According to a new report by the European Environment Agency (EEA), the EU needs more fundamental, systemic re-orientation of its economy if it is to meet some of its long term environmental objectives.
For example, the proposed EU target to cut greenhouse gases by 80 – 95% of 1990 levels by 2050 will not be possible by solely relying on incremental efficiency gains.
EEA Executive Director Hans Bruyninckx commented: “Innovation may be the single most important driver to change the inefficient way we currently use resources.
“Environmental innovation is key to address the challenges of the 21st century. If we want to ‘live well within the environmental limits of the planet’ as stated in the 7th Environmental Action Programme, we will need to rely heavily on Europe’s inventories. This is not just about new inventions – encouraging the uptake and diffusion of new green technologies may be even more important”.
The report additionally highlights that another method of improving resource efficiency could be to reduce labour taxes such as income tax, instead taxing inefficient resource use and environmental pollution. Such environmental taxes could encourage job creation but are under used in the EU, equivalent to only 2.4% of GDP in 2012.
EEA insists that there may be multiple benefits – countries with the highest environmental taxes also seem to rank very highly for eco-innovations and competitiveness.
Strong environmental regulation can give the EU a competitive advantage as an early adopter. Other regions will want to import products into the EU are gradually adopting European norms such as vehicle emissions standards or chemical controls.
The EU aims to increase the share of manufacturing to 20% of GDP by 2020, from 15.1% in 2013. According to the EEA, this could be an opportunity to boost environmentally beneficial innovation in areas such as renewable energy. However, the report’s authors warn that growth must be consistent with EU environmental priorities, otherwise it could have negative consequences including greenhouse gas emissions and wasting valuable resources.
Adapted from a press release by Emma McAleavey.
Read the article online at: https://www.hydrocarbonengineering.com/gas-processing/16072014/green_economy_939/