The European Commission has unveiled its latest roadmap for building a sustainable future. With the world’s population set to hit nine billion by 2050 and the environment already under huge strain, the EU aims to make better use of the natural resources we have. Policymakers admit that up to now, this hasn’t been the case.
European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik told euronews: “Currently our understanding is that there is a lot of knowledge, but still lacking, there is a lot of expertise there on the table, but we do not have the way we could best measure the resource-use.”
Europe is the planet’s biggest importer of raw materials. Green growth and recycling are therefore seen as a major priority for the EU as it seeks better resource efficiency. Umicore, in Belgium, is a world leader in battery recycling. The company insists we need to learn how to re-use our existing resources better.
“There is a huge above ground mine – that we call urban mine – of materials, electronic scrap. There are metals that are contained in an huge amount of applications nowadays. I think that the resource efficiency roadmap needs to also look how we can exploit that urban mine better,” Tim Weekes from Umicore said.
The worry for environmentalists is that changing old habits won’t be easy. They say promoting sustainability will only come through the right tax tools.
Pieter Depous from European Environment Bureau said: “The Commission is going to have to be very clear how it is exactly going to, for example, face environmental harmful subsidies; how is going to green the tax income of governments, how is going further volve its waste policies to go to zero waste society.”
Brussels insists becoming a resource-efficient society is no longer a choice, but an inevitability. How and when it will achieve that ambition is still open to question.