A new European Environment Agency report, Resource-efficient green economy and EU policies, discusses trends and policy directions relevant to growth of a green economy in Europe. It is recommended reading for any Canadian executives hoping to take advantage of a more open European market, if the comprehensive trade agreement between Canada and Europe comes into force, and even more importantly it should be read by Canadian governmental policy makers who may well find that, even with a trade agreement, Canadian access to the European market is limited by our country’s failure to achieve green business standards equivalent to those of Europe.
Among the many interesting findings of the report:
- The green economy is, today, seen as a strategic way of delivering a fairer society living in a better environment
- Green orientation is also emerging in EU strategies for international cooperation for development,
- The change in the sectoral composition of the EU economy, in particular the growth of services, has not lowered its impact on resources as was expected. Instead, it is more associated with changing trading patterns and ‘trade‑embodied emissions’, as well as an increase of the global consumption footprint above that of the EU.
- Given the present state of resource efficiency in manufacturing, ‘re‑manufacturing’ is unlikely to improve the resource efficiency of the EU economy, and major objectives, including those for climate, unless innovative and selective green re‑manufacturing are pursued.
- Green or eco‑innovation should be considered as a primary enabling factor especially as the policy framework for green innovation is already in place. Innovation can be a fundamental lever in guiding the EU energy and material‑use systems towards a radical transformation of practices.
- Adoption and diffusion of eco‑innovation are extremely important, even more so than invention, for the resource efficiency benefits of innovation to reach a macro‑level.
- Fiscal reforms, too, are important enabling factors. Economic instruments, such as environmental taxes and emission trading schemes, are policy tools that can change pricing systems, which is essential for triggering the resource‑efficient green economy transformation process.
- Transformation to a green economy requires a departure from the business‑as‑usual economic paradigm, which is socially, environmentally and economically unsustainable. The process requires long‑term vision and targets that include the societal transition perspective.
- The green economy does not mean de‑industrialisation; there is a role for innovative manufacturing in a green economy transition.
- ‘Directed’ technological change towards saving resources and reducing emissions matters more than macro‑level structural change, for example a change of sector mix, in creating a resource‑efficient economy.
- The expected flow of climate‑related spending in the near future is huge and EU Member States have pledges in place corresponding to around one third of the total global amount.
The 88-page report can be found at http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/resourceefficient-green-economy-and-eu