Why Europe is destined to embrace the Sustainable Economy
by Wouter van Dieren
With the new European Commission now taking office, we advocate the need for an European Sustainable Vision and a new Grand Design of the Economy. An essential step forward is the development of an European platform with continuous exchange of ideas, information and solutions between policy makers of the national governments, (service) industries, knowledge institutions and NGO’s to align a multi-annual agenda.
In 1958, Dr Sicco Mansholt, a well known Dutch minister of agriculture and well respected visionary, became a member of the European Commission. As part of his legacy he wrote a testimonial letter to his successor François-Xavier Ortoli in 1972, using the term Circular Economy for the first time. His European Compass can be seen as a Grand Design, an umbrella vision which covered the plan, the money, the legislation and the actual physical transition: millions of small farmers who left their lands, with the remaining farmers to expand and modernise into the technological agro industry we now see. In recent years it has been criticized heavily as the existing local smallholders were seen as the guardian of the countryside and the community. This new, modern food production industry stands in direct contrast to these centuries old social structures.
The answer to these critics is that those smallholders had no chance to survive. Incomes were very low, poverty was the rule, whereas those who emigrated to the city entered a world of growing plenty, wealth and welfare. Industrial Food production became the cornerstone of European unity. The Hunger Crisis of 1944-1945 had been the offset, which confirms the lesson that crises are the major trigger to change course, to innovate, to imagine, to dream.
The current crises are of a similar nature, possibly much bigger
Global Warming and loss of Biodiversity are at the centre of the current crisis. If these challenges are not resolved or overcome by 2030-2040, than much of life on earth will be extremely endangered. In Europe the climate borders are already moving up North leaving the South in droughts and heat-waves which destroy nature, land, fertility and human settlements.
A new Grand Design is crucial 'to raise arms against a sea of troubles' (Hamlet); luckily the contours of this project can be observed all over Europe. To regain biodiversity, to reinvent agriculture, to transform mobility, to cut CO2 emissions, to restructure water management, the world needs a fast track transition as all the alarm bells are ringing.
The real transition though is about The Grand Design as was the Mansholt project of 1958. The old design is obsolete, it cannot handle these crises, as it is guided by an outdated economic model. The Circular Economy has the potential to be an improvement, and is, in our view, the best approach to the European Project.
Circular Econonmy also known as the Regenerative Economy, the Sustainable Economy, or the Stable Economy is not about recycling or reuse, but about Resource Efficiency (factor 10 according to the Report of the Club of Rome). Renewables, Fossil free energy, Intelligent design and Europe wide Soil + Water management are key factors in a blooming Circular Economy.
Given the fact that the glaciers are melting, Alpine rivers such as the Rhine, Elbe, Seine, Po and Danube will be losing their sources. This will result in frequent pan-European droughts. Adaptation is an answer to this challenge.
A Pan European - multi-disciplinary - Circular platform
It seems feasible to establish an European Circular Economy Community. A permanent meeting place of all those who envision that this is the road to be taken, the path to the economically sustainable and secure future of Europe.
We advocate the need to create a European wide platform to fast track the transition to a European Circular Economy. The organisation of its' continuous agenda will be reflected in many initiatives, such as frequent work conferences, an academy, research, an (online) communication platform. It is new, and consequently, it is needs joint effort.
Issues that need to be adressed are, for example, crises based Resource efficiency, unified definitions of 'Circular Economy', transition investment, biodiversity and innovative propositions such as the CEFIC (Brussels) 2019 report on the future of the chemical industry: the Management of Molecules.
DG-Eleven, now called the Directorate General Environment and Circular Economy, is supportive to the proposal to engage the member states in a European Circular Community. The advantage being that all those involved, want to meet, exchange and reinforce each other.
Make sure that you are part of this pan European Circular Economy adventure
We would, therefore, like to invite you to the next 'Springtide International' work conferences on November 15 and March 5, 6 and 7. During these work conferences you will have the option to help align the European networks, ambitions and multi-disciplinary agendas to fast track the European wide Circular Economy.
Wouter van Dieren Marieke van der Werf
Club of Rome President
In close co-operation with Annemieke Nijhoff, director of Springtij
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