Building a sustainable economy

(#4 of our Together-Ensemble series)

Our economy has grown too large.

According to a study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), more than a third of Earth’s natural resources have been destroyed by humans in just thirty years.

We consume over 11 tons of natural resources for every single person on Earth. And the numbers keep going up. By 2050, we will use twice as much. Unless we change. 

Tell me, how many planets will we need to support our way of life, if we continue like this?

The European Green Deal is our roadmap for making the EU’s economy sustainable. This will happen by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas and making the transition just and inclusive for all. 

This topic concerns us all when resources of this planet become scarce. 

Opening conversation

Rune Meyer is founder of The Circular Economy Club, which helps to accelerate startups with a circular economic business model, moving them from incomplete to complete, ready for their first round of investment.

Thomas Arnold is Advisor for Sustainable Development Goals in DG Research and Innovation. He is committed to our big sustainability transformations, which are both at his heart and at the centre of his professional activities. He is one of the co-founders of the informal Doughnut4EU working group and is also engaged in EUStaff4Climate.

Céline Charveriat is the Executive Director of the Institute for European Environmental Policy, a sustainability think tank which produces evidence-based research and policy insight in the field of sustainable development and climate change. She began her career in Washington DC as a researcher at the Peterson Institute and the Inter-American Development Bank and worked for over 10 years with Oxfam International.

Laure Baillargeon works at DG GROW since 2007. She worked successively on eco-design of products, economic reforms (European Semester), policy coordination and strategic planning. Since 2018, she worked to launch two initiatives through the use of participatory meeting techniques: the Strategic Forum for Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) and the Circular Plastics Alliance.

Bruno Molat works in DG REGIO and is one of the architects of the EUStaff4Climate COVID-19 Solidarity Response fund. Several donations have already been awarded since the fund has been created only a couple of weeks ago.

You can watch the webinar part here. Please note that this is internal “raw” material, not originally intended for external publication, but knowing the difficult context and associated challenges, we have decided to make it available to all. It is offered by the European Commission with a view to encourage everyone to take similar initiatives to encourage a benevolent direction. (video will be added soon.)

Main recommendations from the workshop

Over 70 colleagues had registered for this session; of whom 60 attended the webinar live and 20 took part in the workshop on 12 June 2020.  

  • Define what ‘sustainable’ means and specify the sustainability criteria. Circularity must become the essence of any economic development and management of daily city life. Link to sharing economy. Easy, cheap and short (the longer the loops are in the value chains (e.g. of a circular economy), the more difficult is to track products/components and thus their quality. Making shorter (local) loops seems the only solution for a sustainable /circular economy to happen!). Understand what is really sustainable (local food, traditionally made..) and go for it.
  • Taxonomy of environmental friendly products that have less impact on the environment
  • Systemic approach to promote circular practices that address financial, Institutional, social and technical issues – eg social aspects, social innovation, inclusion, improve access to facilities, resources. Manufacturing 4.0 (link this model to green new deal).
  • Legislation for phasing out unsustainable activities. E.g. From 2025 on, no thermal engine cars can be sold anymore. Make unsustainable production less competitive, eg. with obligations to make products repairable. Increase taxation of industries that are unsustainable, and withstand lobbying from those sectors. e.g. Moving towards a more eco/bio farming requires important (financial) support from public administration. Taxing on the principle polluters pay (Gov) and change consumption attitude (people side). Make the transformation of the unsustainable activities, attractive for financial flows. 
  • Beyond GDP – Use other progress indicators of health, happiness, and wellbeing
  • Urban Agenda for the EU and notably the Circular economy partnership Research.
  • Research & Innovation is needed to understand at what scale circular economy principles can help policymakers to generate economic development and reduce carbon footprints, primary material consumption and consequent costs with waste management.
  • Sustainable Education. Foster, repair and reuse, make it part of education. Awareness-raising is a necessary part of degrowth: getting people to understand what degrowth is, its benefice and point to existing examples so it doesn’t seem so scary. Link personal health & wellbeing benefits with sustainable way of living. Harness power.
  • From SMEs and Startups. Only them can really challenge the status quo. Have startups coming up with new solutions. Adopt a community-based approach to support them. Promote start-ups that are innovative and sustainable. Financial support to SMEs, especially social enterprises. Provide support to SMEs to become more sustainable in environmental, social and economic terms.
  • From local governments: plan, design, finance their cities and systems with a circular vision and promote a human-centered approach.
  • At European/global level, change will be sustainable only if those who will be affected are part of the conversation. For this awareness and collaboration among key actors business, consumers NGOs, government are needed for cities and citizens to make the circular future a reality. Empower citizens in the whole process. Create a Citizens Assembly for the recovery. Power of consumers: supply will adapt to what consumers demand. Create/set up communities of interest — open and transparent discussion platforms co-designed with citizens. The platforms should deal with specific themes. For example, create open and transparent discussion platforms co-designed with citizens hosted by the commission, with guests scientists that can answer citizens questions to provide more reliable info and understanding on complex issues. Commission to invest more in research for non-plastic packages.

Related links

About Doughnut Economics | DEAL

(1) We have a transition of our economy – forced by the black swan. | LinkedIn

Tomorrow, your dear troubadour is keen to share the outcomes of the greening mobility session!

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