by Miao Xiaojuan, Wang Cong
BRUSSELS, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- Europe is en route towards a circular economy which is key to maintain its competitiveness, while China can be a credible partner during its transition, European Union (EU) environment commissioner Janez Potocnik said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.
Many of EU policies are leading the 28-member bloc towards green growth and circular economy, in a bid to alter the current linear model of "take, make and dispose", according to the commissioner.
"Europe is still far from that, but frankly we do not have other options ... The sooner we go straight that way, the easier this transition will be," Potocnik said.
Europe needs strong partners like China that it can count on and cooperate with, he added.
The commissioner, who visited China in July, noted that China's concept of ecological civilization dovetails with the EU's drive for resource efficiency, which is at the heart of the Europe 2020 growth strategy.
"When I look to China's 12th five-year plan and compare it with the EU's political documents, I see a lot of similarities ... It is a really good basis for cooperation," he said.
Apart from those well-established collaboration projects concerning air quality and water quality, the commissioner also called to further strengthen the partnership in other areas and boost business opportunities for both China and the EU.
Despite recent years of economic and debt crises across Europe, the EU's environment policies still made much progress. As Potocnik said, the crises in fact accelerated the gradual integration process of environment policies into other policies of agriculture, fishery, transportation and trade, or the search for a new model of growth that could go hand in hand with the environment.
For the year ahead, Potocnik intends to push forward two major packages for better air quality and higher resource efficiency across Europe. New targets will be set in the Union's long-term environment action plan for member states to achieve.
"The core idea is to reduce waste, increase recycling and reduce landfilling," he said.
One concrete initiative on plastic control is to be brought forward soon, according to the commissioner. Potential proposals may include putting a price tag on plastic bags or introducing a tax on plastic landfilling, with a fundamental goal of recycling most plastics.
Europe has been on the forefront of environmental protection for decades, although the current linear model remain stubborn. As Potocnik said, "it's important that we change the path in a way that we take, produce, consume, and then recycle, reuse, and put it back into production."
The EU is also a leading actor in the global fight against climate change and the only region in the world with a binding target on emissions reduction. According to the commissioner, the EU has strong interest in maintaining its global leadership.
All major powers should make joint commitment to global environment, and the solution for climate change has to be global, Potocnik said.