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One of the long term operational risks that many businesses face is that of resource scarcity, where minerals and metals which are essential to production processes became difficult and increasingly expensive to obtain. MEPs in the environment committee of the European Parliament have been focussing on this important emerging risk and have made a number of proposals to manage the situation.

The global economy uses the equivalent of one and a half planets’ worth of resources to produce global output and absorb waste and estimates put this figure at two planets’ worth of resources by the 2030s, say MEPs. Europe is more dependent on imported resources than any other region in the world and many resources will be exhausted in the relatively short term, they claim.

MEPs stress that improving resource use could lead to substantial net savings for EU businesses, public authorities and consumers, estimated at EUR 600 billion, or 8 percent of annual turnover, while also reducing total annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2 to 4 percent. They emphasise that a 30 percent increase in resource productivity by 2030 could boost GDP by nearly one percent and create two million additional sustainable jobs.

Binding waste-reduction targets, revamped ecodesign legislation and measures to break the link between growth and the use of natural resources are the chief demands set out in a resolution passed this week by environment MEPs, who call on the European Commission to table new legislation by the end of 2015.

The environment committee calls on the Commission to table a new proposal with the following points by the end of 2015:

  • Waste prevention measures;
  • Binding waste-reduction targets for municipal, commercial and industrial waste to be achieved by 2025;
  • Application of the ‘pay as you throw’ principle;
  • Targets for recycling and preparation for reuse to be raised to at least 70 percent of municipal solid waste and 80 percent of packaging waste by 2030;
  • Incineration to be strictly limited by 2020 to non-recyclable and non-biodegradable waste;
  • A binding, gradual reduction of all landfill waste.

To tackle the problem of scarce resources, the extraction and use of resources “must be reduced” and the link between growth and the use of natural resources “must be severed”. The committee says that In order to switch to the sustainable use of resources by 2050, EU policy must require:

  • A reduction, in absolute terms, of resource consumption to sustainable levels;
  • Strict application of the waste hierarchy;
  • Implementation of a cascading use of resources;
  • Greater use of renewables,
  • Phasing-out of toxic substances;
  • Improvements in the quality of ecosystem services.

The Commission should also propose indicators for resource efficiency, measuring resource consumption, including imports and exports, and their use should be mandatory from 2018, says the committee. It calls for a binding target to increase resource efficiency at EU level by 30 percent from 2014 levels, by 2030, as well as individual targets for each member state.

Next steps

The full House will vote on the environment committee report at the 6th to 9th July session, in Strasbourg.

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