Ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning to you all.
This conference is meant for us to learn from your know-how and your ideas, so I am very glad to see such a packed room today, as the Commission is in the midst of shaping the new and more ambitious Circular Economy Package.
First Vice President Timmermans made it very clear that the circular economy is an agenda of change and I fully agree with him. Driving this agenda forward is an opportunity which the EU must take. It is also a challenge which we cannot tackle alone.
In Europe, the Circular Economy is a unique opportunity to create sustainable growth and jobs.
The Green economy, as it is sometimes called, is no longer the niche market that some imagine- it is mainstream, in fact, it is gradually becoming the economy, period.
This morning, I attended the launch of the new report by the Ellen Mc Arthur foundation on the circular economy, and Ellen will shed the light on its key findings in a few minutes. Without any spoilers, I can already say I was very impressed by the enormous societal and economic benefits which the report found could stem from the transition to a circular economy. So the question is not whether we want to set Europe on a circular path of growth. It is rather about how to help our economies to get there, and how quickly.
What is perhaps most impressive about Ellen's approach to the circular economy is that she frames it in a way that people in the street can immediately relate to. There is a real emphasis on the positive.
Ellen understands that for people to really 'buy in', they need to see how the change will make their lives better.
Quite rightly, Europeans are concerned about the money in their pocket. They care about the service they get. They care about having a job.
The evidence that Ellen has put together in her foundation's report, with the help of McKinsey and Deutsche Post, makes an extremely convincing case that the circular economy can deliver on these concerns.
Once people are convinced of the impact on their pocket, on the services they receive, they will be much more receptive to listen to the wider benefits like CO2 reductions.
And there is a growing number already convinced – both citizens and businesses.
In Europe today, there are already over 4 million people working for eco-industries. And the green economy sector has been extremely resilient. In fact it has kept growing and creating new jobs through the economic crisis. Currently, European Businesses supply a third of the global market for green technologies: we are market leaders. This market is worth a trillion Euros and is expected to double in under five years.
If the EU is leading in this sector, this is due of course to the good performance of our businesses, and we will hear about their experience a lot today. This is also due to our research and innovation and to our investments. Finally, this is due to the right regulatory environment, the good mix between incentives and policies, in particular the ambitious goals and targets the EU has set itself in the field of waste, of energy, and of water management.
This is why, in the Commission's new approach to the circular economy we have an ambitious waste management policy, reflecting country specific needs. We are working on clear long term targets, and ambitious recycling goals. Fundamental to this is the smarter use of raw materials. Smarter design allowing products to be repaired, re-used, remanufactured and then recycled once more, should become the norm.
And now the new European Fund for Strategic Investments opens a new funding avenue for circular economy projects. It can help entrepreneurs and provide the right infrastructure. Sometimes the market opportunities are in the service provided rather than the product itself. Cars on average are used 8% of the time. There is vast economic potential in developing markets for hire services.
Today we are talking about what can be done for the circular economy in addition to waste policy -and rightly so. It is clear however that innovative waste policy is part of the circle: good sorting of waste, good waste management, and the right infrastructure are essential to allow good quality and low cost recycled materials to be reused by our economy. We intend to help those regions lagging behind in terms of waste management to progress.
In the waste sector alone, implementing existing legislation by 2020 will create over 400,000 new jobs and an increase in the annual turnover of the waste sector by over 4.2 billion euro. Implementing higher recycling targets would create another 200,000 additional jobs in Europe, a lot of these in the countries which are further away from meeting the targets. I am quite taken with the idea that good waste policy means we can have tomorrow's products and services at today's prices, in spite of price increases in raw materials.
I am optimistic that we can succeed rapidly – some countries have made huge steps in very little time. Look at Slovenia which went from 28% recycling in 2010 to 61% in the space of just three years!
I have just addressed briefly how the EU could make the transition. But at a time where value chains are global, we need to have both a European and a global response to our common challenge: how will we find tomorrow the resources we need? How can we use them less, and better?
The EU now exports about 9.5 million tons of waste to China involving mainly paper, copper, and plastic. These materials could also be useful for the European economy. Collaborating with China and other emerging economies and understanding these flows better is essential.
Beyond China, leaders of the G7 have recognised at the beginning of the month the importance of resource efficiency for the competitiveness of industries, for economic growth and employment, and for the protection of the environment, climate and planet. They have established the G7-Alliance on Resource Efficiency. In September, the United Nations will agree to a set of Sustainable Development Goals, and sustainable consumption and production, globally, is at the heart of these goals
Ladies and gentlemen,
The conference of today is about closing the circle and opening the conversation, so I need to stop talking and do some listening now. For those who could not make it today, but want to engage in the debate, please participate in the online public consultation that is currently running until the 20th of August. I am looking forward to your input.
If there is one thought that I would like you to go away with, it is that with the right information, such as that which Ellen has provided today, the circular economy is an easy sell. On employment, on services, on security of supply it make sense. Once we convince our people, our consumers, that it is in their best interest, it will be much easier to convince them why it is in the environment's best interest too.