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Waste & Circular Economy

29 October 2018

Local Renewables Conference calls for a rapid transformation to a circular economy to stop the slide towards climate catastrophe

The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) marks the strongest international warning yet on the risks of rising global temperatures. Limiting this increase to 1.5ºC requires rapid and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.

In this context, the ninth Local Renewables Conference took place in Freiburg (Germany) and Basel (Switzerland) from 24-26 October, seeing 160 participants from 28 countries discussing urban transformation to a circular economy.

Wolfgang Teubner, ICLEI Europe Regional Director, affirmed the need for action: “We must recognise how critical the situation is and act now. As the IPCC report states, the next twelve years are decisive for the ability of all of us - local and national governments, civil society, business, and indeed the public - to limit the impact of climate change.”

Rising material and energy needs worldwide remain a major challenge, with cities and regions central players in making energy more secure, clean and sustainable. To realise the shift from a linear to a circular economy, there is a growing need to take advantage of renewable resources, including energy.

Equally, it is important to consider the circularity of resources used when investing in renewable energy, for instance the types of materials that go into a storage battery and whether they can be recycled at the end of their lifespan.

Local Renewables 2018 highlighted renewable energy as a key element for achieving a circular economy in cities and regions. However, there is a strong concern that the transition to a sustainable and circular use of natural resources is too slow.

“We know a lot about climate change, but knowledge is insufficient. Resource usage and waste production is actually increasing. We have to work swiftly and cities are well placed to lead the way - Freiburg aims to become a role model by becoming climate neutral by 2030,” said Martin Horn, Lord Mayor of the City of Freiburg.

Presenting on locally determined contributions towards a circular economy, Catherine Trautmann, President of the Port of Strasbourg and Vice President of the Eurométropole de Strasbourg (France), explained how the Port of Strasbourg organises a system of cooperation between companies to synergise flows between waste and resources needed elsewhere. Elina Rantanen, Chair of the City Council of Turku (Finland), presented on how crucial a shift to a circular economy is for Turku to reach its aim of becoming climate neutral by 2029. However, local governments should not be alone in working towards the transformation to a circular economy. “National governments must take their share of responsibility for climate change action. We have to work on a combined strategy,” said Catherine Trautmann.

The development to a true circular economy still seems to be in its infancy, with a need to close the gaps between product design, procurement and recycling. In light of the urgent situation the world finds itself in, the Local Renewables Conference stressed that governments, investors and other stakeholders should not wait until concepts are fully developed, but rather work on specific areas, such as waste.

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