The idea of a circular economy turns on the current linear model of resource extraction, usage and disposal on its head.
It aims to design out waste, eliminate toxic chemicals, and transform product design. This means going beyond simply increasing recycling and instead reducing the creation of waste in the first place, intentionally using the waste that remains as new economic inputs.
The rationale for this is economic as well environmental. Global demand for resources is rising, scarcity is increasing, wasteful resource use costs large amounts of money, and digitalisation is allowing for greater disruption of traditional business models.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has a series of in depth reports on the circular economy, including on the business and economic rationale, and a shorter summary of the key arguments and evidence.
The EU’s Green Deal involves a Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) to assist their net zero target and halt biodiversity loss.
The World Resources Institute lists five ways to operationalise the circular economy includes calling for commitments to the circular economy to be central to climate agreements.
A healthy natural world is a necessary precondition for healthy societies. Hunger cannot be kept at bay without fertile soil, long term economic planning is impossible in a world of persistent catastrophic storms. In many ways, the fundamental benefits of nature to our economies is not included in how markets and governments value economic decision-making.
Natural capital, a concept that underpins the Government’s 25 year plan for the environment, seeks to calculate the value of those bits of nature that are typically seen as being free. The idea is that putting a figure on the value of nature will lead to better decisions by government and in markets. Some reject this idea, questioning how a value can be put on the aesthetic beauty of a river or on the value of the global nitrogen cycle.
WWF’s Living Planet Report from 2018 includes estimates of the economic value of nature, which it claims amounts to $125 trillion globally.
Green Alliance’s work on Natural Infrastructure Schemes explores how farmers and landowners can profit from protecting the environment, working with others who could benefit, such as local authorities.
The government's Natural Capital Committee, which explored the state of natural capital in England, has released a report that summarises all it has learned and its recommendations, including an upcoming environment bill.
The environmental emergency is already causing a range of major problems around the world. Even if rapid action is taken, environmental destabilisation will increase, and societies must be ready for the resultant impacts. The Covid-19 pandemic has given an insight into events that can happen quickly, impacting all areas of society and overwhelming the ability to respond.
Adapting to the growing impacts of climate breakdown has been recognised as a priority by people across society in the UK for years. The government’s official advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, have previously concluded that the UK is not prepared for even a 2 degrees Celsius, let alone the higher global temperature rises that are likely to happen. Preparation is also needed to ensure the UK is resilient to the social, political and economic impacts of an environmentally destabilising world. There are potentially huge benefits of doing so; more resilient societies can be healthier and happier.
The Committee on Climate Change assesses the UK’s yearly progress on becoming resilient to the growing impacts of climate breakdown. It also publishes a climate change risk assessment every five years, setting out of risks and opportunities from climate breakdown. Their latest report highlights 61 impacts of climate change and identifies 34 as requiring urgent attention, from food security to public health, energy generation, international violent conflict and more. (See their short video summary here.) Carbon Brief analyses other key takeaways from the 142-page advice document and 1,500 page technical report.
The OECD argues that the impacts of Covid-19 show that economies have developed to prioritise efficiency over resilience, and that societies should be replanned to prioritise adaptability.
The US Center for Climate and Security has drawn on the expertise of retired military leaders around the world to explore the profound destabilisation resulting from climate change. A report commissioned by the Ministry of Defence explores the implications for UK defence and security policy.