At the 13 July informal meeting in Tallinn, the EU environment ministers discussed eco-innovation and speeding up the transition to a more sustainable way of life.
One of the United Nations sustainable development goals for tackling most pressing social and environmental challenges is ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns. To achieve this, we need to completely overhaul our linear take-make-waste patterns of production and consumption in favour of a circular system, where products are designed and marketed with reuse and recycling in mind.
The Estonian Minister for the Environment, Siim Kiisler, who chaired the meeting, explained: "If we want to keep and increase our standard of living, we need fresh thinking and new solutions. This is where eco-innovation comes in. Waste can be a valuable resource, products can be designed to be greener, processes can be smarter and more efficient,“ said Kiisler.
Eco-innovation is an Estonian Presidency priority, shared with trio partners Bulgaria and Austria.
Ministers exchanged views in the format of breakout sessions in three important areas: product transparency, smart cities and financing.
Consumers can help companies along in transitioning to a more sustainable production by making informed, sustainable choices. To do that, they need information about the environmental footprint of products and services. One possibility would be an information label that gives the basic ecological footprint parameters for every product. This would be similar to the mandatory nutritional information label on food items, which has been very successful in changing the behaviour of both consumers and companies.
Another topic the ministers discussed was sustainable urban environment. "Currently, about 73% of Europeans live in cities which means increased pressure on the environment. Today we focused on blue-green infrastructure projects that can enrich our everyday environment and deliver these future cities as a standard model. I mean green roofs and facades, open green spaces, constructed wetlands, restoring streams and rivers, just to name a few. They improve air quality, reduce urban heat island effect, help manage storm water and increase biodiversity. It’s been proven many times, that access to nature makes our lives better,“ said Kiisler.
Promoting eco-innovative solutions means channelling finances into sustainable activities rather than business-as-usual modes of operation. It is clear that additional financial resources are needed, whether public, private or a combination of both.
"Sustainable financing means valuing environment, economy and society together at once. It’s important to create a system where all three are taken into account. We can’t invest in green solutions just because they are green, they must also be profitable and useful,“ emphasised Kiisler.
The Estonian Presidency will continue to work on these issues and hope to adopt Council conclusions on eco-innovation at December’s Environmental Council.
The informal meeting environment ministers will continue on Friday 14 July with a focus on climate change issues.