Global uptake of circular economy is required to reach Paris goals

By Lucy Jones  April 19th, 2021

The world's first circular economy and climate change conference highlights the crucial role of the circular economy in reaching climate targets.

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Last week, the World Circular Economy Forum hosted its first climate change-themed event. Called WCEF+Climate, the conference took place online over two days and brought together speakers from all across the globe. Discussions ranged from building circular cities to plastics and finance, but the core message of the event was this: the circular economy will play a vital role in the fight against climate change.  

Why? Because, as the 2021 Circularity Gap Report tells us, 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are associated with material handling and use. Circularity offers a way to manage materials more efficiently.   

"It's time to change the game. If we want to tackle climate change, we need to look beyond energy efficiency and move towards a circular economy. For a healthy future we have to stop wasting our finite resources, reuse our valuable materials and turn them into new products. Together we can close the loop to a circular economy, a necessity for climate neutrality by 2050," Netherlands Minister for the Environment and conference host Stientje van Veldhoven said in a statement. 

The event was co-hosted by the Netherlands' Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra. In her opening address, Minister Van Veldhoven said we must start working on circular economy solutions now in order to meet Paris targets. The Paris Agreement's goal is to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees and to strive for an even lower figure of 1.5 degrees Celsius. 

Minister Van Veldhoven was joined by Jyrki Katainen, President of The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, and political leaders from across the globe to launch WCEF+Climate. You can watch the launch in full below.   

At the conclusion of the conference, Minister Van Veldhoven also called for policies that make reuse of materials mandatory to be adopted worldwide.  

"It should be a matter of course that plastic products are made of recycled plastic. It would be a win‐win situation and a tangible example of how the circular economy contributes to achieving the climate goals," she said.  

"We owe it to our children to stop wasting raw materials, and to start reusing materials. Europe is already working on this and I call on other countries to also make recycled materials in production the norm. We should do it for our climate and for a healthy future for us all." 

In order to galvanise global action, WCEF+Climate invited organisations, governments and businesses to make a circular economy commitment. These commitments have been published in the World Circular Economy Forum + Climate Action Statement.   

The ACE Hub showed our support by committing to accelerating Australia's transition to a circular economy. One of our founding sponsors, BINGO Industries, also pledged to keep products and materials in use and take real action on climate change in Australia.

"We see ourselves as a key player in providing low carbon solutions for responsible resource use and management of ‘waste’ materials. Our work to develop circular outcomes to keep materials in use, preserves embodied carbon, reduces landfill emissions and reduces the reliance on raw materials extraction and processing. We believe a low carbon future can only be realised through a strong circular model," says BINGO's Head of Sustainability Nik Comito. "The WCEF + climate summit has a strong alignment to what we aim to achieve and we believe it is important to demonstrate our commitment to moving to a circular, low carbon world and the WCEF+Climate summit goals."

You can read both commitments below.  

The ACE Hub's WCEF+Climate commitment:  

The Australian Circular Economy Hub (ACE Hub) is committed to accelerating the transition to a circular economy in Australia. This is part of the growing acknowledgement that we have an urgent need to protect our finite resources and reduce emissions, and this can only be achieved with one of the most significant collaboration efforts ever undertaken. 

The ACE Hub aims to be the focal point for all things circular in Australia – a platform for sharing knowledge and inspiration, building networks of circular economy practitioners and celebrating the efforts of all those working towards this vital transition. 

BINGO Industries' WCEF+Climate commitment: 

BINGO Industries, a resource recovery business striving to keep products in use and recognising the importance and linkages between the circular economy and climate change, is committed to 'keeping products and materials in use' and real action on climate change in Australia. 

The two-day program of events features something for everyone, and video streams can be accessed on the WCEF+Climate YouTube channel. If you're not sure where to start, you can explore some of our recommended sessions below:  

Why do Materials Matter for Global Climate Action?  

Building on the findings of the 2020 International Resource Panel report on Resource Efficiency & Climate Change, this session looks at the role of material efficiency in reducing global GHG emissions. Representatives from government and business discuss developing policies to extend product life and embedding reuse models in business.  

Circular Economy: Crucial in Achieving the SDGs 

This session looks at the role of the circular economy in achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Minister Van Veldhoven is joined by representatives from the UN, politicians from around the world and business owners to discuss policy agendas and present business cases.    

Globalising the Circular Economy Dialogue  

This is an interactive session about the importance of building a global circular economy network for knowledge sharing, to drive innovation and ensure best practice. Familiarise yourself with the language of circularity as representatives from the Netherlands, the European Union, African and Latin American countries discuss their vision of a global circular economy.  

To learn more about WCEF+Climate and explore all of the sessions, head here.  

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Lucy Jones

Lucy started her career working as a writer and editor in print and digital publishing. She went on to create content for Australia's leading sustainable fashion platform while completing her Master of Cultural Studies. Lucy spends her downtime at the beach, crocheting and hanging out with her cat Larry. She believes words can change the world and is stoked to help Planet Ark spread the message of positive environmental change.

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