Opening the annual conference of the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform against the backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, EESC President Christa Schweng stressed that this new context, with the prospect of energy prices shooting up, made the case for speeding up the transition to a circular economy and EU strategic autonomy even more compelling.
The 5th European Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference, titled "Towards a new normal; sustainable products for sustainable consumption", opened today at the European Commission with a keynote interview to former world-record setting sailor Dame Ellen Mc Arthur, who has for years been one of the most vocal champions of the circular economy through the pioneering work of her Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Christa Schweng, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), spoke at the opening session alongside Frans Timmermans, European Commission Executive Vice-President in charge of the European Green Deal, and Barbara Pompili, French Minister for the Ecological Transition.
Russia's aggression against Ukraine
comes first and foremost with human suffering of Ukrainian people, Ms Schweng underlined.
It will also impact the EU economy – in particular through higher global energy prices, which will affect countries, businesses, and individual people. This is just one of many reasons to step up our efforts in the circular economy, in order to build a sustainable, just and inclusive future for Europe, for the benefit of our businesses and our people, and to boost the EU's strategic autonomy.
Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, said:
The green transition will free us from our dependence on energy- and other resource imports. The circular economy more specifically will allow us to reduce our demand for primary resources, and use a lot less energy for our production and consumption. At this moment, the need to work together towards a common future is bigger than ever before, also because we are running headfirst into the limits of what our planet can provide.
Above and beyond our national initiatives, the circular economy is a priority for the European Union, and particularly for our six-month presidency of the Council, highlighted Barbara Pompili, France's Minister for the Ecological Transition."
The challenge for us is to make the transition between two worlds: from the throwaway mentality that still characterises our society far too much, to one of sustainability and reusability. I am quite convinced that we have the means to reduce our carbon footprint and our use of resources while still gaining quality of life and purchasing power.
The European Commission and the EESC have teamed up with the French Presidency of the European Union to organise this flagship two-day event, gathering decision makers, businesses, public authorities, NGOs, knowledge communities and civil society organisations to discuss ways to advance the transition to a circular economy in Europe.
Today's sessions, hosted by the European Commission, covered a wide range of topics, including making sustainable products the norm, the importance of consumer information and addressing green claims, the role of the circular economy in the climate agenda, boosting the EU market for secondary raw materials, and the upcoming Communication on biobased and biodegradable plastics.
The conference will continue tomorrow at the EESC with a focus on stakeholder-driven workshops highlighting success stories and identifying new challenges and opportunities in areas such as construction and infrastructure, food and bioeconomy, circular procurement and economic incentives.