Efficient resource usage is a key element of sustainability, and thus a key priority for Europe. The EU-funded POLFREE (Policy options for a resource-efficient economy) project looked at insufficient resource use, actions or policies proposed for resource efficiency, and how to ultimately achieve such efficiency. Project partners developed a theoretical framework to assess how resources are currently used and why. They provided a detailed analysis of the trends and policies at EU and national levels, cross-country econometric analysis to derive resource-reduction cost curves, and an analysis of constraints to resource efficiency among businesses and individuals. The POLFREE team examined new concepts and paradigms that can cause a radical increase in resource efficiency. This included new, resource-efficient business models and ideas for global governance approaches to promote resource-efficient economies. It also developed a vision for a resource-efficient economy in the EU, and proposed and assessed policy combinations that may be applied to realise this vision. Researchers created, modelled and visualised scenarios for the emergence of resource-efficient economies. They did this by linking quantitative economic and ecological models, and simulating the policies and policy combinations derived earlier on. They also conducted a life-cycle analysis for selected products and sectors to ensure that the policies and business models in the scenarios lead to the separation of economic activity from resource use and environmental degradation in the EU and globally. The scenarios and associated policy analyses were elaborated across economic, ecological and social dimensions. POLFREE stimulated the debate on what a resource-efficient economy looks like and how to achieve it. It also explored the impact of both realising this vision and failing to do so.
Resource-efficient economy, resource efficiency, POLFREE