Archives de Tag: Resource efficiency

Blueprint for a resource efficient Europe

The new European Commissioner for environment, Mr. Potocnik, recently provided additional details on his plans and those of the European Commission regarding ‘resource efficiency’.

Good news is that if all that will become true in the short term there will be eventually concret step forwards after resource efficiency being set as one of the ‘flagship initiative’ in the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy (strategy which sets the broad objectives of the EU over the next 10 years). The battle now is to get those upcoming developments (blue print, plans etc…) right so as to effectively enable pratical implementation of strong measures on resource efficiency throughout Europe…The next months will provide the answer…

Resource efficiency in EU2020 strategy

At last the question of ressource efficiency gets a prominent political attention…The new strategy for the European Union over the next decade, with the very sexy name « Europe 2020 », was launched last Wednesday by the European Commission (see here) and resource efficiency features high in this paper. One of the 7 ‘flagship initiative’ is entitled « Resource efficient Europe » with an extensive list of actions that will be undertaken by the Commission and the Member States.  A positive development for sure, even though there’s no concret target against which success or failure will be measured and that’s a major weakness on the road to improved resource efficiency in Europe.

Where this strategy is really wrong is in its blind focus on « growth » which is still seen as the holy saviour of our times. Europe needs definitively more ambition and a better vision that just to look for growth. This strategy could have been a great opportunity to look for other criteria and ways of « development » because without structural change, the ‘rebound effect’ will soon wipe out the gains realised by increased resource efficiency as ‘growth’ is still the main goal on the other hand…

The basics of ‘resource efficiency’ and the ‘ecological rucksack’

If you wonder whether you should read the book of Pr. Schmidt-Bleek or ask yourself what’s all about, here are some key extracts (my free personal choice-to be completed):

« We must dampen our economy’s hunger for ever greater amounts of raw materials. One of the great tasks for the future lies in dematerializing the economy and finding other ways of developing and paths for growth.

EU heads of states recognised as early as 2001 that we must “decouple economic growth from resource use”

 An entirely new market for eco-products and services will emerge; the potential for innovation would be enormous and new jobs would be created

 In our environmental protection practices, we have almost completely overlooked something, namely the immense movements of material for which we re responsible

 We should be aware that guiding today’s torrent of materials in a “closed-loop economy” would not really mitigate negative impacts. Every loop needs energy and additional machines; it requires transportation, thus spawning additional material flows. And what is more, chemical and technical cycles are never able to recover 100% of the materials used initially. After aluminium is recycled 15 times less than 3% of the metal is left. This makes it unavoidable to refill the economy with fresh natural resources, especially in the light of the fact that substantially less than 100% of the “old” aluminium can be collected. All the enthusiasm for closing loops and recycling makes it easy to forget that it is not possible to technically recycle more than 30% of the mass moved today. The necessary easing of the burden on the environment will be possible only if we avoid the tremendous resources flows in our economy a priori.

 Environmental policy concentrates on the back end of the economy; the constant and never-ending cleanup at the back end of the economy engenders more and more costs and compleely fails to address a decisive share of the environmental problems

 The most important ecological problem is the material flows which we set in motion on this planet using technical means

 In Germany alone, seventy metric tons of nature – not counting water and air – is consumed per person per year. Japan is achieving a greater level of wealth with only forty tons per capita per year. This already indicates to policy makers and business leaders that it is possible t get by with smaller materials flows without jeopardizing quality of life.

 Can we technically organise the level of prosperity we are accustomed to with a much lower input of resources.

 Radical dematerialisation requires cutting global resource consumption in half makes it clear how much we need to do to reach this goal.

 The old industrialised countries would have to lower their resource consumption by about 90%

 On average, every kilogram of industrial product carries approximately thirty kilograms of nature around with it. This means that today less than 10% of the materials moved around in nature are transformed into useful industrial products in the end.

 The computer on my desk necessitated shovelling around and thoroughly transforming more than 14 tons of solid nature. This ‘ecological rucksack’ is getting heavier by 7 tons as I use my computer.

 Approximately 70% of man-made solid material flows cannot be managed in closed loops because of technical reasons: it speaks itself against closing loops as the guiding principle. A large part of the flows never enter the production “cycle” because it is simply mining waste, overburden or other material which is moved, but not used, to produce goods.

 Our goal must be to seek the most ecologically and economically effective ways to perform a particular function, to satisfy a particular need

 Implement truly damage-preventing strategies.

 The key to sustainability is to radically increase the resource productivity of all economic activities, including energy generation.

 No incentives or policies currently exist for a sufficiently resource-efficient economy. Adjusting the economic and fiscal framework is therefore the most fundamental nd urgent prerequisite for moving toward sustainability »