Circular economy : “With a new impetus for sustainable development”

The COVID-19 crisis has created the conditions for circular products and services to become the norm in Europe, says the EESC. In a recent opinion on the new EU Circular Economy Action Plan, the EESC urges lawmakers to ensure the circular economy finds a place and resources in the overall “greenprint” for Europe’s recovery.

The COVID-19 crisis can be a great opportunity to start up again with new impetus for sustainable development, says Antonello Pezzini, rapporteur for the EESC opinion on the new EU Circular Economy Action Plan, adopted at the July plenary session.

The vision of circular products and services becoming the norm, which was behind the plan put forward by the European Commission back in March as COVID-19 was looming, is becoming more tangible as the crisis unfolds. With the new Action Plan, the circular economy can really become a pillar of the Green New Deal, says the rapporteur.

The Action Plan takes in much of the advice already pioneered by the EESC in its 2016 opinion on the first Circular Economy Package, particularly in areas such as eco-design, reparability, premature obsolescence and secondary raw materials, and as such is very welcome. However, broader measures will also be needed, in the EESC’s view. Continue reading “Circular economy : “With a new impetus for sustainable development””

Reinforcing Europe’s resilience: halting biodiversity loss and building a healthy and sustainable food system

Yesterday, the European Commission adopted a comprehensive new Biodiversity Strategy to bring nature back into our lives and a Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system. The two strategies are mutually reinforcing, bringing together nature, farmers, business and consumers for jointly working towards a competitively sustainable future.

In line with the European Green Deal, they propose ambitious EU actions and commitments to halt biodiversity loss in Europe and worldwide and transform our food systems into global standards for competitive sustainability, the protection of human and planetary health, as well as the livelihoods of all actors in the food value chain. The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated how vulnerable the increasing biodiversity loss makes us and how crucial a well-functioning food system is for our society. The two strategies put the citizen at the centre, by committing to increase the protection of land and sea, restoring degraded ecosystems and establishing the EU as a leader on the international stage both on the protection of biodiversity and on building a sustainable food chain.

The new Biodiversity Strategy tackles the key drivers of biodiversity loss, such as unsustainable use of land and sea, overexploitation of natural resources, pollution, and invasive alien species. Adopted in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, the strategy is a central element of the EU’s recovery plan, crucial to preventing and building resilience to future outbreaks and providing immediate business and investment opportunities for restoring the EU’s economy. It also aims to make biodiversity considerations an integral part of EU’s overall economic growth strategy. The strategy proposes to, among others, establish binding targets to restore damaged ecosystems and rivers, improve the health of EU protected habitats and species, bring back pollinators to agricultural land, reduce pollution, green our cities, enhance organic farming and other biodiversity-friendly farming practices, and improve the health of European forests. The strategy brings forward concrete steps to put Europe’s biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030, including transforming at least 30% of Europe’s lands and seas into effectively managed protected areas and bringing back at least 10% of agricultural area under high-diversity landscape features. Continue reading “Reinforcing Europe’s resilience: halting biodiversity loss and building a healthy and sustainable food system”

Lifelong learning requires more substantial public funding

To adjust to the new world of work, people will need many skill sets acquired in different learning environments.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) said that EU Member States should increase public investment in lifelong learning, with a special focus on the education of adults, and should earmark targeted funding for the continuous upskilling and reskilling of the most vulnerable groups in society to indiscriminately equip people with new skills tailored to jobs of the future.

To avoid an acute shortage of skilled labour, Europe will also have to look beyond formal education and allocate more funds for learning in non-formal and informal settings (for example, in youth organisations or via the media, respectively), in which learners can develop softer skills, such as critical thinking and teamwork, or character traits, such as leadership and curiosity.

It is increasingly recognised that as well as basic literacy and digital skills, people will need these soft skills to adapt to the impact of global digital and technological advances, which are currently transforming the world of work and the skills profiles of many occupations so quickly that it is often difficult to predict what skills will be needed in the future. Continue reading “Lifelong learning requires more substantial public funding”