Increasing resource efficiency is a key element of several major EU strategies, above all the "Europe 2020 Strategy" and the "Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe" – a first step towards concrete action under the flagship initiative "Resource-efficient Europe". One of the key objectives of these strategies is to create a resource-efficient EU by decoupling economic development from resource use and environmental degradation. Decoupling can be achieved through:

  • dematerialisation of service delivery;
  • material efficiency (reuse, recycling, substitution);
  • increased energy efficiency; and
  • sustainable consumption and production, including green public procurement and changes in lifestyles.

The EU is still a long way from absolute decoupling despite some recent successes in improving the material efficiency of production. According to the Ecological Footprint indicator, Europe uses 20% of the world’s resources, while it hosts only 7% of the world’s population. This level of resource use within the EU cannot be maintained without seriously threatening the functioning of various ecosystems and endangering climate stability – both within the EU and globally. Moreover, increasing scarcity of critical resources and rising global prices also create substantial economic dependencies with respect to resource-exporting countries – a threat to EU countries’ competitiveness.

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