Everybody who knows current European environmental policy could not be surprised by Janez Potočnik‘s speech. The Sloveninan economist and European Commissioner for the Environment opened the WRF 2011 conference emphasizing the need for better resource-efficient economy.
Potočnik started with a situation summary, as traditional with his speeches:
“The world’s population is increasing by around 200 000 people a day… By 2050 demand for food, feed and fibre is forecast to increase by 70% and yet 60% of our ecosystems underpinning these resources are already degraded… In the EU today we use some 16 tonnes of materials per person each year, of which 6 tonnes become waste…”
Potočnik’s words convey one message; radical change in societies and economic systems is needed. The other WRF 2011 opening session speakers Bruno Obrele or Alice Klaudia spoke in the same spirit. The crucial question is how to manage this change.
Potočnik higlighted four main points to aim for which should lead to economic and environmental transformation:
1. We need to build an economy that reflects the true value of resources. Only when resources are priced properly can we follow the right market signals and behave according to them.
2. We must give up subsidies which support inefficient and environmentally damaging consumption.
3. We have to encourage companies to develop sustainable products, services and processes and support eco-innovation and eco-design.
4. We need to focus on housing, transport and food, one of the most energetically and resource demanding sectors connected with our lifestyle.
Sounds clear, but questions abound, like how can we put these points into practice? How can we evaluate non-market resources? Is it possible to stick a label with price on all natural values? And would this pricing motivate us enough to behave more responsible? How to set subsidies properly and avoid corruption or unexpected negative effects? Human beings tend to think more short-term than long-term, they tend to follow their selfish needs. In which way can you motivate people, entrepreneurs, citizens, consumers to reflect environmental issues whith mainly long-term character?
Keywords like eco-innovation, eco-design or resource-efficiency dominated in Janez Potočnik well presented speech.
I ‘d like to add less measurable values like intrinsic value of nature, ethics, modesty, self-reflection. They are the core base on which we can put all the resource-efficient technologies, hard measurements and plans.