Blooming EU-India Cooperation on Resource Efficiency and Circularity

3 April 2024 - // Features
Dr. Katharina Paterok
Advisor for circular economy in international cooperation at the Deutsche Gesellschaft fürInternationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Dr. Rachna Arora
Team Leader in the EU-Resource Efficiency project of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Dr. Reva Prakash
Resources Efficiency and Environment Policy Advisor at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

In the nexus of sustainable development, the EU-India partnership stands as a beacon of collaborative progress

The ongoing collaboration between the European Union (EU) and India reflects their shared and positive commitment to driving a global shift towards a resource-efficient and circular economy (CE). The EU-India partnership has emerged as a vital force in advancing the United Nations’ global Sustainable Consumption and Production agenda. The sustained effort is crucial to ensuring long-term economic growth for both regions.

The EU has gained valuable experience in diverse areas such as research and innovation, new models of funding and investment, and innovative collaboration platforms. In June 2017, the EU and India joined hands to establish the EU-India Environment Forum on Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy. Over time, this partnership has evolved to foster meaningful dialogue and cooperation on resource efficiency and CE principles, effectively bringing together diverse representatives from both sides, spanning governments, businesses (including innovative start-ups), academia, and respected research institutes.

The EU-Resource Efficiency Initiative as a vehicle of change

At the heart of this collaborative journey lies the EU’s Resource Efficiency Initiative (EU-REI). Through years of dedicated work, this initiative has served as a pivotal vehicle for advancing collective goals and partnership, facilitating the exchange of knowledge, ideas, and strategies to drive real-world change. Critical meetings with several EU member states have been undertaken to incorporate their strong implementation experience in the project, regarding strengthening EU-India partnerships at the national and international level with their technical expertise, delivery mechanism, and cooperation structures.

The main components driving EU-REI are policy support, assessment studies, facilitating partnerships between Indian and European businesses, and raising awareness amongst different stakeholders. Another major objective is to raise awareness of the need for resource-efficient approaches in India among key government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), businesses, students, media, and the general public through the promotion of standards and business best practices on resource efficiency.

The main components driving EU-REI are policy support, assessment studies, facilitating partnerships between Indian and European businesses, and raising awareness amongst different stakeholders.

In 2018, a pivotal moment occurred with the Circular Economy Mission led by Mr. Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs, and Fisheries of the EU. This mission engaged over 300 Indian businesses, entrepreneurs, and NGOs, fostering a dialogue that resulted in more than 140 B2B meetings and the announcement of 11-12 promising partnerships. Furthermore, this partnership has been instrumental in showcasing its collective endeavors at flagship events such as TERI’s World Sustainable Development Summit, CII’s Sustainability Summit, and FICCI’s Circular Economy Symposium.

Current cooperation is governed by the EU-India Joint Declaration on Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy, issued in July 2020. This declaration propelled various actions and outcomes identified under four priority areas: bilateral policy dialogues; policy to practice; research and innovation; knowledge exchange, trade, investment, business, and the economy. Towards holistic interventions for policy dialogues, EU-REI continued its existing relationships, engagements, and cooperation with other key public entities like NITI Aayog, State Pollution Control Boards, sectoral government ministries like the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of Mines, and industry for private sector engagement. Sector policy cooperation has been placed under the third priority area (global issues) and covers cooperation in the fields of climate change, energy, environment, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Fishers in Kerala, India. Photo: Ponraj Krish / Pixabay

The EU-India partnership has embarked on a dynamic journey, extending its support to India’s ambitious CE initiatives across various sectors. One noteworthy facet of this collaboration is the support provided to NITI Aayog and various sectoral ministries for the development and implementation of three comprehensive CE action plans. Furthermore, the partnership has taken a keen interest in bolstering India’s digital landscape. Support for the Ministry of Electronics’ CE Action Plan not only enhances the sustainability quotient of India’s technology sector, but also promotes eco-friendly practices in the rapidly evolving digital realm. Additionally, the EU-India partnership has strategic plans to lend its expertise to the Department of Telecommunication in the formulation and implementation of a dedicated CE Action Plan. This forward-looking approach underscores the commitment to embedding CE principles throughout India’s telecommunications sector.

These diverse sectors present exciting potential areas for collaborative interventions between the EU and India.

These diverse sectors present exciting potential areas for collaborative interventions between the EU and India. Collaboration in CE regulations, strategies, and standards can lay the groundwork for harmonized approaches to environmental responsibility. Waste management innovations, such as reverse logistics, remanufacturing, and recycling can be shared, leading to more efficient resource utilization. In the domains of e-mobility and agricultural equipment, joint efforts can drive the adoption of greener technologies and practices. Textile and fashion industries offer space for cooperative ventures in sustainable packaging, eco-design, and repair solutions. Sustainable manufacturing for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises, green rubber and tire production, and environmentally conscious building and construction methods present avenues for mutual learning and growth. Steel and cement sectors can collaborate to reduce their carbon footprint and embrace sustainable production. These potential areas of collaboration not only strengthen EU-India partnership, but also pave the way for a more sustainable and resilient global economy.

Significant Projects under EU-REI

EU-REI is providing technical support to the Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board for setting up India’s first Waste Recycling Park (WRP) in Rajasthan, India. The WRP will be for waste streams including plastic waste, e-waste, hazardous waste, waste from photovoltaic panels and storage batteries, metal scrap, and end-of-life vehicles. Beginning with a pre-feasibility study to assess its viability, the project conducted a benchmark study to incorporate global best practices in eco-industrial park development. Furthermore, EU-REI has actively supported the conceptual master planning and zoning of the park, ensuring a strategic design for maximum efficiency and environmental sustainability.

EU-REI’s support in Goa, a critical region for promoting Renewable Energy (RE) and CE, has yielded significant impacts by scaling up the establishment of a collection mechanism for discarded fishing nets. Collaborating closely with the Goa State Pollution Control Board and the Goa Fisheries Department, the initiative targeted two fish landing sites and three fishing villages, with the potential to benefit approximately 12,000 fishermen and allied workers. This outreach extended further through engaging with the fishing community via workshops, creating awareness and fostering a sense of responsibility towards sustainable practices.

EU-REI has been at the forefront of support for innovative and sustainable start-ups.

Additionally, the introduction of the Ecomission, a start-up implementing a pilot collection program through a digital Deposit Refund Scheme, has played a pivotal role in countering littering and incentivizing the proper disposal of fishing nets. This holistic approach not only tackles environmental concerns but also brings positive economic and social changes to the region, demonstrating the tangible impact of EU-REI in fostering sustainability and circularity in Goa’s fishing industry.

EU-REI has been at the forefront of support for innovative and sustainable start-ups, with one exemplary case in its portfolio being Earth Tatva. This visionary venture operates in the realm of circular ceramics and building materials, where it has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to environmental responsibility and resource efficiency. EU-REI recognized the potential of Earth Tatva’s circular ceramics initiative and provided crucial support throughout its journey, from inception as CE start-up to growth into a scalable venture.

The impact of this collaboration is significant and far-reaching. It opens a route-to-market strategy for recycled ceramics in EU markets, expanding the influence of sustainable practices within the ceramics industry.

The impact of this collaboration is significant and far-reaching.

EU-REI significantly contributed to the partnership between European and Indian businesses and stakeholders in resource efficiency. They supported ECOR’s pilot project for crop-residue utilization by facilitating four awareness workshops, engaging local Farmer Producer Organisations in key locations. These workshops assessed farmers’ interest in joining the value chain and promoted community involvement.

EU-REI’s efforts extended to the CII Sustainability Summit, where they showcased a film on the project, enhancing its visibility and playing a pivotal role in formulating a developPPP proposal, a crucial step in securing funding. Furthermore, EU-REI actively explored future collaboration with ECOR and its Material Innovation Center, demonstrating a commitment to long-term sustainable development. Their involvement not only integrated the project with local communities, but also engaged the private sector and potentially local authorities, ensuring regulatory compliance.

Awareness and Capacity Development

Repair Cafes for Oxygen Concentrators (September – December 2021): These events focused on decentralizing manufacturing and building resilience. They aimed to address critical healthcare needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, promoting sustainability through repair and maintenance.

SDG-12 Challenge – Make For Goa (April 2022): This project concentrated on addressing such environmental issues as discarded fishing nets, exploring alternatives to single-use plastics, managing textile waste, promoting circular design, and sustainable construction practices, aligning with Sustainable Development Goal 12.

Resource Efficiency and Circular Economy Training Programme for Youth (in partnership with Y20 and Indian Youth Climate Network): This program empowered young individuals to champion Resource Efficiency and CE concepts, fostering a new generation of environmentally conscious leaders.

Circular Revolution Podcast: Acknowledged as a top 20 CE podcast globally, these youth-driven podcasts explore cutting-edge innovations in the field of Resource Efficiency and CE.

Together, Europe and India are forging a path towards resource efficiency, circular economies, and eco-friendly industrial practices. This partnership exemplifies a commitment to global sustainability and sets a precedent for international cooperation in pursuit of an environmentally responsible future.

The collaborative efforts have not only highlighted progress made in adapting international standards and best business practices for resource efficiency but have been instrumental in promoting the efficient and sustainable use of natural resources, environmental resilience, and youth engagement in driving positive change.

The collective journey serves as a beacon of hope and a model for nations worldwide to follow suit in pursuing a more sustainable and harmonious future.

By bringing together governments, businesses, academia, and research institutes from both regions, they foster a powerful ecosystem for innovation and change. As these efforts continue to evolve and demonstrate tangible progress, the EU and India are both improving their economic sustainability while also setting an inspiring precedent for international collaboration in addressing the critical challenges of resource management and environmental stewardship.

The collective journey serves as a beacon of hope and a model for nations worldwide to follow suit in pursuing a more sustainable and harmonious future. This shared dedication to driving global systemic shifts is poised to inspire the world.

Discover Sustainable India
Dr. Katharina Paterok
Advisor for circular economy in international cooperation at the Deutsche Gesellschaft fürInternationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Dr. Rachna Arora
Team Leader in the EU-Resource Efficiency project of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Dr. Reva Prakash
Resources Efficiency and Environment Policy Advisor at the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

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