The 3rd Conference on Raw Materials: resource efficiency at the core of the debate

Mid-March, the Nickel Institute hosted for the third time the Annual Raw Materials Conference, in Brussels. Widely attended by representatives from regulatory bodies, industry, academia, NGOs and the media – the conference debated around the challenges of the EU raw materials policy, the focus being on resource efficiency.

The speech of EU Commissioner for Environment, Janez Potočnik, “Raw Materials: Not just about economics but physics!” developing DG ENV views on resource efficiency, received much attention. From his view, the EU is a resource poor region however “even if we could achieve a 100% circular economy, most of our resource input will still be primary resources”, he said. Daniel Calleja-Crespo, Director General, DG Enterprise and Industry, presented the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) as well as the updated industrial policy. Paul Rübig MEP and Judith Merkies MEP, co-chairs of the European Parliament Intergroup on Raw Materials gave their vision, for the latter in particular on the need for a circular economy and leasing society. One may also mention the more factual presentation made by Ester van der Voet (Leiden University) on “Resource Efficiency and Materials Supply”, demonstrating that the “link between resource use and impacts are not at all straightforward” for instance ponderous materials such as clays, sand and stones which account for a large part of the apparent consumption have an insignificant impact.

In his conclusion, the Ni Institute President stressed that “Setting targets, even aspirational, can be dangerous if they cannot be met or measured,” a view that was defended by other industry representatives concerned about targets based on imperfect indicators which may be detrimental to the competitiveness of the European industry.