Planetary boundaries:
an EEA perspective
The speech for this presentation can be viewed in the slide notes below.

Dr Hans...
The European Environment Agency

The European Environment Agency:

 an independent provider of information,
assessments a...
Global context
Our development model appears successful...


The proportion of people living in
extreme poverty has been halved
at the g...
...but ‘development’ has damaged the environment
 Global emissions of carbon
dioxide (CO2) have increased by
more than 46...
Two possible conclusions

 Most MDGs have been moderately to rather successful.
– Clear goals work
– Broad political supp...
Two possible conclusions

 Most MDGs have been moderately to rather successful.
– Clear goals work
– Broad political supp...
The twin challenge

Source: UNEP (2012) - GEO5
The twin challenge

Within
environmental
limits
‘good life’

Source: UNEP (2012) - GEO5
Continued economic growth
Past and projected global economic output (2005 USD PPP), 1996–2050

Note: gross domestic
produc...
Continued economic growth
Middle class population by world regions - 2009, 2020 and 2030
3500

3000

Million

2500

2000

...
Resource use

Note: *projection

Source: SERI (2013) - SERI Global Material Flows Database.
EU Policy context

Europe 2020 Strategy
 Smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

 Roadmap for a resource efficient Eur...
Living within ecological limits
ECOSYSTEMS
SOCIO-TECHNICAL SYSTEMS
providing social needs and value
Policy

Industry
Energ...
Material use decoupling: EU statistics
EU-15

EU-15: AT, BE, DE, DK, ES, FI, FR, GR, IE, IT, LU, NL, PT, SE, UK

Source: E...
Closing the cycle?

Efficiency throughout
life cycle
Closing the cycle?

Waste = resource

Limit input of resources
Substitute scarce resources
Ecosystem resilience must be explicitly targeted
Efficiency alone does not make ecosystems resilient

Resource efficiency

Ecosystem resilience

Greenhouse gas emissions

...
Efficiency gains are not sufficient on their own

Neither technology shifts
Efficiency gains are not sufficient on their own

Neither technology shifts

Need for systemic approach
The need for transitions

Persistent problems demand fundamental solutions
– Regular policy offers no solutions
– Market f...
Systems thinking
Solution for persistent problems?

→ fundamental systemic changes are required
Socio-technical systems (R...
System innovation

Source: UNEP (2011)
Targets are needed for the 2020-2050 period
Nessesary but problematic agenda!
 Poor understanding of key concepts:
– Old concept/discourse,
– Planetary boundaries, s...
EEA’s agenda for the next 5 years
 Systemic analysis in light of transitions.
 Co-creation of the necessary knowledge ba...
Thank you
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Planetary boundaries: an EEA perspective

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This presentation was delivered at an international workshop meeting of the European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils (EEAC) titled ‘Safe operating space – state and perspectives as a concept for national policy’. The workshop discussed how the concept of ecological or planetary boundaries/ safe operating space (PB/SOS), which derives from the principle of sustainability, could and should possibly play a relevant role in environmental policy programmes in future political frameworks.

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  • How we live within our planet’s boundaries and how we take stock of and then use nature’s resources concerns us all.My presentation today will look at relevant global and European issues and will reflect on the how we can make a transition to more sustainable consumption and production.
  • Let us take a look at the global developments in consumption and its driving factors, and the resulting expected global resource use.
  • Is our model of development at least able to help us avoid the mistakes that we made in the developed world? This may sound surprisingly gloomy. After all, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has been halved at the global level. The hunger reduction target of the Millennium Development Goals is within reach. Over 2 billion people gained access to improved sources of drinking water since 1990, and the proportion of slum dwellers in the cities and metropolises of the developing world is declining.
  • But there is a problem: the path we are currently taking to expand the middle class is not sustainable and is already causing problems for the environment.Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased by more than 46 per cent since 1990. Nearly one third of marine fish stocks have been over-exploited. Many species are at risk of extinction, despite an increase in terrestrial protected areas
  • This figure plots countries on the basis of two indicators: the Human Development Index (HDI) and the ecological footprint per person.
  • In order to achieve sustainability, countries must move towards the bottom right hand corner marked in green and as such decouple human development from natural resource use and environmental impacts.The figure shows that worldwide, no country held that position in 2007.We should also look to avoid the path the arrows take us: higher human wellbeing yet an increase in the ecological footprint followed by a realisation for the need for change, leading to a decrease in the footprint.
  • Global GDP is projected to grow hugely in coming decades. The OECD projects that it will almost triple in the period 2010–2050. China and India are expected to play a major role in this growthtogether accounting for 46 % of global economic output in 2050, up from less than 13 % today (OECD).
  • The global middle class is set to expand a lot in the coming decades, increasing from 27 % of the world population of 6.8 billion in 2009 to 58 % of a predicted world population of 8.4 billion in 2030 according to the OECD.The expected developments will clearly have implications for the environment since middle class consumption patterns are typically resource-intensive and heavily contribute to environmental pressures.
  • Here you can see the projected rise in global material consumption which is much steeper than predicted increases in population.This is a result of the projections for the global economy to continue to grow, despite the economic crisis currently affecting Europe.This again reinforces the impact our use of resources will have on the environment.
  • Of great importance to today’s theme are the Europe 2020 strategy and the 7th EAP.The Europe 2020 strategy provides the overarching EU perspective on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Increasing resource efficiency features prominently in the strategy as one of seven flagship initiatives. It aims at a shift towards a resource-efficient, low-carbon economy, recognising the environmental prerequisites for sustainable growth.The 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP) sets the EU’s environmental agenda for the period 2014-2020, addressing a triple (and interrelated) challenge:Protect nature and strengthen ecological resilience;Boost sustainable resource-efficient low-carbon growth; and Effectively address environment-related threats to health. But even more importantly, it provides us with a vision for 2050 in which we live well within the planet’s ecological limits.
  • Economic activity and human well-being ultimately depend on natural capital and the ecosystem services that it provides. Sustainable development implies that economic growth is achieved within ecological constraints and that the socio-technical systems provide societal needs and value within the ecological limits. To maintain ecosystem resilience we will have to completely change the socio-technical systems in society. Technology improvements are not sufficient, because they are outweighed by the economic growth.
  • In the EU-15 (AT, BE, DE, DK, ES, FI, FR, GR, IE, IT, LU, NL, PT, SE, UK), the decoupling of material use from population and economic growth is almost absolute when observed in a 40-year time-frame. The EU-12 countries (BG, CY, CZ, EE, HU, LT, LV, MT, PL, SI, SK, RO) managed to improve material productivity in the 1990s, but then this development levelled off. In both EU-15 and EU-12, you can see that during the recent economic downturn, resource use fell more than GDP. The positive sign is that materials productivity in Europe — GDP generated per tonne of direct material use — has improved. Effectively, our economies are creating more wealth out of the resources that they use.
  • A ‘circular’ economy means limiting our use of natural resources, and recycling as much of them as possible.
  • We need to start treating waste as a resource so that we no longer need to drain the earth’s resources for our needs. Europe is still very far from achieving its target of 50 % recycling by 2020.
  • European environmental policies appear to have had a clearer impact on improving resource efficiency than on maintaining ecosystem resilience. There would be value in considering objectives and targets that explicitly recognise the relationships between resource efficiency, ecosystem resilience and human well-being.
  • How shall we manage this transitions process?Unfortunately, we know far less about managing systemic change in socio-technical systems than we do about managing incremental change. For this reason, we can only highlight the most promising ways to manage this transition.
  • The most basic way to manage this transition is the creation of new targets: Europe has already set itself targets for 2020 and for 2030. These targets are mostly aiming at improved efficiency. We also have a vision for 2050, but this vision needs to be fleshed out with concrete new targets for 2050.
  • At the EEA in the coming years, we will be working most on this second point. We will continue to refine the knowledge base to help inform policy implementation and assess systemic challenges to 2050. We have already been given a role in monitoring and evaluating the 7th EAP, which will be adopted later this month, and our five-year Multi-Annual Work Programme has identified the theme of transitions as a priority area.
  • At the EEA in the coming years, we will be working most on this second point. We will continue to refine the knowledge base to help inform policy implementation and assess systemic challenges to 2050. We have already been given a role in monitoring and evaluating the 7th EAP, which will be adopted later this month, and our five-year Multi-Annual Work Programme has identified the theme of transitions as a priority area.
  • Planetary boundaries: an EEA perspective

    1. 1. Planetary boundaries: an EEA perspective The speech for this presentation can be viewed in the slide notes below. Dr Hans Bruyninckx Executive Director, European Environment Agency Brussels, 23 January 2014, EEAC Workshop
    2. 2. The European Environment Agency The European Environment Agency:  an independent provider of information, assessments and knowledge  builds bridges between science and policy  depends upon strong networks to carry out its work  33 member countries, plus 6 cooperating countries … and publishes a report on state of, trends in and prospects for the environment in Europe every five years (SOER)
    3. 3. Global context
    4. 4. Our development model appears successful...  The proportion of people living in extreme poverty has been halved at the global level.  The hunger reduction target is within reach.  Over 2 billion people gained access to improved sources of drinking water since 1990.  The proportion of slum dwellers in the cities and metropolises of the developing world is declining.
    5. 5. ...but ‘development’ has damaged the environment  Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased by more than 46 per cent since 1990.  Nearly one third of marine fish stocks have been over-exploited.  Many species are at risk of extinction, despite an increase in protected areas.  Decline of ecosystems accross the board.
    6. 6. Two possible conclusions  Most MDGs have been moderately to rather successful. – Clear goals work – Broad political support is essential – Transparent monitoring and reporting have an impact  The MDG indicators illustrate the lack of ‘sustainability’ of the successes. – Lack of clear and especially of comprehensive environmental objectives – Lack of linkages between environmental goals and socio-economic goals – Lack of insights into the socio-economic driving forces behind resource and environmental degradation
    7. 7. Two possible conclusions  Most MDGs have been moderately to rather successful. – Clear goals work – Broad political support is essential – Transparent monitoring and reporting have an impact  The MDG indicators illustrate the lack of ‘sustainability’ of the successes. – Lack of clear and especially of comprehensive environmental objectives – Lack of linkages between environmental goals and socio-economic goals – Lack of insights into the socio-economic driving forces behind resource and environmental degradation Resource use and ecosystem resilience under conditions of globalisation and limited natural resources
    8. 8. The twin challenge Source: UNEP (2012) - GEO5
    9. 9. The twin challenge Within environmental limits ‘good life’ Source: UNEP (2012) - GEO5
    10. 10. Continued economic growth Past and projected global economic output (2005 USD PPP), 1996–2050 Note: gross domestic product expressed in billion 2005 US dollars at purchasing power parity Source: OECD (2013) - All Statistics - OECD iLibrary
    11. 11. Continued economic growth Middle class population by world regions - 2009, 2020 and 2030 3500 3000 Million 2500 2000 2009 2020 1500 2030 1000 500 0 North America Source: Kharas (2010) EuropeCentral and South America Pacific Sub-Saharan Africa East and North Africa Asia Middle
    12. 12. Resource use Note: *projection Source: SERI (2013) - SERI Global Material Flows Database.
    13. 13. EU Policy context Europe 2020 Strategy  Smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.  Roadmap for a resource efficient Europe (one of seven flagship initiatives). 7th EAP  Protect nature and strengthen ecological resilience.  Boost sustainable resource-efficient low-carbon growth.  Effectively address environment-related threats to health.
    14. 14. Living within ecological limits ECOSYSTEMS SOCIO-TECHNICAL SYSTEMS providing social needs and value Policy Industry Energy system Food system system Ecosystem services Values system system Mobility system Science Technology Environmental externalities Market
    15. 15. Material use decoupling: EU statistics EU-15 EU-15: AT, BE, DE, DK, ES, FI, FR, GR, IE, IT, LU, NL, PT, SE, UK Source: EEA (2012) - Material resources and waste, 2012 update EU-12 EU-12: BG, CY, CZ, EE, HU, LT, LV, MT, PL, SI, SK, RO
    16. 16. Closing the cycle? Efficiency throughout life cycle
    17. 17. Closing the cycle? Waste = resource Limit input of resources Substitute scarce resources
    18. 18. Ecosystem resilience must be explicitly targeted
    19. 19. Efficiency alone does not make ecosystems resilient Resource efficiency Ecosystem resilience Greenhouse gas emissions Global climate change Transboundary air pollution Marine biodiversity Air pollution Air quality in urban areas Maritime transport emissions Terrestrial biodiversity Water use Water status Decoupling / recycling Ecological footprint Key: improving stable /mixed progress deteriorating
    20. 20. Efficiency gains are not sufficient on their own Neither technology shifts
    21. 21. Efficiency gains are not sufficient on their own Neither technology shifts Need for systemic approach
    22. 22. The need for transitions Persistent problems demand fundamental solutions – Regular policy offers no solutions – Market forces are not sufficient – Incrementalism is not sufficient → Transitions = fundamental shifts in the systems that fulfil societal needs, through profound changes in dominant structures, practices, technologies, policies, lifestyles, thinking …
    23. 23. Systems thinking Solution for persistent problems? → fundamental systemic changes are required Socio-technical systems (Rotmans & Loorbach 2010) – consist of: • Structure: material infrastructure, technology, institutions, economic reality • Culture: dominant images, values, paradigms • Practices: routines, ‘normal’ system behaviour – are linked to societal functions – present certain dysfunctions Fundamental changes at systemic level: ‘system innovation’
    24. 24. System innovation Source: UNEP (2011)
    25. 25. Targets are needed for the 2020-2050 period
    26. 26. Nessesary but problematic agenda!  Poor understanding of key concepts: – Old concept/discourse, – Planetary boundaries, safe operating space, – Popular translations: footprint, Earth Overshoot Day, there is no planet B, we will need three planets if, … All remain abstract and hard to concretise.  Hardly any resonance in political sphere.  Wrestling with the growth concept.  What are boundary conditions for green growth, blue growth?  Hard to move from technological efficiency paradigm to a transitions paradigm.
    27. 27. EEA’s agenda for the next 5 years  Systemic analysis in light of transitions.  Co-creation of the necessary knowledge base.  Half-way point idea.  Specific attention. – Ecosystem and natural resource accounting (JRC, ESTAT, RTD, …) – Circular economy, materials transition, resource efficiency  Developing meaningful metrics and methods of analysis (7EAP evaluation, beyond GDP process; SOER 2020).
    28. 28. Thank you

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