Move towards a circular system, completely overhaul current production and consumption in favor of more sustainable approaches: The EU’s environment ministers managed to sound almost futuristic in their Tallinn meeting on Thursday.
According to the official press release, the ministers discussed possible paths to a more sustainable way of life in the union. According to Estonian Minister of the Environment Siim Kiisler (IRL), what is needed are “fresh solutions”.
“This is where eco-innovation comes in. Waste can be a valuable resource, products can be designed to be greener, processes can be smarter and more efficient,“ said Kiisler.
The general move to a more circular economy, breaking through the established pattern of production, consumption, and waste is one of the core elements in this goal, named one of the Estonian EU council’s presidency priorities.
At what is officially an informal meeting, the ministers got together on Thursday to work in smaller groups on issues like product transparency, smart cities, and financing.
As has been the case for years, the union’s line in the matter is that everything hinges on consumer behavior. Make more informed and environmentally conscious choices, and this will incentivize the creation of industries investing in more sustainable production cycles.
The EU’s task in this is envisioned as the party supplying the information the customers need to make such choices, i.e. labelling products according to their environmental footprint, similar to the already established nutritional information printed onto almost all product packaging in the EU.
How to make urban environments more sustainable was also on the agenda. “Currently, about 73 percent of Europeans live in cities, which means increased pressure on the environment. Today we focused on blue-green infrastructure projects that can enrich our everyday environment and deliver these future cities as a standard model,” Kiisler said.
“I mean green roofs and facades, open green spaces, constructed wetlands, restoring streams and rivers, just to name a few. They improve air quality, reduce the urban heat island effect, help manage storm water, and increase biodiversity. It’s been proven many times that access to nature makes our lives better,“ he added.
Kiisler also pointed out that promoting this particular kind of solution meant redirecting funding towards sustainable activities, rather than continuing with the current approach.
“Sustainable financing means valuing the environment, economy and society together at once. It’s important to create a system where all three are taken into account. We can’t invest in green solutions just because they are green, they also have to be profitable and useful,” Kiisler stressed.
All of this will require an enormous amount of additional money. The one point the ministers agree on is that it is needed; who will eventually have to contribute it is another matter.
The meeting of the ministers is continuing on Friday, with the union’s climate policy on the agenda.
Editor: Dario Cavegn