#ESS2020 | Marius Vaščega (European Commission): In a world of ever scarcer resources, waste should be seen as a resource

Mihai Cristea 09/06/2020 | 11:12
The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, was represented at Business Review’s recent Environmental & Sustainability Summit 2020 by Mr. Marius Vaščega, the EC’s Head of Cabinet Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, who talked about some of the most pressing challenges facing Europe and Romania, including waste management, clean water and forest protection and restoration.

 

“I am glad to be here with you today on World Environment Day and share with you what is happening in the environment policy area at EU level and how this can benefit Romania. Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius asked me to extend his greetings, he is very supportive of events like Business Review’s Environmental & Sustainability Summit which contribute to our European goal: a climate neutral circular economy that respects our natural resources and protects biodiversity. We look forward to here more about the initiatives you are kick-starting today.” Mr. Vaščega started off his keynote speech.

He then went on to address the so-called “elephant in the room,” as he himself put it: “The elephant in the room and the reason why today we are meeting online and not in person. Coronavirus has shaken the world and Europe to their core, testing our healthcare, our welfare and our entire society. It’s changing our way of living and working together and it is also a big burden on our economies. So to help repay the economic and social damage brought by the Coronavirus pandemic, and also to kick-start the European recovery, the EC has proposed a major recovery plan for Europe. We believe that this is a sensible proposal that will benefit all member states, including Romania.”

To address this issue, Marius Vaščega stated that the EC is putting forward a two-fold response: “First, is the Next Generation EU. That is a new recovery instrument of EUR 750 billion which will boost the EU budget. This is an investment for 2021-2024. Also, we have put together a reinforced long term budget for the youth for 2021-2027 and these investments will bring in totality the financial firepower of the EU budget to 1.85 trillion throughout the next 7 years.

But apart from the large amount of investment, the Head of Cabinet said that the direction in which this money will be spent is also crucial: “This is the size of the investment, the direction of the investment is no less important because we cannot afford to lock ourselves into obsolete technologies and business models from the past. The restart of the economy is a chance to fight climate change, regenerate nature, restore biodiversity and we can’t waste that chance.”

Another one of Marius Vaščega’s, and also the summit’s, main talking points was circular economy: “What a circular economy ensures is a healthy environment while securing the usual business autonomy and the resilience of our society. The Commission has recently adopted a new circular economy action plan. This new action plan puts the focus on preventing waste in the first place. 35 initiatives are included in the plan, which aim to make sustainable products, services and business models the norm, not the exception.”

In the Commission’s view, one of Romania’s most urgent issues is the preservation of clean water resources, a sector in which Romania has made important progress in past years, but big challenges remain, Mr. Vaščega says.

“According to our calculations, Romania faces one of the highest investment needs to reach and maintain compliance in the water sector. The good thing is that Romania is not alone on the path towards improving its waste water infrastructure. The European Commission, The World Bank, The European Investment Bank, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), all have ongoing projects for Romania.” Marius Vaščega, European Commission Head of Cabinet Environment, Oceans and Fisheries.

Last but not least in his keynote speech, Mr. Vaščega talked about the issue of forests, one of the hottest topics in the Romanian society in recent years: “Protecting and restoring biodiversity and natural ecosystems, including forests, grasslands, wetlands, is key to boosting our resilience in a post-Covid world. Romania is a key state, because it holds some of the most important wooded areas. For sustainable use, the national guidelines and legislation on forest management plans need to be reviewed.

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