Targeting a more resource efficient Europe

5 November 2013

On 5th November, Friends of the Earth Europe organised a conference in Brussels to look at the role of targets in bringing about a reduction in the resources we use in Europe.

"We are certainly not heading to a future we can afford" opened European Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik as he reiterated his desire for a more resource efficient Europe.

Europe is using more of the planet's minerals, metals, forests, fuels, land and water than ever before. The European Union is estimated to be using 1.5 times its own area in land every year, with 60% of the land consumed coming from outside its borders.

Commissioner Potočnik echoed the concerns: "If we stick to current trends we will need three times more material resources by 2050. We will need more water than we can access globally. While we are losing land in the EU to urban sprawl, we are using an ever bigger area of land globally through our imports. This has consequences on our environment and security of supply in the EU. The impacts, including food scarcity, are dramatic for the population in the developing world."

This demand for resources is linked to environmental damage and social injustices – from land grabbing and toxic pollution, to water shortages and the destruction of fertile land and the seas. At the same time, other regions are rapidly increasing their resource consumption.

Also in attendance were MEPs, senior European Commission staff and civil society campaigners working on this area. The agenda examined whether natural resources targets are achievable for the EU, and if so, what should those targets be. Commissioner Janez Potočnik, who is a long time advocate of greater resource efficiency within the EU, stated, "High level indicators and targets are necessary to focus energies, to give a clear direction and measure progress towards a circular economy."

Jo Leinen MEP, Socialists and Democrats, said that the European Union needed to copy the approach taken to climate and establish and work towards a target for overall resource use.

The European Resource Efficiency Platform is calling for the European Union to set ambitious and visible targets to improve the overall decoupling of resource use from economic growth.

The conference was preceded by the launch of a new discussion paper by SERI which demonstrated that Europe's demand for land is not compatible with a more equitable global society and protection of biodiversity. Research has shown that Europe's overconsumption means 58% of the land it consumes comes from outside its borders.

Michael Warhurst, talkedabout necessity of targets: "The overuse of land to meet Europe's insatiable consumption is harming communities and ecosystems and impeding the development of countries. Europe must transform its approach to land by measuring its use, setting clear targets and then enacting policy to reduce our land footprint."

He highlighted the recent Commission adoption of a proposal that required Member States to reduce their use of individual plastic bags.

Presentations from the speakers are available on the right of this page.