Towards an EU strategy on sustainable consumption (own-initiative opinion)

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Opinjoni mressqa mis-sezzjoni tal-KESE: Towards an EU strategy on sustainable consumption (own-initiative opinion)

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According to the 2019 Europe Sustainable Development Report, European countries lead globally on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but none are on track to achieve the Goals by 2030. The implementation of SDG 12 on sustainable consumption and production is particularly challenging in Europe, and yet it is instrumental to the realisation of Agenda 2030 as a whole.

The ways that we consume today – at a high rate and along a take-make-dispose trajectory – are not sustainable in terms of planetary boundaries. We would need almost three Earths to support the global economy if European consumption patterns were replicated throughout the planet. In fact, each European will have to reduce by 80% the amount of natural resources they currently use for nutrition, housing, mobility and leisure by 2050 to stay within planetary boundaries.

According to the OECD, governments play an essential role in encouraging people to factor the environment into their everyday lives and purchases. Although the EU has several good policy tools to build from, including the Ecodesign Directive, the Ecolabel and EMAS regulations, as well as the EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy and the 2008 Sustainable Consumption and Sustainable Industrial Policy Action Plan, a comprehensive approach on sustainable consumption is still missing and should be at the heart of the European Green Deal. Most of the interventions have focussed so far on supply side measures addressing the negative impacts of the current linear economy, including improving the resource and energy efficiency of production and end-of-life management of products. There has been much less focus on the demand side, and environmental impacts related to consumption remain unsustainably high.

The aim of the opinion will be to develop recommendations for a comprehensive European policy for sustainable consumption, covering for example nutrition, mobility, housing and lifestyles, as part of the European Green Deal and as a complement to the circular economy package. It will pay particular attention to the impact of such a policy on vulnerable populations and low-income households. A strategy on sustainable consumption is necessary to provide a framework for Member States and for the private sector to address both household consumption and public sector consumption. The opinion will highlight that such a policy should carefully balance the three dimensions of sustainability and thus contribute not only to SDG 12, but also to the achievement of all SDGs by 2030. Increasing the sustainability of consumption should not come at the expense of other societal objectives such as social justice, health, well-being and quality of life.