A meeting of European Environment Ministers has called for the European Commission to explore the introduction of an EU non-binding aspirational resource efficiency target.
The European Environment Council also wants to see the promotion of circular economy principles and the potential for green employment in the annual cycle of coordination of economic policies, if feasible, from 2015.
Following a meeting in Luxembourg involving European Environment Ministers and outgoing Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik (pictured) and Climate Change Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, a conclusions document was published.
In its conclusions it welcomed programmes launched by the European Commission including the Europe 2020 strategy, Towards a Circular Economy: A zero waste programme for Europe and related communications on sustainable buildings, green employment, green action for SMEs and on building the single market for green products facilitating better information on the environmental performance of products and organisations.
In its conclusions statement, the Council recognised that: “The economic system depends largely on the availability of natural resources, which are limited and are often far from being used in a sustainable way. Greening the economy contributes to long term prosperity, and short term costs are likely to be compensated by multiple potential benefits in terms of increased competitiveness, jobs, improvement of security of resource supply, including energy and raw materials, inclusiveness, health and well being.
“Therefore for our future competitiveness and long-term sustainable and inclusive growth, a transition towards a resource efficient circular economy – where natural resources are extracted and used in a more efficient and sustainable way, where the loss of valuable material is prevented, less energy is consumed, less waste is generated and more generated waste is re-injected in the economy through preparing for reuse and recycling – becomes essential.”
The Council also said that the transition to a circular, low carbon and climate resilient economy, along with sustainable consumption and production patterns, will create global opportunities for the competitiveness and employment in the European Union.
It also recommended that the European Union and its Member States should work together to unlock investments in circular economy solutions.
The Council also suggested that shifting taxation labour to pollution, energy and resource use in a budgetary neutral manner, may be an appropriate tool to promote employment creation and greening the economy.
Further measures that could be strengthened, it said, include the polluter pay principle, green public procurement, eco-design and eco-innovation, product environment information, synergies between natural and cultural capital to develop sectoral policies that integrate ecosystems and their services, support for resource-efficient processes, developing green infrastructure and phasing out of environementally harmful subsidies.
However, the conclusions document did not say whether the European Council accepted a proposed 70 per cent municipal recycling target and 80 per cent packaging target by 2030.
View the conclusions document here