Sustainable growth - for a resource efficient, greener and more competitive economy

Shoots of grass growing from a computer keyboard © iStockphoto

Sustainable growth means:

  • building a more competitive low-carbon economy that makes efficient, sustainable use of resources
  • protecting the environment, reducing emissions and preventing biodiversity loss
  • capitalising on Europe's leadership in developing new green technologies and production methods
  • introducing efficient smart electricity grids
  • harnessing EU-scale networks to give our businesses (especially small manufacturing firms) an additional competitive advantage
  • improving the business environment, in particular for SMEs
  • helping consumers make well-informed choices.

EU targets for sustainable growth include:

  1. 1. reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% compared to 1990 levels by 2020. The EU is prepared to go further and reduce by 30% if other developed countries make similar commitments and developing countries contribute according to their abilities, as part of a comprehensive global agreement
  2. 2. increasing the share of renewables in final energy consumption to 20%
  3. 3. moving towards a 20% increase in energy efficiency

> All EU-level targets


How will the EU boost sustainable growth?

Through 2 flagship initiatives:

  1. 1. Resource-efficient Europe

    To support the shift towards a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy, our economic growth must be decoupled from resource and energy use by:
    • reducing CO2 emissions
    • promoting greater energy security.
    • reducing the resource intensity of what we use and consume
  2. 2. An industrial policy for the globalisation era

    The EU needs an industrial policy that will support businesses – especially small businesses – as they respond to globalisation, the economic crisis and the shift to a low-carbon economy, by:
    • supporting entrepreneurship – to make European business fitter and more competitive
    • covering every part of the increasingly international value chain – from access to raw materials to after-sales service.
    This policy can only be devised by working closely with business, trade unions, academics, NGOs and consumer organisations.

    > All Europe 2020 flagship initiatives


Why does Europe need sustainable growth?

Over-dependence on fossil fuels

Our dependence on oil, gas and coal:

  • leaves consumers and businesses vulnerable to harmful and costly price shocks,
  • threatens our economic security
  • contributes to climate change.

Natural resources

Global competition for natural resources will intensify and put pressure on the environment. The EU can help reduce these pressures through its sustainable development policies.

Climate change

  • To achieve our climate goals, we need to reduce emissions more quickly and harness new technologies such as wind and solar power and carbon capture and sequestration.
  • We must strengthen our economies' resilience to climate risks, and our capacity for disaster prevention and response.


  • The EU needs to improve its productivity and competitiveness. It must  maintain its early lead in green solutions, especially in the face of growing competition from China and North America.
  • Meeting our energy goals could save €60 billion on Europe's bill for oil and gas imports by 2020 – essential for both energy security and economic reasons.
  • Further integration of the European energy market can boost GDP by 0.6% to 0.8%.
  • Meeting 20% of Europe's energy needs from renewable sources could create over 600 000 jobs in the EU – and an additional 400 000 if we meet the 20% energy-efficiency target.
  • Our emission-reduction commitments should be met in a way that maximises benefits and minimises costs – including through the spread of innovative technological solutions.