European commissioner for environment, Janez Potočnik, has called for future economic policies to pre-empt new environmental challenges.
Using the concept of ‘New Environmentalism’ in a speech to the Scottish Parliament’s Committee on Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment, he said: “We will have to move away from our linear model of resource consumption where we consider it normal to ‘take-make-use, then throw away.”
Highlighting the financial importance of this approach, he added: “Actuaries and risk analysts are already starting to look at companies’ ability to resist input scarcity, price-volatility and supply disruptions.”
Potočnik (left) said that the old economic model will not be able to contain the further three billion people that will rise from subsistence to consumer economies and consumption habits by 2030.
“The transition to resource efficiency and a circular economic model is inevitable, particularly for Europe,” he said.
He explained that resource costs have become more critical to manufacturing productivity than labour costs. There are companies taking action, but he said plenty still need waking up to the future problems.
Changing attitudes will be the hardest challenge because economies are locked into resource intensive industrialisation, but global resource constraints mean this has to be changed, he said.
As a result, he added: “Moving to a circular economy is not only about policies and legislation, it requires the active engagement from all economic actors.”
He announced a new dogma of “three I’s” - innovation, incentives and integration that will drive the ‘New Environmentalism’.
Repeating earlier calls for boosting the waste industry, he said: “We need to stimulate economic growth in the most promising sectors for quick growth. One of these is waste and recycling.”