Circular economy crucial to addressing biodiversity loss

By Liam Taylor  October 19th, 2021

A new study from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has found almost all biodiversity loss can be attributed to the extraction and processing of natural resources.

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The study explores the key linkages between biodiversity conservation and the circular economy, finding more than 90 per cent of all biodiversity loss is a result of natural resource extraction. 

It’s no coincidence that the rate of biodiversity loss has increased relatively commensurate with the rate of natural resource extraction, with global economic activity increasing 13-fold over the last 70 years. Unfortunately, conservation and restoration efforts, while crucial, will not be sufficient to address biodiversity loss if these key drivers within our economy are left unchecked.

In 2021, our current level of extraction would require an estimated 1.6 earths to regenerate the biological resources society demands and the global population continues to grow. It’s widely acknowledged the earth is currently experiencing its sixth mass species extinction, one that by all indicators is anthropogenically driven.

The news isn’t all bad though, with the report outlining how the circular economy can play an important role in reducing biodiversity loss through a transformative change to our patterns of extraction, production and consumption. Three key outcomes of the circular economy are highlighted as means of addressing biodiversity loss:

  1. Eliminate waste and pollution — to reduce threats to biodiversity

  2. Circulate products and materials — to leave room for biodiversity in natural habitats

  3. Regenerate nature — to enable biodiversity to thrive

To reach their conclusions, the authors of the study conduct deep dives into the role of material extraction and processing in four sectors — food, the built environment, plastics and fashion — in impacting on biodiversity loss. The authors then analyse how a circular economy framework (applying the three key principles mentioned above) can significantly reduce the overall impact of these sectors on the natural environment and the biodiversity it contains.

The report concludes by sharing compelling approaches for business and policymakers to accelerate the shift away from our current extractive, wasteful and polluting economy and towards the circular economy and a nature-positive system. 

The biodiversity study, entitled The Nature Imperative: How the circular economy can tackle biodiversity loss, was released last month by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation. Read the report in full at https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/biodiversity-report

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Liam Taylor

Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia. Joining the communications team at Planet Ark, he hopes to inspire positive environmental behaviour through effective and positive messaging.

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