The European Commission has drawn up a “roadmap to a resource efficient Europe”, which it believes shows the way for the EU to decouple economic growth from resource use and prepare for a more sustainable future based on innovation. EU environment commissioner Janez Poto?nik called for more green taxes to bolster the shift, but he shied away from announcing any bold changes in policy.
The roadmap sets out a series of ideas aimed at transforming production and consumption. It notes that legislation, market-based instruments, the refocusing of funding instruments and the promotion of sustainable production and consumption will be needed if the EU is to have an economy that respects resource constraints. However, the Commission has delayed agreeing any clear targets or indicators until 2013 and instead contents itself with a list of suggestions.
These include a pledge to develop a method to measure and compare businesses' environmental footprints and to introduce economic incentives that reward efficiency investments and encourage more long-term and innovative thinking in business, finance and politics.
Moreover, the EU executive suggests phasing out subsidies that “ultimately harm the environment by holding industries back from investing in green technologies or leading to higher levels of waste, fuel-consumption and resource extraction” and to switch taxes away from labour and on to environmentally harmful activities.
It also proposes a variety of voluntary and mandatory measures to boost the production and consumption of green products such as the promotion of the EU Eco-label, a voluntary scheme to promote products that meet certain environmental criteria, and green public procurement policies.
Tony Long, director of WWF’s European policy office, said: "Putting Europe on a road to resource efficiency is not a luxury in these economically straightened times – it is an absolute necessity. European economies face nothing less than an economic transformation if the engines of economic growth are to start turning again.”
The roadmap is “a step in the right direction”, he added, but change will only happen if it is backed up by “legislation, policies and new financial instruments”.
Green MEP Bas Eickhout called for the Commission to come forward with a “Resource Taxation Directive, such as by broadening the scope of the existing Energy Taxation Directive”. He said this would “send a clear signal for investors and ensure greater resource efficiency”.
Poto?nik said during a press briefing that shifting taxation from labour to the environment is “the right way to go”, but he noted that tax policies are in the hands of the member states and, for the moment “more detail [on this issue] was not part of the message”.
By. Philippa Jones
Source: Environmental Finance