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Resource reduction proponents reject degrowth label

The coalition aims to counter the narrative that resource extraction and consumption must go hand in hand with economic growth (Photo: FabrikaPhoto/Envato)
The coalition aims to counter the narrative that resource extraction and consumption must go hand in hand with economic growth (Photo: FabrikaPhoto/Envato)

Advocates of ‘reuse, reduce and recycle’ strategies are proposing the creation of an EU sustainable resource management directive

While legislative work is taking place to reduce carbon emissions, the material footprint of companies and individuals is largely being ignored, says an open letter sent to the European Commission by a coalition of non-profit associations and academics including Climate Action Network, Zero Waste Europe and Friends of the Earth Europe.

The letter proposes an EU law that would establish a binding target to reduce the EU’s “material footprint” or raw material consumption to 5 tonnes a head by 2050, a massive 66 per cent reduction compared with 2022 levels of 14.8 tonnes a head.

“There is a crucial gap in European legislation on resource consumption,” say the signatories, who favour an economic model that embeds “qualitative and inclusive growth” instead of an economy based on the use of raw materials and energy to further growth for growth’s sake. The legislative proposal should be seen as “more growth agnostic than degrowth per se”, argues the coalition.

In its view, the most materially polluting sectors, such as fast fashion and intensive agriculture, should be significantly scaled down, while other sectors, such as renewable energy and resource efficiency, should be scaled up through more circular production methods to reduce their resource footprint.

Workers will need to be equipped with new skills to bridge the technology, labour and information requirements of processing materials and products in more efficient ways, but this change will also drive economic growth, they argue.

Their proposal aims to counter the narrative that resource extraction and consumption must go hand in hand with economic growth and argues that a sustainable resource strategy would increase competitiveness and strategic autonomy for the EU by embracing domestic reindustrialisation and reducing dependency on foreign suppliers.

In response to a question from Sustainable Views about how this legislative proposal differs from existing circularity measures in EU policies, the letter’s authors say implementation of EU policies on the circular economy (such as ecodesign rules and the energy efficiency directive) has predominantly focused on recycling rather than preventing waste generation.

“The lack of focus on reuse and reduction strategies in EU circularity measures is a significant missed opportunity to ensure the most efficient use of resources with the minimum adverse impact on the environment,” they add, calling for “a more comprehensive and coordinated approach to resource management to address the transboundary nature of material consumption and ensure that sustainable limits are not exceeded”.

You can find the full letter here.

A service from the Financial Times