The former sailor turned sustainability campaigner was speaking at the European Commission’s launch of a high-level steering committee to drive greater resource efficiency across EU member states that took place in Brussels last week.

MacArthur fronts her own foundation that is actively involved in working towards a circular economy – earlier this year it released an influential report setting out the economic and business rationale for such a scenario.

The practicalities of delivering a circular economy will be central to the work of the newly formed European Resource Efficiency Platform, a coalition of 34 representatives including policy-makers, business leaders, academics and scientists led by the European Commissioner for Environment Janez Potočnik.

Its remit will be to provide “tangible input” to policies underpinning delivery of the EU’s Resource Efficiency Roadmap. This will include setting objectives and measuring progress, possibly through new targets, and framework conditions for investments in resource efficiency.

Speaking after the committee’s first meeting, Potočnik said the platform was “not just a talking shop” and that it would “ensure that policy makers, businesses, research and citizens are all pulling in the same direction”.

“I see the platform as the hard core of a strong coalition that I want to see grow in the future, in which members engage their wider constituencies to prepare for the transformation we will inevitably face,” he said.

The committee’s immediate focus will be to draw up a series of long-term recommendations, but the outcomes of this aren’t expected before the summer of 2014.

Potočnik went on to warn that resource efficiency was no longer a policy choice, but “inevitable” in these times of rising oil prices and the threat of raw material constraints.

“Our choice is whether to start to transform our economies now, to develop greener sources of growth and jobs and improve our resource productivity, or to react when we are forced to by collapses, resource shortages and price-hikes,” he said.

Looking ahead to the economy of the future, the Commissioner said it would not be based on the resource-intensive growth of the past, but a more sustainable joined-up level of thinking.

He added that resource efficiency needed to be “integrated properly in other policies – energy, transport, agriculture, construction, to name a few” and required active commitment from a wide range of businesses.

Maxine Perella

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