The event opened its doors today in Antwerp, Belgium. During this edition of the WRF countless entrepreneurs, researchers and governments come together to map the transition towards the circular economy as a cornerstone in meeting the climate objectives. As studies show that over 60% of greenhouse gas emissions can be directly linked to the way we use resources and materials, the WRF brings together specialists from all over the globe to craft tangible solutions to make a real transition happen. The opening session of the event was hosted in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen who visited the forum in her capacity as UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate. Flanders has been setting the tone globally in closing waste management loops.
Waste as a valuable resource to society
The plenary opening session of the World Resources Forum 2019 immediately sets the objective of this edition: closing material cycles and the transitions towards the circular economy is crucial for our society. Our current way of producing and consuming is impacting the environment too much. Aligned with the United Nations Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, this conference will highlight innovative and groundbreaking projects, initiatives and research to initiate that transition.
Henny De Baets, CEO of co-organiser the Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM): “Our environmental awareness has progressed rapidly in a few decades. In Flanders we recycle more than 70% of waste and have come to realise that waste is a valuable resource. And yet, I have the feeling we still have to face the biggest transition in our lifetime. Perhaps the most difficult, but certainly the most exciting one: the transition towards a circular economy! Our role as public organisation is to ensure that all these positive initiatives can grow and flourish. Flourish until they are so big that they are accepted by everyone and become mainstream.”
Prof. Bruno Oberle, President of the World Resources Forum: “I believe that our most important common challenge is to mobilise political and public support. For climate change, for the sustainable development goals, for the circular economy and the important contributions that resource management has to offer, addressing the issues with the appropriate sense of urgency.”
60% of greenhouse gas emissions attributed to use of materials
The opening session also considered a major additional advantage of closing material cycles: reducing greenhouse gases. More than 60% of our carbon footprint comes from the way we handle materials and resources. Extraction of raw materials, transportation of materials, the processing of waste, recycling losses, use of materials for construction or the production of consumption goods, … This is one of the findings of the OVAM-report “7 messages about the circular economy and climate change”.
Flemish Minister for the Environment Koen Van den Heuvel: “I see two major priorities. The first one is the fight against climate change. And it is crystal clear that we should not only look at our energy supply but also give a prominent role to materials and resources. The second one is cooperation. All societal actors need to be involved: government, academics, researchers, industry, civil society, … There is no entrepreneur who does not think climate is important. There is no environmentalist who does not think jobs are important. I want to get all these people on the same page.”
7 messages about circular economy and climate change
The way in which we interact with materials has a major impact on the climate. A very large part of our energy consumption – and therefore the related greenhouse gas emissions – is very closely linked to the extraction, processing, transportation, use and discarding of materials. Circular strategies such as circular design, material-efficient production, reuse, repair, and recycling lead to both savings in material consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. By focusing on maximum retention of value and closing the (local) material cycles, the circular economy possesses a robustness that will also serve well when dealing with the drastic changes caused by climate change.
Message 1: the way we deal with materials determines a large part of the greenhouse gas emissions
Message 2: circular strategies contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
Message 3: a circular economy is a resilient and climate-resistant economy
Message 4: circular regional development contributes to climate policy
Message 5: taking the footprint of Flemish consumption into account
Message 6: carbon as a resource A summary of the report can be downloaded herein a circular economy
Message 7: a new fiscal and legal framework is necessary for the transition to a circular and low-carbon economy.
During the WRF, OVAM will present the conclusion of their study
Adressing climate change will require radical changes in lifestyles
If the world is to keep climate change at manageable levels before the middle of the century, changes in lifestyles are not only inevitable, but would need to be radical and start very soon. Considering current consumption levels, citizens in many industrialized countries would have to cut their lifestyle carbon footprints by about 80-90% or more, and some in emerging economies by about 30-80% within the next 30 years. This is one of the key messages coming from the study “1.5-Degree Lifestyles: Targets and options for reducing lifestyle carbon footprints” – conducted by Japanese research institute IGES in collaboration with Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra – that will also be launched at the World Resource Forum.
Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi, President of IGES: “The report provides a unique analysis of the implications of the Paris Agreement from a lifestyle perspective, whereas most existing studies predominantly focus on production and technology based solutions. The publication establishes the first global per-capita lifestyle carbon footprint targets for 2030 to 2050. With this report, we can no longer wait for another ten or twenty years to take action. Policymakers and businesses should recognise the urgency and actively support citizens in realising low-carbon lifestyles, looking ahead to decarbonised society by 2050.”