Resource efficiency in Europe — Policies and approaches in 31 EEA member and cooperating countries


Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

Rationale and objectives of the survey

Resource efficiency is now a key priority for policymakers across Europe — as the EU underlined when it designated resource efficiency as one of seven flagship initiatives in its Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

In November 2010, anticipating the need for countries to respond to the Europe 2020 Resource Efficiency Flagship Initiative and in view of the European Commission's interest in expanding the knowledge base on the topic, the European Environment Agency (EEA) and its European Topic Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (ETC/SCP) initiated a survey of resource efficiency policies and instruments with its member and cooperating countries network (Eionet).

The survey aimed to collect, analyse and disseminate information about national experiences in developing and implementing resource efficiency policies, and to facilitate sharing of experiences and good practice.

A total of 31 countries provided information, including 25 Member States of the EU 27. Information on national resource efficiency policies was provided by Eionet's national reference centres for sustainable consumption and production and resource use or by national focal points, following the same approach used in the country assessments in the EEA's report The European environment — state and outlook 2010 (SOER 2010).

To maximise the consistency of country reports, a standardised set of questions was used to elicit information on policies, targets and indicators in place; priority resources; the institutional set-up and main policy drivers; and knowledge gaps and information needs. The project team reviewed initial country responses to identify the possible need for additional information, to suggest areas to strengthen and to ensure maximum consistency across countries. Revised country responses were published as 'country profiles on resource efficiency policies' and are available on the EEA website:

Key points from the analysis of the information provided by countries

This summary report presents an overview of findings from the analysis of information provided by countries. It reviews national approaches to resource efficiency and explores similarities and differences in policies. The analysis is illustrated with short examples of policy initiatives in the countries, which are described in more detail in the country profile documents. The key findings are set out below.

Defining 'resources' and 'resource efficiency'

  • One of the key goals of the survey was to determine how the countries define or interpret the terms 'resources' and 'resource efficiency', so the survey included no definitions for them. The country submissions indicate that there is neither a clear definition nor a common understanding of key terminology. Terms such as 'resource efficiency,' 'decoupling,' 'sustainable use of resources' or 'minimising use of natural resources' often seemed to be used as synonyms. However, this could partly result from problems translating terminology into various languages.
  • Only five countries (Austria, Cyprus, Hungary, Poland and Spain) formally define the term 'resources' in their policies, and some of those use a more narrow term, 'raw materials', when addressing resource efficiency. Generally, most countries seem to interpret resource efficiency quite broadly, including raw materials, energy sources, biomass, waste, land and soil, water and biodiversity. This is largely in line with the European Commission's interpretation in documents published to date.
  • Several countries noted difficulty in interpreting what is covered under the heading 'resource efficiency' and how this new policy priority is related to 'sustainable consumption and production (SCP)', 'sustainable use of natural resources', 'green economy', etc.

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