Thursday

27th Jan 2022

Gloomy message kicks off EU's green week

  • Potocnik: "We are clearly overusing this planet's resources many times over." (Photo: Chuck Coker)

EU environment commissioner Janez Potocnik has opened the bloc's 2011 Green Week, calling on Europeans to alter their behaviour in a collective effort to improve resource efficiency.

Potocnik's speech on Tuesday (24 May) kicks off four days of different events in the European capital, with electric cars, renewable energies and the green economy among the different topics to be addressed under this year's overarching theme: "Resource efficiency, Using less, living better."

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"We have often heard the UN forecast that by 2050, there could be nine billion people on this planet," Potocnik said.

"Yet, in spite of this, and in spite of the fact we are clearly overusing this planet's resources many times over, we are still being so inefficient."

The EU may take tougher measures to limit resource exploitation later this year, with the commissioner previously suggesting that future efficiency targets could be linked to the bloc's European Semester, a recently-introduced reporting system related to member-state budgets.

Europeans are trapped in an old mindset, hemmed in by "economic disincentives, … restrictive legislation, … old infrastructures, … [and] missing skills," Potocnik told Tuesday's opening conference.

"Take over-fishing as an example. Here solid scientific advice says that if we fish less now, within a few years, we can actually catch more."

"The problem is, if we pause to allow fish stocks to grow, how will fishermen pay for their boats or feed their families? ... Nor indeed, does it seem to be within the time horizons of many politicians and the policy making framework."

EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard, also scheduled to participate in a number of events this week, issued her backing on Tuesday for a new report on renewable energies.

The Union has currently pledged to secure 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, but a new report from the European Renewable Energy Council, an umbrella group representing the sector, has called on the EU to up this to 45 percent by 2030.

"For investors, 2020 is just around the corner. And this is also true for the energy and renewables sector, where planning is long-term and political predictability is essential," Hedegaard said in a statement.

"Therefore, we must now start to discuss whether to set a medium-term renewable energy target for 2030."

For their part, MEPs in the parliament's environment committee re-iterated their call on Tuesday for the European Union to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2020 based on 1990 levels.

The EU has currently pledged to cut emissions by 20 percent, with some members of the Conservative and centre-right EPP groups hoping the environment committee would adopt a more moderate 25 percent stance.

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