EPN REPORT: Maximizing efficiency throughout EU economy

Report of the workshop about resource efficiency in the EU organised by the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) on March 11th, 2015

 re5sOn March 11th, EPN attended the NETGREEN Thematic Policy Workshop « Maximizing resource efficiency throughout the EU economy » at CEPS.

After a brief introduction by Arno Behrens, Head of Energy and Research Fellow at CEPS, and a short welcome speech by Wanda Gaj, Project Officer at DG Research & Innovation (EU Commission), the workshop started with a presentation by Lucas Porsch, Senior Fellow at the Ecologic Institute. Porsch introduced NETGREEN, the “Network for Green Economy Indicators”, explaining how this website can support policy makers in measuring progress towards resource efficiency. According to Porsch, there is the need to measure progress towards the green economy while making a fruitful usage of the indicators we already dispose of and that are currently unused. Measuring-progress.eu is an interactive online tool that can be used by policy makers to understand the green economy indicators, to choose the ones they need for they purposes and to interpret them correctly. Porsch concluded his presentation with a virtual tour of the website.

After Porsch speech, Behrens gave the floor to Barbara Bacigalupi, Policy Officer on Resource Efficiency and Indicators at DG Environment. Stating that resource efficiency means “doing more with less”, Bacigalupi mentioned the key EU policies initiatives on resource efficiency and highlighted the importance of the 2020 timeframe and of a 2050 European vision on the issue, consisting of nine priority objectives. Reminding the audience that “you cannot manage what you cannot measure”, the speaker pointed out the importance of moving from policy to indicators. She also gave some examples and illustrated some graphs showing the following indicators: resource productivity, environmental taxes, eco-innovation, and green jobs in the EU. Bacigalupi concluded her speech declaring that if the EU wants to do some progress in the field of resource efficiency, it is then necessary for all the actors to constantly work together.

This first part of the workshop was followed by a short session of Q&A, where some issues related to resource efficiency and indicators were highlighted by the audience. To mention an interesting one, one of the participants asked the speakers about the international dimension of NETGREEN and of the indicators. According to Porsch, there is an international component, but for now it is still very limited. Nevertheless, there is the willingness to extend the database to a global context in the future.

After the Q&A session, the panel discussion started, and new speakers reached the stage. After a brief introduction by Charles Seaford, Senior Advisor at New Economics Foundation (NEF), the floor was given to Stephan Lutter, Researcher at the Institute for Ecological Economics in Vienna. Lutter brought a researcher’s perspective to the discussion. According to him, the environmental problems are the result of the quality and quantity of social metabolism, meaning the interaction between society and nature. This is why we need to focus on resource efficiency, which is also fundamental for the human well-being and for the well-functioning of the economic activity. Lutter mentioned different kind of resources, among which water, land, and fuels. In order to measure these resources, we dispose of two types of indicators: territorial ones, related to production, and footprint ones, related to consumption. The first ones provide solid data bases, but at the same time they can just represent a national dimension. The second ones relate to a global dimension, but at the same time they present only modelling approaches and they are hardly accepted by policy makers. Anyways, to respond to international challenges, some methodologies are in development in order to be applied at a global level.

After Lutter’s presentation, Seaford gave the floor to Evi Ford-Alexandraki, Statistical Officer on Resource Efficiency Indicators at Eurostat. Ford-Alexandraki briefly presented the resource efficiency scoreboard, which gathers statistics from Eurostat and other research centres and organisations. The speaker mentioned the existence of data centres on resources and talked about some indicators for four groups of resources: material, land, waste and carbon. She also highlighted the importance of knowing that there are some relevant differences among the same indicators depending on the objectives and the priorities of the creators of such indicators.

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The following speaker was Janneke Van Veen, Coordinator Resource Efficiency/Circular Economy at the Government of Flanders. Van Veen stressed on Flanders’ objective to move from a waste policy to a sustainable materials management. In 2012, two new policy instruments were introduced by the government in order to achieve this goal: a materials decree, which constitutes a legal framework to the issue of sustainability and environmental challenges, and a Flemish material programme, constituted of three pillars: research, innovation and an action plan. Moreover, an executive plan is giving its contribution through a more classical approach. Van Veen talked about the new approach that the Flemish government is applying to its projects on the topic: other than measuring the waste from the households, researchers started to measure the waste from the enterprises. Indeed, there is a significant loss of materials reflected in the indicators. This means that the focus is less on the loss rather than on the recycling process. According to the speaker, there is the need to find a way to keep our materials and to reuse them once the product is used and thrown away. This is why Europe presents a high dependence on importations of materials. What we need is to change our policies in order to become more independent, supported by the creation of a European database.

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After Van Veen presentation, the floor was given to Loredeana Ghinea, Executive Director at A.SPIRE, Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency. The first problem that Ghinea pointed out is the issue of how Europe can cope with less resources and increasing needs. To give an answer to this problematic, the speaker firstly illustrated the functioning of the value chain. The process involves row materials, then process industry and manufacturing. In order to better allocate the resources and achieve efficiency, there is the need to invest in innovation and to reinvent several key factors and products. These actions imply that the actors, among which the process industry and the Public and Private Partnerships (PPPs) have to: implement a more efficient digital equipment; reinvent feedstock; reinvent devices for monitoring, control, etc.; reinvent materials and products; reinvent technologies for valorisation of waste in order to turn it into a resource. Therefore, Ghinea stressed on the fact that the industry palace in Europe has to be reinvented. In order to make this happen, we need to build synergies across industries, borders, technologies and public & private partners.

Last but not least, Carsten Wachholz, Resources use and Product Policy Officer at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) took the floor. Wachholz brought a NGO’s point of view to the discussion, mentioning the kind of indicators that are useful for these organisations. Referring to the Report released by the EEB in March 2014, the speaker talked about some resource-use indicators. He immediately pointed out that, by adding a monetary value on material savings and other factors, it is easier for NGOs to capture the attention of policy makers. The speaker highlighted some potential benefits that could be gained due to a successful resource efficiency starting from now to 2030: more land use, food-waste reduction, water use reduction, gas emission savings, jobs creation. In order to obtain these beneficial outputs, some policy approaches need to be implemented: addressing durability and reparability of products; improving product design; moving up the waste hierarchy; reinforcing the demand side of the circular economy. Indeed, there are different ways to unlock the potential, and according to Wachholz we just have to choose one. We have a lot of tools available, but we need to guide the actions towards the direction we want to move to.

After the last speaker’s presentation, a discussion with the panellists and a short session of Q&A took place. The event ended with a networking lunch.

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Author: Lucia Montanari

Posted in News, Reports.

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