The Club of Rome released its latest study on the “Circular Economy & Benefits for Society” at the European Parliament on October 20th, Brussels ahead of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, (COP 21) in Paris at the end of November. The event at the European Parliament was chaired by Claude Turmes, MEP and Anders Wijkman launched the report on behalf of the Club of Rome. The event was well attended and there was a lively discussion.
The report’s findings provide rigorous scientific new arguments for a swift move to a circular economy – an industrial system that is restorative by intention and design. Rather than discarding products before their value is fully utilised, we should design and produce them for continuous re-use.
The main purpose of this study is to broadly explore the potential for a significant increase in resource efficiency and to specifically assess what the main benefits for society would be – looking at carbon emissions and employment in particular. We are using the Dutch, Finnish, French, Spanish and Swedish economies as test cases.
So, what do they mean by a circular economy? They state that a circular economy is where products are designed for ease of recycling, reuse and disassembly. Remanufacturing should replace the traditional, linear ‘take, make & dispose’ model that has dominated the economy so far. The report leaves no doubt that this “is a major prerequisite to stay within the Planetary Boundaries.”
It currently takes the Earth almost one and a half years to regenerate what we use each year, and the ecological footprints of developed countries are far larger than those of developing countries. If everyone lived at same living standards as America does today we would need more than four planet Earths. The status quo cannot continue as the world develops and its population rises. Unless progress is achieved differently, economic growth will lead us towards a crisis, socially, environmentally and politically.
Anders Wijkman, Co-President of the Club of Rome and author of the study said:
‘For too long green policies have been seen as a threat to both business interests and jobs. The Club of Rome study proves such views wrong. A circular economy would lead to more jobs and lower costs for companies. In addition, carbon emissions would go down significantly. Jobs and climate are clear winners when moving towards a circular economy’.
This study presents a well-researched and achievable economic alternative to the current model of endless economic growth on a finite planet. Of central importance is to view a circular economy not as an environmental issue alone, but as an integral part of humanity’s long-term economic viability.
Some of the key findings from the five test cases are:
- In Finland, a move towards a Circular Economy is likely to cut carbon emissions by almost 70 % by 2030. The gains in terms of employment are estimated to be in the range of 75.000 additional jobs.
- In France, Co2 emissions would go down by 2/3 and employment gains would be in the range of half a million jobs.
- In the Netherlands the picture is very similar. A significant reduction in carbon emissions and employment gains in the range of 200,000 jobs.
- In Spain, carbon emissions would go down by 60-70 % and employment would be boosted with an estimated 400.000 additional jobs.
- In Sweden, a Circular Economy would cut carbon emissions by 2/3 and contribute to at least 100,000 new jobs – representing almost 3 % of the labour force.
The report is a must read for all EiD readers. It can be downloaded here.