Why sufficiency should be at the heart of the next European strategic agenda

From resilience to competitiveness, here are 5 reasons why sufficiency measures are more needed than ever

So far, the EU institutions tried to overcome several crisis without seriously considering a critical lever at its disposal: managing Europe’s resource use. Faced with surges in the cost of living, growing inequality of wealth and income, and unprecedented consequences of climate change, the EU must take advantage of all levers available – including resource-wise demand-side policy – to ensure its economy is fit to deliver well-being and protection for all.

A few to go to the European elections, we keep calling for sufficiency measures to be included in the coming strategic agenda. Below are 5 reasons why this is needed.

1. Sufficiency means a more resilient Europe

By planning a cost-efficient grid infrastructure, we can avoid wasting electricity.

By phasing out all fossil fuels and nuclear and shifting to domestic renewable energy, while at the same time reducing the energy demand across different sectors (i.e. industry, buildings, transport), we can reach almost full energy independence by 2050.

By implementing long-term, collaborative planning for water management – a fundamental good that is becoming increasingly scarce – we can prevent potential conflicts between regions and countries, thereby further enhancing Europe’s security.

By reducing demand and using resources wisely domestically, Europe can be less dependent on critical imports, less vulnerable to shortages, and more resilient to shocks.

Those are just a few examples of how sufficiency measures can make the EU and its citizens more resilient by guaranteeing the delivery of crucial goods and services while optimising the demand, improving the infrastructure and becoming more independent from third countries.

2. Sufficiency means less costs and more competitiveness

By focusing on strategic sectors, reducing costs and minimising risks, we can strengthen the EU’s competitiveness.

By mitigating price increases due to investments in supply infrastructure and reducing the amount of energy or water consumed, we can cut the bills for both households and enterprises.

At a time when energy transition and reindustrialisation call for profound transformations, sufficiency minimises costs as it avoids wasting resources, as well as unnecessary investments. Let’s rethink the “business as usual” approach: Sufficiency can help achieve a successful, prioritised reindustrialisation!

3. Sufficiency means facilitated achievement of our climate and energy targets

By optimising the expansion of electric renewables (including by better targeting the use of hydrogen and its derivatives for priority applications), sufficiency policies reduce the need for electricity infrastructure development and materials.

Sufficiency can enable Member States to deliver on EU objectives most cost-effectively and increase the likelihood of meeting decarbonisation targets. It has the potential to reduce Europe’s final energy demand by 20-30% by 2050, depending on the country and sector. This means achieving the same level of decarbonisation with lower European Emissions Trading System allowance price levels which would lessen the burden on citizens and businesses.

4. Sufficiency means a better quality of life for all

By targeting the most unsustainable consumption patterns in particular, sufficiency restores demand to levels that respect planetary boundaries while ensuring that all in society can meet their fundamental needs.

A more balanced consumption can also increase the fairness of access to resources and services.

By prioritising societal needs and sharing practices at the local level, we can improve various aspects of subjective well-being, including a greater sense of community, life satisfaction, and purpose.

In conclusion, sufficiency can increase equity both within Europe and globally.

5. Sufficiency means a more sustainable Europe

The EU’s Green Deal is an unprecedented commitment towards climate neutrality and global leadership on the matter. With a strong focus on climate aspects and particularly greenhouse gas emissions, other sustainability issues such as resource depletion and biodiversity decline were not addressed with the same urgency or ambition.

Sufficiency has the potential to rebalance EU policy in the next mandate towards strong sustainability.

The EU Commission and Parliament resulting from the June elections will have to decide whether to continue increasing our dependencies and inequalities or prioritise demand management at the core of the EU strategic agenda through a sufficiency-driven approach.

We believe that the choice to be made is clear.

Want to learn more about sufficiency? Here you find the manifesto we signed together with over 70 associations, while here you can get inspired by European cities’ sufficiency stories.