Stepping up the shift towards a circular economy in Europe

The Commission reported that the action plan was fully completed and all its 54 tasks delivered

Photo: EU Frans Timmermans

Europe's road towards economy that hugely lessens the burden on natural capital and freshwater resources and ecosystems, but also rejects wasting products that can be recycled or reused, is irreversible. Three years after its adoption, the Circular Economy Action Plan is fully completed, the Commission reported noting that all its 54 actions have been delivered, although the work on some of them continues even after 2019. The EU executive emphasised that implementation of the action plan has stepped up the transition towards a circular economy in Europe.

The paper also focuses on future challenges and explores every avenue towards a climate-neutral, circular Europe.

The annual Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference that took place in Brussels on 6 and 7 March was co-organised by the Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). The forum, which is a central event for the European circular economy stakeholder platform - a unique joint initiative of these two European institutions, was an inspiring meeting place for discussions between the policy makers, business people and civil society, where the representatives of the circular economy community exchange ideas and best practices.

Talking on the action plan for the transition to circular economy, Frans Timmermans, EC First Vice-President, said that “we have to rewrite the social contract in the society”. To explain how committed he is to the circular pattern, Timmermans, who is the PES Spitzenkandidat for the European elections, stressed that if he was to become the next president of the European Commission, he would take charge himself personally of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in a holistic approach. I will make sure that every single commissioner has a task specific to the way Europe is going to implement the 17 SDGs, he asserted. According to him, part of the circular, sustainable economy is also that “you pay taxes where you make profits”. I believe that we urgently need to look at taxation - how is taxation supporting our efforts to go to a circular economy, he emphasised. Do we need a CO2 tax at the European level? Do we need to ensure that the tax system we use creates a feeling in society that this transition is being dealt with in a fair way. Because if I understand anything of the 'Gilets jaunes' movement in France, to large extent it is based on the fact that people have a feeling “Yes, we need to make this transition but why you put all the burden on my shoulders and why not on the industry,” EC First Vice-President explained.

 In his speech EESC President Luca Jahier said the Circular Economy Platform and the ambitious initiatives emerging from it are again proof that Europe is at its best when it works together, when it pools the skills and know-how of its different stakeholders - EU institutions, organised civil society and European citizens. The circular economy helps us not only to achieve the SDGs, but also to win all around: economically by creating new business models, environmentally by pursuing resource optimisation, and socially by generating new jobs. This is why the EESC intends to push for it to be at the top of the European agenda in the next decade, Luca Jahier stated.

It was nicely said that Europe is a kind of a lighthouse for the circular transition, but we should have in mind that it is much more than just Europe, and the task is how to connect all these stories around the globe to make this transition happen, said Ladeja Godina Kosir, director of Circular Change, Chair of the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform's Coordination Group. She encouraged all the participants at the conference to visit the platform's website where there are already 200 best practices collected, to share their ideas or find partners for their projects.


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