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  • Writer's pictureShe Business Time

Unlocking Climate Solutions: The Imperative of the Circular Economy

Updated: May 6

To tackle climate change and its negative impacts, world leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris reached a breakthrough on 12 December 2015: the historic Paris Agreement which is a legally binding international treaty. It entered into force on 4 November 2016. Today, 195 Parties (194 States plus the European Union) have joined the Paris Agreement. A large part of the Paris Agreement is for countries to submit what are called NDCs or Nationally Determined Contributions, which are commitments that countries make to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as part of climate change mitigation. Once states have set their initial NDCs, these are expected to be updated on a 5-year cycle.

The Imperative of Circular Economy in Achieving Climate Goals

Many people are confused by the circular economy and, by default, consider it a waste management tool to improve recycling. Only an extremely small number of forward-thinking people and companies link the circular economy with resource management, and historically the human race has never managed the primary raw materials that provide us with the products we use every day. So, it is a whole new world we are walking towards. None of the 195 countries that signed up to the Paris Agreement will meet their stated climate targets without the circular economy. That is a circular economy whose primary objective is resource management and resource efficiency via the Circular Rs NOT primarily waste management.

Challenges and Opportunities on the Path to Circular Transformation

Today, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment in our shared journey towards a sustainable future. Despite the increased attention given to the circular economy on the global stage, the harsh reality is that global circularity is on the decline. The numerous discussions, debates, and articles over the past half-decade have not translated into substantive actions on the ground. The Circularity Gap Reports meticulously chart this trend, revealing a decrease in the share of secondary materials in our economy from 9.1% in 2018 to a mere 7.2% in 2023, coupled with a surge in total material consumption. Our current economic model, with 91% built on a linear basis, is unsustainable. Shifting our focus to a circular economy is paramount, emphasizing the 4 Rs—reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling—to preserve the value of resources, materials, and products. The urgency for action is undeniable. Accelerated material consumption, particularly in high-income countries, no longer guarantees increased well-being. This linear "take-make-waste" approach has breached six of the nine planetary boundaries, posing severe threats to our environment. The Circularity Gap Report 2023 provides a transformative roadmap, outlining 16 circular economy solutions capable of not only reversing planetary overshoot but also reducing global material extraction by one-third. Embracing circular economy principles, such as using less for longer and integrating regenerative materials, is key. 

Our mission is clear: transition from theory to action. Dismantling harmful processes and aligning global efforts is imperative. The report emphasizes 12 solutions tailored to specific country profiles, placing people at the center of this transformative story. Creating a level policy playing field is the first step. Governments and industries must incentivize sustainable practices and penalize harmful ones. "Changing the rules of the game" is crucial. Getting the economics right follows closely. Fiscal policies and public investments must favor circular solutions, driving the necessary transformation. Building circular expertise and skills is vital for a just transition. This requires a systems-thinking approach addressing economic, social, and environmental dimensions, with a focus on providing decent work. 

The report identifies three key systems—food, the built environment, and manufactured goods—demanding transformative circular solutions. It calls for prioritizing circular development in lower-income Build countries, promoting circular industrial processes in Grow countries, and shifting consumption patterns in higher-income Shift nations. Shift countries, like the US, Japan, the UK, and Canada, are urged to drastically reduce material consumption while upholding well-being. Grow countries, such as China and Brazil, are called upon to stabilize their material consumption, balancing growth with planetary sensitivity. Build countries, like Bangladesh and Ethiopia, should increase material consumption to meet basic needs. Delving into the discourse of sustainable practices requires an exploration of global regulatory landscapes. Circular economy principles are finding roots in legislation worldwide. 

The European Union's Green Deal, aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050, leads this movement. The second Circular Economy Action Plan, a part of the Green Deal, emphasizes legislative actions fostering circularity along product value chains. Strategic product design prioritizing durability, repairability, and recyclability is envisioned. China advances circular economy ambitions through the Circular Economy Promotion Law, aligning economic growth with circular principles. In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency leads recycling endeavors, reflecting a global united front in sustainable management. The evolving regulatory field provides industrial manufacturing companies a unique opportunity to lead in this transformative terrain. 

Interconnected Solutions: Impact Investing, Circular Economy, and Gender Equality

In conclusion, navigating the complexities of sustainability and circularity requires recognizing the regulatory field's crucial role. The intersection of innovation and legislation creates an opportune moment for businesses to lead towards a sustainable and circular global economy. Our collective actions, in policy and practice, shape the trajectory of our shared future. In conclusion, let's set the stage for a global economy that operates by new rules and a regenerative eco-system to guide us toward a sustainable and equitable future.

Submitted By Ms.Anja Carron(Guest Column)

President & Founder THEIA International

Global Chairperson for Circular Economy (G100)G100 Global League of Women Leaders (IN)100 Leaders in Global Education (UAE)100 Women in Global Trade (GWIT)Advisor of Global Sustainable Women Leaders’ Council

Published By She Business Time


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