Resource Efficiency Roadmap

The European Commission has a vision of a resource-efficient economy in 2050: sustainable management of all resources, restored biodiversity and the meeting of climate change targets.

This is all in the Commision’s “Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe”, published earlier this week. The "Roadmap" sets targets or milestones to be reached by 2020 using an integrated approach across different policy areas at both EU and national level.

The document is accompanied by a staff working paper providing a deeper analysis of the milestones described in the “Roadmap”.

Transform the Economy

The Commission Communication explains that, in order to bring increased competitiveness and growth through improved efficiency, the economy should be transformed by putting it on a resource-efficient path. In this vein, policies need to recognise the interdependencies between the economy, well-being and natural capital and the following milestones are set for 2020:

Change consumption patterns and make products resource efficient:

Citizens and public authorities would choose the most resource efficient products and services which would stimulate companies to innovate and to supply more resource efficient goods. Minimum environmental performance standards would be set to remove the least resource efficient products from the market. In this regard, the Commission intends to adopt a Communication on sustainable food (2013) and a number of initiatives on the environmental footprint of products (2012). 

Promote a more efficient production:

New innovations in resource efficient production methods should be put into practice.  Market and policy incentives should be introduced to reward business investments in efficiency. The Commission plans to come forward with an Innovation Partnership on agricultural productivity and sustainability (2011).

Manage waste as a resource:

Recycling and reuse of waste would be economically attractive options due to the development of functional markets for secondary raw materials. More having a significant impact on the environment and critical raw materials would be recycled. The Commission will present a measure on prevention, reuse, recycling and landfill of waste targets (2014) and develop end-of-waste criteria (2013/2014).

Support research and innovation:

Scientific breakthroughs and an increase in research and innovation investments would improve efforts to reduce, reuse, recycle and safeguard the resources. The Commission intends to prepare Innovation partnerships on raw materials (2011) and on sustainable agriculture (2011).

Phase out inefficient subsidies:

The Environmentally Harmful Subsidies should be phased out in order to eliminate price distortion. The Commission will try to tackle this problem through the CAP reform (2011). 

Change taxation policy: 

The taxation of labour should be shifted towards environmental taxation, including through regular adjustments in real rates, which would increase the share of environmental taxes in public revenues. The Commission aims to achieve this by developing and improving the indicators on the use of taxes on pollution and resources.

Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services

The "Roadmap" goes on to provide resource-specific improvements that the Commission considers need to be made by 2020.  The objectives are supported by concrete policy initiatives which the Commission intends present in the following years.  

Ecosystem services:

Natural capital and ecosystem services should be properly valued and accounted for by public authorities and businesses. Some of the initiatives that the Commission intends to come forward with include the “No Net Loss” initiative (2015) and a Communication on Green Infrastructure (2012).

Biodiversity:

Loss of biodiversity in the EU and the degradation of ecosystem services should be halted and biodiversity restored. The expected Commission legislative initiative on Alien Invasive Species (2012) would contribute to this objective.

Minerals and metals:

The Commission is preparing an Innovation Partnership on raw materials (2011) which would go towards improving the efficiency of natural resources such as metals and minerals.

Water:

Waters in the EU should be of good quality and sufficient quantity. The impacts of droughts and floods should be minimised through use of adapted crops, increased water retention in soils and efficient irrigation. Examples of Commission initiatives in this matter include the expected Blueprint to safeguard Europe’s water (2012), revision of the Groundwater Directive (2012) and the revision of the Environmental Quality Standards Directive (2011).

Air:

EU's interim air quality standards should be met and updated in order to achieve levels of air quality that do not significantly impact on human health and the environment. In order to achieve these targets, the Commission will review the EU Air Quality policy (2013) and revise the legislation on the monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gases (2011).

Land and soils:

EU policies take into account their direct and indirect impact on land use.  Soil erosion should be reduced and the soil organic matter increased, with remedial work on contaminated sites. The Commission intends to come forward with a Communication on land use (2014) and a Communication on land-use, land-use change and forestry (2011).

Marine resources:

All EU marine waters should achieve a good environmental standard. Therefore, the Commission will present the Growth initiative (2013) and measures on Maritime Spatial Planning (2012) and Integrated Coastal Zone Management (2012).

Key Sectors

The Commission identifies the sectors which have the greatest environmental impact as well as the actions that must be taken in the relevant sectors.

Food:

Healthier and more sustainable food production and consumption should be promoted and contribute to a 20% reduction in the food chain's resource inputs. The Green Paper on sustainable use of phosphorus (2012) is an example of a Commission action in this area.

Buildings:

Ensure high resource efficiency levels of renovation and construction of buildings and infrastructure, all new buildings should be nearly zero-energy and material efficient. The Commission plans to come forward with Communication on the sustainable competitiveness of the construction sector (2011) and a Communication on sustainable buildings (2013). 

Transport:

Overall efficiency in the transport sector should be achieved by using less and cleaner energy and reducing the negative impact on the environment and key natural assets.  In order to make improvements in this area, the Commission intends to implement all the initiatives announced in the Transport White Paper, revise the TEN-T (2011) and present a Strategic Transport Technological Plan (2011). 

New pathways for action on resource efficiency

The “Roadmap” proposes a new pathway for action on resource efficiency. It would bring together stakeholders to discuss and agree on indicators and targets by the end of 2013. Setting indicators and defining a process for resource efficiency targets would help outline the path to the 2050 vision. Two levels of indicators are foreseen:

(1) A provisional lead indicator - "Resource Productivity" - to measure the principal objective of the “Roadmap” of improving economic performance while reducing pressure on natural resources;

(2) A series of complementary indicators on key natural resources such as water, land, materials and carbon, that will take account of the EU’s global consumption of these resources.

Next Steps

The Commission will prepare the appropriate policy and legislative proposals to implement the actions set out in the “Roadmap”. The sector specific targets identified in the "Roadmap" are supported by concrete policy initiatives which have either already been published by the Commission or which will be presented over the course of the next 5 years.

The European Parliament will prepare an own initiative Resolution on a “Resource Efficient Europe” which would set out the European Parliament's position in regards to the strategic aspects of resource efficiency.

The Council is also likely to adopt conclusions on the “Resource Efficiency Roadmap” by the end of the year.