It’s the green economy, stupid

EU 2020 strategy ignores natural constraints of economic growth

Press release - March 25, 2010
Brussels, International — As EU leaders discuss the rebuilding of Europe’s economies after the recession, Greenpeace warns that governments are losing sight of the physical constraints to economic recovery and the EU’s energy system. The European Commission’s plan for an EU economic strategy for 2020 fails to recognise the finite nature of the resources our economies currently depend on, such as fuel, land and water.

Greenpeace EU climate policy director Joris den Blanken said: "Economies crash not only because of greed, fraud and toxic assets, but also because of resources running out. Higher resource consumption will not in itself deliver increased wellbeing for Europeans. With large-scale extinction of animals and plants, drinking water shortages, as well as declining fuel reserves, our economies could run themselves into the ground unless we make them more efficient and more sustainable. Jobs and economic recovery will only be possible if EU leaders have the ambition to see a green agenda through."

The Commission's proposal for a EU 2020 strategy also includes a 'Flagship Initiative Resource Efficient Europe'. The initiative calls for a full phase out of environmentally damaging subsidies and identifies transport as a sector in urgent need of reforms. However, the proposal fails to set any concrete efficiency or resource targets.

Current proposals under the EU 2020 agenda for growth underestimate two important physical realities:

- The Earth's resources have been plundered for centuries and are running out. Governments highly overestimate the size of coal reserves and every oil field in the world is in decline. We are running out of water and fertile land is becoming more and more scarce. Europe is also increasingly exposed to price volatility for fuel imports.[1]

- The Commission recognises the opportunities that clean energy development offers the economy, employment, energy security and the climate. Its proposal for a 2020 strategy supports a smart and interconnected EU energy system, with more renewables and greater efficiency. However, EU governments also continue to endorse coal and nuclear, impeding the development of a flexible energy system that can support green energy. Because of technical constraints, a power system cannot at the same time support big inflexible coal and nuclear plants, and more renewable energy. The EU must choose whether it wants a clean renewable-based grid or one based on dirty old-fashioned nuclear power and coal.

Other contacts:

Joris den Blanken – Greenpeace EU climate policy director:
+32 (0)2 274 1919, +32 (0)476 961375 (mobile),
Mark Breddy – Greenpeace EU communications manager:
+32 (0)2 274 1903, +32 (0)496 156229 (mobile),


[1] The European Commission estimated in 2008 that the EU spent €350 billion every year on fuel imports. Source: European Commission, Second Strategic Energy Review: An EU Energy Security and Solidarity Action Plan, COM(2008).