Person des Monats 06/10: Dr. Janez Potočnik
Dr. Janez Potočnik ist seit März 2010 EU-Umweltkommissar. Für unser Nachhaltigkeitsportal nahm er in einem Gastkommentar zum Thema Ressourceneffizienz Stellung.
Dr. Janez Potočnik
European Commissioner for the Environment
The efficient use of our finite resources is one of the most important challenges facing our economies and our societies today. That is why I argued strongly for resource efficiency to be integrated into Europe's principal economic strategy - EU 2020 - which was adopted earlier this year.
I argued for this because it is now more-clear-than-ever that neither our economic, nor environmental goals can be met separately. When the global economy was small, it was reasonable to assume that the economy and environment were independent, or at least could be dealt with separately. Our use of resources seemed not to place any constraints on our future. We could just try to clean up some of the messes we made.
That is no longer the case. As our economies have grown, and as global populations increase, our resource demands outstrip the capacity of the Earth to supply them. We can't make the earth any bigger, so we have to face up to the need to manage what we have better; to produce and consume within the bounds the planet's resources.
That means a revolution not just in environmental policy, but also in our economic activity. And our economic activity depends on a wide array of policy fields, many of which are mostly or fully in the competence of national governments and administrations. That is why any approach to resource efficiency must look not only at the European level instruments, but also at the national level. Fortunately the EU 2020 structure gives us the mechanisms to make this cooperation work in reality.
Let me make it clear what I mean by resources. I take this to include all material resources - from food, timber, soil, water to minerals and metals. I also include biodiversity, which is a resource in itself providing clean water, fish, genetic resources, protection from natural hazards, erosion control, and recreation.
The good news is that in many areas our economic and environmental interests are quite well aligned. To be successful in creating wealth for our citizens, our future economy will have to be more resource-efficient and carbon-efficient than our competitors, as the prices of resources and carbon will rise. Equally, the achievement of our environmental goals relies on the power of the free-market economy to deliver and spread the innovations that will let us improve our quality of life within our planet's capacity.
But although we must rely on markets and economic incentives to have an effective, horizontal, and non-distorting approach to resource efficiency, we will also have to adopt a more vertical approach to certain critical individual resources: the real pressure points. And to complement these horizontal and vertical approaches I would say that we also need third 'diagonal' approach to look at how we use resources in relation to particular functions, for example transport, housing or nutrition. This will enable to look at alternative resource use and alternative behaviour.
The Commission has started work on a Roadmap to the Resource-Efficient Economy. We will need to work with Austria and other Member States in defining and implementing that roadmap, and also with regions, with industry, and with civil society. But some facets of the policy framework are already rather clear.
- It will need to adjust the relative prices of resources and labour to reflect the true value of our resources, because prices are the primary driver of our economic decision making and, if they remain mis-aligned with our strategic goals, we can only fail. For example, we must reform environmentally harmful subsidies.
- It must create greater market demand for greener products and technologies in order to reward investment in eco-innovation, both in changes in the product range and in resource-efficiency through the supply chain. If firms can earn more from greener products, they will do more to supply them.
- It must work with businesses to help them profit from the opportunities that currently exist from greater resource-efficiency in their operations and in their supply chains, and also to help ease transitions of workers to the skills required for the green economy.
- It must promote the investment that will provide the infrastructure needed for a more efficient economy; to support new business models, for example in transport and energy supply – and so avoid the current lock-in to existing patterns of activity. The need for networks of recharging points for electric cars is a clear example.
- And of course it must influence our behaviour as consumers. Here we have many tools, such as green public procurement, eco-labels and eco-design, which are well tested, but really need scaling-up to get the critical mass which will make them really effective.
About Dr. Potočnik
He was born in 1958. He graduated with honours from the Faculty of Economics at the University of Ljubljana. He continued his studies at the same University where he did his Master's degree in 1989 and a Ph.D. degree in 1993.
For several years (1989-1993), he worked as a researcher at the Institute of Economic Research in Ljubljana. In July 1994, he was appointed Director of the Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development of the Republic of Slovenia. In April 1998, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia appointed Dr Potočnik Head of Negotiating Team for Accession of the Republic of Slovenia to the European Union. From June 2000 to December 2000, he was also the acting director of Government Office for European Affairs. In June 2001, he was appointed a Minister Councillor at the Office of the Prime Minister. On January 24, 2002, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia appointed him for the Minister without portfolio responsible for European Affairs.
From 1991 until 2004 Dr Potočnik was also an assistant professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ljubljana, where he lectured on statistics and economy.
Dr Potočnik became a Member of the European Commission on the May 1 2004. In the previous mandate (2004-2010) he was responsible for the Science and Research.
In May 2008 he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Science by London Imperial College. In March 2009 he received the honorary degree from Ghent University (Belgium).
Monatsthema 06/2010: "Der österreichische Ressourceneffizienz Aktionsplan (REAP)"
Kommentar von Umweltminister Niki Berlakovich zum Monatsthema Juni 2010
Dialog des Monats 06/2010 mit weiteren Gastkommentaren z. Th. Ressourceneffizienz und zum REAP