Thursday

2nd Apr 2020

EU moots link between resource efficiency and budgetary targets

The European Commission is preparing to publish a set of resource efficiency targets in a paper this summer, potentially forcing member states to limit their consumption of fuels, minerals and water, amongst other items.

Presenting the commission's seventh and final flagship initiative under the EU's 2020 strategy for growth and jobs on Wednesday (26 January), European environment commissioner Janez Potocnik said the targets could also be linked to the recently introduced 'European Semester', a reporting system for co-ordinating and surveilling member state budgets.

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  • Growing population numbers are placing an ever greater strain on global supplies of raw materials (Photo: arbyreed)

"If we look at forecast population growth over the coming century and increased consumption in emerging markets, then it is obvious that we cannot continue as present," said Mr Potocnik.

The world's population multiplied by a factor of four over the 20th Century, output by 40, fish catches by 35, water consumption by nine and carbon dioxide production by 17.

In the commission's new flagship initiative, a strategy document with no specific concrete proposals, the EU institution commits to preserving resource efficiency in all future policy proposals such as reform of the bloc's cohesion and common agricultural policies.

But commission officials are currently mulling over plans to produce a specific list of targets this summer, targets that could be formally tied to similar restrictions on member state debt and deficit levels that can theoretically see rule-breakers receive fines from Brussels.

"You can expect that some clear targets will be set in the course of the year [and] we want this is in the European semester in 2011," said Mr Potocnik. "We believe that it would be the best way for them to be rooted to the overall governance process."

Officials say there is broad support for the idea among the college of 27 commissioners, although the exact nature of the resource efficiency targets has yet to be determined. "It depends on what member states find acceptable," said one official.

Raw material such as fuels, minerals and metals, as well as other items such as food, soil, water, air, and biomass are among the list of potential target items. Suggestions will be contained in a 'roadmap' document to be published this summer.

"At this time we are firmly and actively working in the direction [of creating targets]," said Mr Potocnik.

Environment groups welcomed Wednesday's flagship initiative and its commitment to take resource efficiency into greater account in future EU policies.

"Europe is using far more than its fair share of the world's resources, with devastating impacts on ecosystems and communities," said Michael Warhurst, resources and consumption campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe. "We welcome this realisation by the European Commission ... but it must now move rapidly to create solid policies to reduce our resource use."

The European Parliament's Green group also reiterated the need for clear targets.

"It is certainly welcome that the commission wants to put resource efficiency as an overarching EU policy priority but we regret that this flagship communication fails to set out any targets," said Green MEP Bas Eickhout.

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