The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has published a new report covering how industry can help to address global climate change.
The release of the report was timed to coincide with Climate Week, which has seen world leaders gather in New York to listen to various presentations about the global crisis.
This included a speech by 16 year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg who, after making the transatlantic crossing by sail, made an impassioned presentation outlining how the world’s young people would ultimately pay for inaction on climate change agreements.
The report, titled Completing the Picture: How the Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change, states that up until now reversing climate change has relied on the introduction of renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro, etc.) to help reduce global emissions.
But the material states that changes to energy production can only address 55% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions . At the current rate, GHG emissions are not falling quickly enough to achieve global climate targets.
The paper goes on to point out that adopting a circular economy across various industries can help to achieve the remaining 45% reduction in GHG.
Implementing circular economy principles across five key industries, including cement, plastic, steel aluminium and food (including changes to diet), could achieve projected reduction of 9.3 billion tonnes of GHGs by 2050.
This is a similar to the GHG emissions produced by all transportation worldwide.
Dame Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: “It is critical that we transform how we design, make, and use products and food. Completing the picture through a transition to a circular economy can enable us to meet the needs of a growing global population, while creating a prosperous and resilient economy that can run in the long term.”
In this scenario, the circular economy is based on three key principles: Designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.
This would help to reduce demand for virgin materials, production of which is put forward as a major contributor of GHG.
Instituting circular economy principles will help to off-set demand for plastics and other materials which is set to increase up to four-fold by 2050.
The Paris Agreement has set a target for net zero emissions by 2050, with the goal of limiting global average temperature increases to 1.5°C.
The full report is available here.