A clear signal that the new European Commission will continue with the resource efficiency package has been given by Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella.
When he took over as European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker asked the Environment Commissioner to review the resource efficiency package developed by his predecessor Janez Potočnik and approved by the European Parliament in July to ensure it met the jobs and growth agenda of the new Commission.
This led to fears that the package would be dropped, but Karmenu Vella has signalled that it will be retained. However, it remains to be seen whether it will be modified, with Business Europe recently calling for it to be withdrawn and re-tabled as an economic rather than environmental package.
But with the 7th Environmental Action Programme, that explicitly calls for “Boosting sustainable, resource-efficient, low-carbon growth”, backed by both the European Parliament and Council in November last year, it appears that the new Commission will proceed with the resource efficiency package in some form.
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In a speech to the European Environment Bureau conference Europe at the Crossroads, the Environment Commissioner said: “…We need an ambitious roadmap. The 7th Environmental Action Programme tells us exactly what to do now and how to do it from now up to 2020 to achieve a sustainable economy.
“We must use the tools we already have at our disposal to strengthen the smart and sustainable pillars of the EU2020 Strategy.
“This, for me, will be a first priority in the coming months, and I will work closely with my fellow Commissioners on the review of the strategy.
“It is important that we move forward the resource-efficiency agenda and continue working on the circular economy.”
He added that the there shouldn’t be a choice between economic growth and environmental protection, but “they must co-exist”.
But Karmenu Vella also warned countries that he will be keen to ensure European legislation is implemented properly by Member States particularly in the area of waste.
He said: “It is very worrying to note that some of our Member States fare very badly on implementation. In some cases implementation is hardly present at all. Thank god these countries are the exception and not the rule!
“The Commission has always, and will continue to help by identifying implementation problems and providing solutions. This has been done extensively in the area of waste.
“But please rest assured that I will not hesitate to resort to all the means at my disposal to penalise those who intentionally fail to live up to their obligations.
“A lack of implementation is counterproductive, it undermines everybody’s efforts and it is tremendously unfair towards those who abide by the rules.
“On top of that, a lack of implementation leads to non-performance and to missing out on economic opportunities. Had the current EU waste policy been fully implemented by all, an extra 400,000 jobs would have been created.
“On the one hand we have enough proof to confirm that environmental protection can also contribute to generating much-needed new jobs.
“On the other hand, we also have to understand that adding layer upon layer of environmental legislation could be economically unproductive.”
Following the Rio+20 Summit he also outlined how the EU would meet the UN post-2015 agenda. This would mean that the EU leads internationally and he set out three key sustainability goals.
One of these was promoting a resource efficient economy that addresses not only the production side, but the consumption side.