28 June 2017 by Elizabeth Slow

Brexit ‘tragic’ for the environment, warns Potocnik

Brexit is “tragic” for the environment, Janez Potocnik, former EU environment commissioner, told the waste and recycling sector today.

Dr Potocnik’s warning over Brexit came during his keynote address at CIWM’s Resourcing the Future event in London this morning (28 June).

Janez Potocnik, former EU environment commissioner

He was speaking in his role of co-chair of the United Nations Environment Programme International Resource Panel – previously he pioneered the first Circular Economy package when he was environment commissioner from 2010-2014.

He told the audience that to achieve environmental improvement there is a critical need for countries to work together from a European level through to a global level.

Brexit

In terms of the European Union, Dr Potocnik, said: “I firmly believe that we will need a government of that kind on a global scale if we want to avoid the conflicts in the future.

“So countries gave up some of their responsibilities to a higher level because we need to manage some of the problems which we have, and from that point of view of course Brexit is actually tragic.”

According to Dr Potocnik, currently, “financial capital is overvalued; the human capital is undervalued; and, environmental capital is not valued at all.”

And the former European commissioner said environmental externalities, the costs of neglecting the circular economy, already exist but are being denied and “indebting the whole of society”.

According to Dr Potocnik this is because these costs are not being paid for by those who are producing and consuming goods or services, they are paid for somewhere else or left for future generations.

Responsibility

As countries become more developed their global footprint increases, Dr Potocnik explained. Consequently, he said there needs to be a “decoupling” of development from resource use. And, the developed part of the world has the responsibility to find solutions if other countries are to “leap frog’ over environmental challenges.

Despite the generally downbeat tone of his presentation in the sense of how environmental challenges were being met, Dr Potocnik remarked that the circular economy is a ‘major opportunity’ for new development, opportunities, and jobs.

Topics discussed in his presentation included a summary of challenges the world is facing; the economic model driving people’s lives; resource management; leadership, governance and the role of the EU; and, sustainable development goals.


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