Daniel Calleja: “Sustainable development could be the force strengthening the European integration model”
• The Director-General for Environment in the European Commission, Daniel Calleja, was invited by the Spanish Innovation Center for Climate Change, the Spanish representation of the European initiative Climate-KIC, and the Institute of European Studies of the Universidad Católica de Valencia to participate in the Meeting on Circular Economy, an opportunity for Europe.
During the meeting organized by Climate-KIC Spain and the Universidad Católica de Valencia in collaboration with SEIMED, environment experts analysed from different points of view and sectors one of the most ambitious plans of the European Commission to fight against the climate change: Circular Economy.
The Director-General for Environment in the European Commission, Daniel Calleja, opened the debate explaining the difficult situation which the planet is facing regarding sustainability and which is affecting specially the European Union, where we are losing demographic weight, biodiversity and economic importance. He added that we are facing these challenges in a very complicated situation stressed by an economic crisis, a migration and border crisis, and when for the first time a EU country announce wish to leave the Union. Challenges are enormous, but sustainable development can be the real engine to consolidate the European model, since 95% of European citizens consider the environment important for them and two thirds believe that the EU should do more about the environment.
The European Strategy for sustainable development includes Circular Economy as a fundamental element, which gives up the linear model of producing, using and pulling by a circular model of reduction, recycling and reuse. The circular economy measures of the Commission cover all stages of a product’s life cycle: from the production and the consumption to the waste management and the market for secondary raw materials. The plan includes legislative proposals on waste material, with increased recycling and reduced of waste production; measures to remove obstacles in sectors or flows of specific materials, such as plastics, food waste, critical raw materials, construction and demolition, biomass and bioproducts. All this, withount forgetting horizontal measures for innovation and investment, considering the diversity of the Member States’ situations.
During the meeting, Teresa Ribera, Director of the Institute for the sustainable development and international relations of France, said that the need for reinvention was difficult to plan and it was even more difficult to see how to undertake that process of change, where we would face challenges, barriers and fears that will have to be overcame. The problem does not lie so much on the lack of resources, but on the lack of confidence in this change.
In the same vein, the director-general of Climate-KIC Spain, José Luis Muñoz, underlined that we are now living an extraordinary moment for Europe and the climate change can be the boost to our union and to progress together. Climate-KIC has the aim of promoting this change in the socio-economic model, acting as a linking agent between all European parties within Circular Economy initiatives. “We have technology, talent and investors, we support start-ups and we promote that the administration makes easier and possible the change of model, considering the rhythm of change, positioning has to be fast”, he added.
Valentín Alfaya, Director of Environment in FERROVIAL and President of the Spanish group Crecimiento Verde, said that the Paris Agreement is changing the way of doing business, generating uncertainty about the global commitment to the climate change, in particular for the financial sector, and it has no way to go back. The financial sector has a great influence and it has finally turned on. Besides it, the industrial sector has moved from searching how to decarbonize industry to change its portfolio of activities. The opportunities that the business sector is currently seeing involve mainly the energy vector in the production process, the water vector and finally the urbanization of the planet. In addition, the Spanish Group Crecimiento Verde showed its commitment through “La Declaración de Barcelona” (the Barcelona declaration), which offers ten recommendations to the Government in order to favour sustainable economy. Finally, it encouraged companies to work on sustainability, since what is now an investment of one Euro, it will reach the cost of four Euros in 2050.
As regards innovation, Carmen Iglesias, Director of the research center EnergyLab, explained the projects focused on the energy recovery of waste; the biomass value chain; and the recycling and reuse of electronic equipment. Iglesias, during her intervention, offered this research center as reference point for the Climate-KIC activities in the region of Galicia.
Finally, Francisco Álvarez, Director-General of Sustainable Economy, Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness of the Generalitat Valencia, underlined the importance of all the concepts we use and of education, since the values we defend must be involved in education in order to become something automatic. Álvarez mentioned the etymology of economy, whose meaning is household management, and he defined sustainability as the intersection of three spheres: the social, the economic and the environmental one. The director of sustainable economy during his speech announced that companies that invest in sustainability will have priority in the public aids of the Generalitat Valenciana.
Juan Sapena, the Director of the Universidad Católica de Valencia, closed the event saying that economy must be circular or it won’t be economy, because in economy we are talking about the management of scarce resources.
CIRCULAR ECONOMY AND INNOVATION
Circular economy needs more research and innovation with the aim of promoting the competitiveness of industry in the EU. Public and private inversions will be needed to achieve this objective. Horizon 2020, COSME, Structural and Investment Funds, The European Fund for Strategic Investments and other programmes of the EU, such as the initiative Climate-KIC, are important supporting means. SMEs, including social companies, are particularly active in fields such as recycling, repair and innovation. The Commission:
- will help SMEs take advantages from the business opportunities associated with the increase of efficiency of resources by creating the European Resource Efficiency Excellence Centre;
- will take advantage of the working programme of Horizon 2020 for 2016-2017, which includes an important initiative on «Industry 2020 in the circular economy», with a funding of more of 650 million Euros;
- together to the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH), will promote funding request and it will support the development of important projects of circular economy.
CLIMATE-KIC IN EUROPE
Climate-KIC was born in 2010 and has almost 200 partners, such as universities, research centers, companies and public entities. It is not located only in Spain, but also in Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, Denmark, Poland, Belgium, Hungary and Finland, and it supports and undertakes activities in Portugal, Ireland, Norway, Malta, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Romania, Slovenia, Bulgaria. This European initiative has become an example for expert training, the acceleration of ideas and the promotion of innovative projects for the global warming adaptation and mitigation. In five years it has trained more than 2,000 international experts, it has made possible the creation of almost 200 start-ups receiving an investment of 189 million Euros and it has developed more than 100 innovative projects.
Climate-KIC Spain, located in Valencia, promotes the new sustainable economy model based on competitiveness, economic growth and green employment creation, in collaboration with the European Institute of Innovation and Technology and supported by partners of academic, scientific and business excellence, integrated in the innovative Spanish ecosystem.