The European Green Deal published in March 2020 is Europe’s new agenda for sustainable growth. It has three main targets; to increase efficiency of resource use by transitioning to a circular economy, to increase biodiversity, and to decrease pollution. These targets are all part of the EU’s aim to be carbon neutral by 2050.
The EU estimates that due to rising temperatures caused by climate change, 16% of species could become extinct, and up to 50 million people could be forced to leave their homes due to flood risk every year; costing the economy a projected £170 billion per year.
The aim of the deal is to move forward as quickly as possible and ensure that the areas which will face the most social and economic change have the financing required. This will be achieved through a £135 billion fund targeted to reduce the impacts of the transitions in these regions and industries.
Considering the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on economic systems, this plan is timely. There has been renewed emphasis on and demands for a green recovery, in which societies are challenged to rethink their economic models for growth.
The Circular Economy Action Plan is one of the main blocks of the Green Deal. The Action Plan lays out initiatives along the entire life cycle of products, targeting eco-design, promoting circular economy processes, fostering sustainable consumption, and aiming to ensure that the resources used are used for as long as possible.
The summary points from the action plan are:
- Make sustainable products the norm in the EU by widening an existing EcoDesign initiative to encompass as many products as possible, with clear guiding rules around sustainability. There are also plans to restrict the sale of certain single use products and ban the destruction of unsold goods.
- Empower consumers and public buyers, ensuring consumers have access to information. For example, requiring companies to substantiate their environmental claims by using Environmental Footprint methodologies, stricter rules around greenwashing and embedding a “right to repair” in the EU consumer and product policies by 2021.
- Focus efforts on the sectors that use most resources and where the potential for circularity is high such as: electronics and ICT; batteries and vehicles; packaging; plastics; textiles; construction and buildings; food; water and nutrients.
- Ensure less waste. The ambition is to prevent waste from being created in the first place. When waste has been created, it needs to be transformed into high-quality resources. Waste reduction targets will be established as well as modernising EU waste laws (for example restricting exports of waste that cause negative environmental and health impacts in third countries).
- Lead global efforts on circular economy. The Action Plan proposes the launch of a Global Circular Economy Alliance to explore the definition of a ‘Safe Operating Space’, kick-starting a discussion on a possible international agreement on the management of natural resources.
All of this is great news for the planet and with the action plan proposing legislation, guidance, and funding to achieve its ambitions, it’s a commitment by the EU to build circular thinking into our way to producing and using resources. Addressing the challenges of a take-make-waste system is not easy, but these proposals are certainly a move in the right direction.
More information is available here: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/.
Picture credits: European Commission.