Without drastically improving global resource efficiency, it will be impossible to achieve the goals set out in the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The WCEF+Climate is a global conference for a global audience, spanning approximately 24 hours to reach audiences across all time zones. The WCEF+Climate was hosted at our virtual conference venue, built on the latest creative thinking on how to provide the full conference experience in a digital fashion. Just like a professional TV-show, but interactive. Networking and interaction remained a major component, even in this virtual setting.
A selection of the commitments presented during the conference were compiled in the WCEF+Climate Action Statement. Let’s transition to a circular economy together!
To ensure that this conference achieves its goal of accelerating the just transition to a circular economy and upscaling action, the WCEF+Climate resulted in the WCEF+Climate Action Statement: a series of commitments developed by organisations, companies, governments and in fact, all participants.
Circularity stretches far beyond recycling. In fact, it is about refusing, reducing, re-using, repairing, refurbishing, remanufacturing and re-purposing, even before recycling – all ensuring that we use fewer resources, and live within planetary boundaries.
The circular economy requires a systemic change to design out waste, avoid pollution and keep materials in use for as long as possible. A transition to a circular economy requires a change in all of our mind-sets. We need to recognise the value of the products we use and the materials we extract. It’s crucial that we understand and recognise the true social, environmental and economic costs of production and consumption. For this to happen, we need joint commitment and innovative action from governments, businesses, organisations, civil society and consumers.
The potential of new business models that embed circularity for innovation – while bringing about decent work – already exist. Many countries, companies and organisations are preparing for the just transition to a circular economy, while consumers across the world are more conscious about the true cost of the products they are purchasing, and throwing away. Numerous companies and countries across the globe already recognise the incredible potential of a circular economy and resource efficiency as an instrument that could help us reach the targets set out in the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The current unsustainable use of natural resources plays a key role in the three global crises: the biodiversity crisis, the pollution crisis, and the climate crisis. Globally, unsustainable resource extraction and processing accounts for 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress, while generating half of global carbon emissions. Action is urgently needed.
Currently, climate change mitigation efforts focus mostly on energy supply and increasing renewable energy production. The current energy supply chain accounts for approximately half of our total global emissions. So, if the Paris Agreement targets are to be met, our energy transition efforts need to be complemented by making significant changes to our value and supply chains. Extraction, processing, use, and disposal of the materials we use daily are the other part of the equation. With circular solutions, we can enhance resource efficiency and limit the use of natural resources. If we move to a circular economy, we could avoid pollution and reduce our carbon footprint by around 20%.
This shift to a circular economy is happening in many places around the world, but still on a relatively small scale. We need to upscale these solutions, share best practices, and work across borders and sectors. There is a lot of room for improvement, as only 8.6% of the global economy is circular today.
A key principle in this context is ‘working together’. One company, one government, or a single citizen making the shift towards circularity is a start, but is definitely not enough. New materials and products are needed, alongside innovative approaches in production processes. We can rethink our way of doing business, based on the true costs of production.
Ground-breaking, forward-looking business models need to be developed and encouraged. Governments should create the right legal conditions, enhance incentives for sustainable business models, stimulate circular solutions, and increase awareness. In addition, governments must think beyond their borders. The consequences of climate change transcends borders, and our circular solutions should as well.
Customers and citizens should start by becoming more conscious of the real cost of a ‘take-make-waste’ society, and consider changing their consumption patterns accordingly. They have the power to encourage companies to develop creative solution to meet their more sustainable demands.
By bringing these different actors together, we can make sure that we’re all heading in the same circular direction: across borders, industries, and continents! The World Circular Economy Forum aims to do just this: bring us together, ambition, opportunities and all!
While the task ahead of us may seem daunting at times, we’re convinced that our goal is in reach! If we work inclusively, a circular economy offers more jobs, less pollution, and ultimately a healthier planet, where we can all thrive and prosper!
Only if we work together, can we move from a ‘take-make-waste’ society to a circular economy.
In September 2015, 193 members of the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This Agenda encompasses 17 SDGs, including, SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation; SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth; SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities; SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production; SDG 13: Climate Action; SDG 14: Life Below Water; and SDG 15: Life on Land.
These SDGs all have one thing in common: they require us to think differently about our relationship with nature and how we use natural resources. 2020 ushered in a “Decade of Action” to deliver on the Goals by 2030. The “Decade of Action” calls for accelerating sustainable solutions for the world’s biggest challenges. The just transition to a circular economy is one way to put us back on track to achieving the SDGs by 2030. By changing our current consumption and production patterns, we impact the way we interact with nature, the kind of job opportunities and economic growth we prioritise, and ultimately: the wellbeing of people and our planet.
Later in 2015, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France, 196 entities adopted the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement is a binding agreement that brings all nations together to combat climate change. Currently, climate change mitigation efforts relating from the Paris Agreement focus mostly on energy supply and increasing renewable energy production. The current energy supply chain accounts for approximately half of our total global emissions. So, if the Paris Agreement targets are to be met, our energy transition efforts need to be complemented by making significant changes to our value and supply chains.
During the WCEF+Climate we will explore the interlinkages between these agendas. We will zoom in on how circular economy can ensure that our national development plans, Voluntary National Reviews, national climate plans, Nationally Determined Contributions, and Long-term Strategies comprise ambitious action so that we can meet these important targets together, before it’s too late.
WCEF+Climate 2021 is hosted by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra. Several sessions at the WCEF+Climate will be co-hosted with other knowledge partners and organisations to highlight the role of the circular economy in combatting climate change and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
In its national climate agreement, the Netherlands committed to halving its CO2 emissions by 2030. The Netherlands will also take additional measures to meet increased EU targets in line with the European Green Deal. Circularity is an important cornerstone in the Dutch climate plan. The Netherlands strives to reduce its raw material consumption by 50% by 2030, and to become fully circular by 2050. The Netherlands is one of the board members of the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) that aims to accelerate the transition to a circular economy by bringing together leaders across continents and sectors.
“The Netherlands is very much looking forward to hosting the high-level WCEF+Climate meeting on 15-16 April 2021. There is no doubt that the transition to a circular economy is crucial in reaching our climate goals. We need to recognise the large and cost-effective contribution that the circular economy can make in building a more sustainable society, especially in the post-COVID-19 world.”
– Minister for the Environment of the Netherlands, Stientje van Veldhoven.
The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra
The World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) is a global initiative of Finland and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra.
Sitra is a future fund that collaborates with partners from different sectors to research, trial and implement bold new ideas that shape the future. Our aim is a Finland that succeeds as a pioneer in sustainable well-being. We are an accountable and independent future-oriented fund that is influential nationally and internationally and acts as a think tank, promoter of experiments and operating models, and a catalyst for co-operation. In being accountable to Finnish Parliament, our future-oriented work is funded with the returns on investments based on our endowment capital.
Building a successful Finland for tomorrow is both our mission and our statutory mandate. Our vision is that Finland will prosper by building a fair, sustainable and inspiring future that ensures people’s well-being within the limits of the earth’s carrying capacity.
Sitra’s work focuses on three themes: finding solutions to the ecological sustainability crisis; promoting a fair data economy; and strengthening democracy and engagement. The renewal of the economy aiming at sustainability and competitiveness is closely linked with all our operations. Our future-oriented work is based on foresight and societal training that both aim at increasing future knowledge, future-oriented thinking, society’s capacity for change, and co-operation.
Change needs all of us. Join us and engage in collaboration.
World Circular Economy Forum
The World Circular Economy Forum is Finland’s and Sitra’s global initiative. The first WCEF was held in Helsinki, Finland, in June 2017 and had 1,600 participants from nearly 100 countries. This April, the Netherlands and Sitra will co-host the first WCEF+Climate event in the run-up to the WCEF2021 in Toronto, Canada, in September 2021.
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