Birmingham forum highlights role for eco-innovation in a resource-efficient economy

Birmingham forum highlights role for eco-innovation in a resource-efficient economy

The 10th European Forum on Eco-Innovation in Birmingham, England focused on the role of eco-innovation and eco-innovative business in driving a resource-efficient European economy.

A joint initiative of Defra and the European Commission, the Forum attracted 240 stakeholders from business, academia, policymaking and green groups. The event contributed to the public consultation on improving resource efficiency in Europe launched by the European Commission. A roadmap to establishing a resource-efficient economy is expected later in 2011.

“We are consuming resources at twice the rate that the planet can support,” said Lord Henley, minister at the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), opening the conference. “Doing more with less has to become a way of life. But incremental change is not enough, we need to achieve radical change,” said European Commissioner for Environment Janez Potočnik.

Speakers made the business case for resource efficiency, reviewed actions already taken and assessed the need to stimulate global demand for resource- efficient products and services. Participants advocated radical solutions to the resource challenge. There was strong support for a switch from taxing labour to taxing consumption and for a scaling up of the successful UK National Industrial Symbiosis Programme.

The forum reviewed the need for materials security and sustainable materials management. Emphasis was placed on stimulating demand for resource-efficient and sustainable products through public procurement – as demonstrated by the UK Small Business Research Initiative and the Dutch Programme for Sustainable Public Procurement – and supply chain collaboration shown in the SWITCH Asia Network. Consideration was also given to influencing consumer behaviour – from government and retail campaigns to actions by non-governmental organisations.

A series of key issues were identified, including:

  • How can we set clear and binding targets to mobilise actors at EU and Member State level?
  • What standardised metrics can be developed to measure progress equitably across Europe?
  • How can eco-innovation speed up this progress?
  • How much leadership should come from business and can we stimulate this?

Full recommendations will be published on the Forum website.

“While eco-innovation on its own will not be enough, the good news is that it makes economic sense to protect the globe – offering commercial opportunities and employment,” concluded Timo Makela, Director at the European Commission. “The case studies during the forum demonstrated the practical actions that we need to multiply in both the private and public sectors.”

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