewer resources during production. Important messages are presented concerning the need to accelerate business development practices and job creation approaches that take advantage of opportunities offered from activities in recycling, better product design, materials substitution and eco-engineering. Here again, LIFE partners have been at the forefront of these types of resource efficiency goals and greater emphasis will be required in the future to ensure that outcomes from LIFE developments are replicated widely around Europe.
Similarly, LIFE’s experiences in pioneering sustainable systems for managing natural resources will become increasingly relevant as the EU Roadmap places prominence on wise uses of raw materials, metals, energy, biodiversity and water. The Roadmap also promotes incentives regarding eco- innovation, eco-design, eco-labelling, and greener spending by public bodies.
Fiscal shifts can be expected because of the long-term benefits possible from redirecting taxation away from labour towards pollution and resources. Furthermore, Member States will be heavily involved in identifying effective methods for motivating EU consumers to favour resource-efficient products. As part of this policy push, the Roadmap recommends adapting prices to reflect the real costs of resource use, especially on environment and health.
Integrated approaches to resource efficiency have been shown by LIFE to be cost effective and the Roadmap sets out plans for expanding the integration of resource-efficient considerations across many EU policy areas. This will be most important for those of our resources that are under most pressure. Nature conservation, soil management and climate action have all long been known as requiring joined up approaches at policy, programme and project level. The future will continue to build on what we know about how to implement integrated actions for these vital resources, and LIFE’s potential as a demonstration tool cannot be understated in such areas.
Roadmap conclusions stress that it is, “not the ultimate response to all challenges. It is a first step towards designing a coherent action framework that cuts across different policy areas and sectors”. Next steps therefore involve producing appropriate policy and legislative proposals that will help every one of us to be able to make greater contributions to a resource-efficient Europe. By supporting this green evolution we will be putting in place the measures that are needed to safeguard not only our own future, but also the futures for those who will ultimately inherit our way of life.
See the Commission’s resource efficiency web pages for additional information and examples of resource-efficient LIFE project are featured further in this September edition of LIFEnews.