Opening Speech at SBE 16 Malta International Conference European Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella
European Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella Opening Speech at SBE 16 Malta International Conference
Sustainability, the Circular Economy and the construction industry
Coming from a small island can confer certain advantages.
Malta's compact geography allows it to concentrate some of the key issues that Europe as a whole is facing today. On a small island, sustainability isn't an abstract question. It's a very real issue for everyone involved.
This means that an idea like the circular economy is an ideal fit for a compact economy like Malta's.
A more circular economic model, where re-use and recycling become our first instinct, will allow Europe to use its resources more wisely. It's not just an environmental necessity – it's also an economic opportunity that we can't afford to miss.
This is why the European Commission is proposing that Europe begins to rethink its economy, and ensure that it is suited to the challenges of the future.
It will involve action in numerous areas, from design and production processes to consumer awareness and greater use of new business models. And it's the sort of thinking that equally applies to buildings.
The construction sector uses half of all our materials, half of all our energy and a third of our water. It generates a third of our total waste. There are obvious gains to be had from higher recycling rates, and from a different mind-set when it comes to design.
The energy consumed when buildings are used is already a focus area for European policy. But there are so many more aspects to take into account, from the materials we use to construct buildings, and how we deal with them when we renovate or demolish buildings, to the energy and resources we use to produce construction materials, and the all-important water consumption, which is such a key element for Malta.
I hope that this compendium of research and new ideas will serve as an inspiration, not just for the construction industry, but for everyone who has an interest in retooling the EU economy for the changes of the future.
Malta has the highest proportion of built-up areas anywhere in the EU. Why not turn that to Malta's advantage, and think of the Islands as a laboratory for ideas for Europe's future?