Resource and energy efficiency and demateralisation
The reduction of natural resource use – in terms of energy, materials and land area – for production and consumption activities is a central prerequisite for achieving environmentally sustainable development in Europe. SERI develops new approaches of environmental governance, which take a systemic view of the economy-environment relationship, acknowledging that many current environmental problems are related to the overall scale of resource use rather than to toxicities of specific substances. SERI favours input-oriented policy strategies (such as the concept of dematerialisation) as the means to tackling persistent environmental problems at their source.
Since the 1980s the amount and complexity of environmental problems changed drasticaly. It's no longer local or regional problems caused by e.g. air or water pollution which dominate the discussions but more and more complex and global environmental challanges related to the changing prodcution, consumption and trade patterns. Rising material and ebergy flows as well as more and more intense forms of land use are caused by the increase of economic activities. They are responsible for changes and even collaps of complete eeco systems.
Resource efficiency is part of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the EU's growth strategy for a smart, inclusive and sustainable economy. It supports the shift towards sustainable growth via a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy. The Roadmap to a resource efficient Europe is one of the main building blocks of the resource efficiency flagship initiative. The Roadmap sets out a framework for the design and implementation of future actions. It also outlines the structural and technological changes needed by 2050, including milestones to be reached by 2020. The explicit aim is to create more with less and to deliver greater value with less input. Also other intergovernmental organizations like the OECD or the UN within the Sustainable Development Goals call for the improvement of resource efficiency.
Specific contribution by SERI
The SERI approach tends to be more realistic that assuming we can achieve ‘more with less’. Instead our focus is on ‘how to achieve the best with the available’. Towards this goal SERI develops innovative approaches for environmental policies. Based on the insight that most of the recent environmental problems mainly depend on the sheer amount of resources flowing into the economy than single ‘end of pipe’ problems we prefer input-oriented strategies like dematerialization to fight environmental problems at their roots. Through integrated models linking economy and environment SERI evaluates impact and effectiveness of various policy instruments, from voluntary agreements within the business sector via economic approaches like taxes and subsidies to administrative regulations. The overarching goal we envision is a substantial dematerialization whether through the increase of resource productivity or reduced levels of (resource) consumption.