Circular Economy is Crucial to Meet the Paris Agreement Goals

Focusing the shift to a circular economy is the need of the hour to achieve climate goals agreed by the international community – to help rebuild a stronger world economy that is greener and sustainable. Top UN climate officials at the two-day World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF), which started on April 15, concluded that a dramatic shift to a circular economy is necessary to meet the Paris Agreement goals.  

Five years ago, the world’s nations gathered in Le Bourget near Paris to discuss the draft and adopt what is known today as a Paris Agreement. The document was signed by 196 countries and became one of the global censuses to address the devasting impacts of global climate change. The agreement required the signatories to address the issue of global warming and keeping the rise of global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius, a target that requires constructive collaboration. 

The World Circular Economy Forum concluded that a dramatic shift to a circular economy is necessary to meet the Paris Agreement goals | Image: Petovarga/National Geographic

But the question is, where are we after five years of this agreement?

Approximately 192 countries – the emitters of 96% of global carbon gas emissions reported their plans called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDGs) to curb the greenhouse gases. As the proof of the cost of inaction started to pile up, governments, businesses and the financial sector also started to mobilize. In 2020, despite the global pandemic, nearly 2,500 net-zero pledges were made from regions and companies by October 2020. 

By the second half of 2020, China pledged to achieve net-zero by 2060, reducing the carbon emissions drastically from 2030. Biden has vowed to bring the US into the Paris Agreement. EU is making significant progress by passing the first-ever European Climate Law. The UK government pledged to cut emissions by 2030, back to 1990 levels. 

Global trends show a massive shift towards renewable energy as technology will help offset the industrial emissions that are difficult to tackle. While all this might sound positive and the groundwork of the net-zero emissions are laid, the level of carbon emissions continues to increase. Before the lockdown, the world recorded the highest amount of Co2 emissions in the atmosphere in 800,000 years! We have already exceeded the threshold of 1 degree Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. 

To fulfill the Paris Agreement we need a circular economy | Image: Unsplash

A global initiative by Finland and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, the WCEF has invited leaders, experts, and policymakers to present the best solution for a fair circular economy. The circular economy is set to play a definitive role, and it must be scaled to reduce emissions from all sectors to achieve climate neutrality.

UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, underlined the need for bold and big action in the ongoing climate emergency and global pandemic. She said that the parties – especially the major emitters, need to look to increase their ambition and reflect over the revised National Determined Contributions (NDCs). 

Circular economy: A key lever in bridging the emissions | Image: Unsplash

An initial NDC Synthesis Report published by UN Climate Change shows that nations are far behind and must report stronger climate action plans in 2021 to achieve the Paris Agreement. 

The Paris Agreement calls for change in production and consumption behaviors. A circular economy involves avoiding excessive consumption, waste and curbing the use of fossil fuels by reusing, repairing, recycling the existing products and by-products. 

The extraction and processing of natural raw material are causing half of the global emissions and has led to 90% of biodiversity loss. The shift is crucial to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the purpose of the Paris Agreement to limit the global temperature rise to close as possible to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. 

UN Climate Change Deputy Executive Secretary, Ovais Sarmad added that energy supply, transport, buildings, and waste management remain priority sectors for immediate climate action. Participants at the virtual event shared examples of how businesses can seize new opportunities and gain from a circular economy. 


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