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In a new memorandum released by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, it is proposed that the European Union (EU) can effectively address the ecological crisis, enhance resilience, and create new markets by prioritizing nature in decision-making processes and integrating the circular economy into the EU single market.

The memorandum, titled "Putting Nature at the Heart of the European Green Deal: Building Blocks for the Next European Commission," urges the upcoming Commission, set to take office in late 2024, to continue and update the European Green Deal to tackle the climate crisis and halt biodiversity loss.

Jyrki Katainen, President of Sitra and former Vice-President of the European Commission, emphasizes the significance of the European Green Deal in accelerating Europe's green transition amidst the escalating ecological crisis. Katainen states, "The next European Commission should adopt an ambitious agenda to make Europe a pioneer in harnessing innovation and markets to preserve biodiversity. What we need is a European Green Deal 2.0."

To put this into action, Sitra suggests the adoption of a "Green Deal 2.0" that places a high value on nature within the decision-making processes of governments, businesses, and consumers. Achieving this goal involves making the value of nature more visible and incorporating nature considerations into key policies.

One key recommendation is for the EU to elevate its ambitions for natural capital accounting by swiftly and comprehensively adopting the complete international framework of ecosystem accounting. This would enable monetary accounts to reflect the financial value of ecosystems and the ecosystem services they provide to member states' economies.

To prevent any net loss of ecosystems or ecosystem services, the EU, member states, and local authorities should ensure biodiversity offsets are implemented. Considering that land use is a major driver of biodiversity loss, the upcoming reform of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) should aim to gradually shift away from area-based and animal-based support payments towards results-based payments that incentivize the enhancement and maintenance of ecosystem services.

Furthermore, Sitra highlights the importance of considering the biodiversity footprint of Europeans beyond Europe's borders. The EU and its member states should assess various policy measures to decrease European consumption of commodities that have significant negative impacts on biodiversity.

In addition to prioritizing nature, Sitra strongly recommends the EU reinforce its transition to a circular economy within the single market. Market regulations can be utilized more effectively to drive demand for materials, products, and services based on circular principles.

Jyrki Katainen emphasizes the benefits the EU single market has provided to European citizens and member state economies over the past 30 years. To ensure the market continues to generate innovation and employment opportunities, maximizing available resources becomes essential. Embracing the circular economy not only reduces the EU's reliance on imported raw materials but also enhances the economy's resilience.

The memorandum's release coincides with the World Circular Economy Forum 2023, a leading global event focused on the circular economy, organized by Sitra and Nordic Innovation in Helsinki. The forum brings together forward-thinking individuals and showcases trailblazers who are assisting governments, industries, businesses, and households in adopting circular practices.

Jyrki Katainen calls on stakeholders in Brussels and all member states to contribute their suggestions for the future European Green Deal. This collaborative approach ensures a comprehensive and well-rounded strategy for addressing the ecological crisis and promoting sustainable development throughout the EU.

By putting nature at the center of decision-making and advancing the circular economy within the EU single market, the European Union has the potential to combat the ecological crisis, foster resilience, and unlock new opportunities for growth and innovation. As the next European Commission prepares to take office, the recommendations put forth by Sitra provide a roadmap for building upon the European Green Deal and striving towards a sustainable and prosperous future for Europe.