The circular economy, that minimizes waste and keeps materials and products in circulation for as long as possible, is increasingly regarded as a promising model for driving sustainable and resilient economic growth in both developed and emerging economies. To successfully scale circular practices and ensure the transition from a linear to a circular model leaves no one behind, an inclusive and collaborative approach is required.
The current global health crisis has significantly disrupted the global economy and our societies. We are experiencing a radical transformation in the way society, government and businesses operate. The ways we work, socialize, produce and consume have changed dramatically.
Does the current situation offer a window of opportunity to accelerate the transition to a circular economy? Or will it pose further challenges to change the current linear system of ‘take-make-throw away’ to a circular system?
The current situation also highlights the need to ensure the vulnerable are protected and no-one is left behind – in line with the principles of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs also remind us that, despite the urgency of the current pandemic, the world needs to keep in mind the long-term nature of the circular economy transition and global sustainability objectives including the global climate targets and meeting the needs of future generations.
Until recently, the discussions around the circular economy have predominantly focused on industrialized economies of Europe and China. However, a great deal of circular economy activity is already taking place in emerging economies, as the recent Chatham House report An Inclusive Circular Economy: Priorities for Developing Countries, discusses.
Many countries across sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Latin America are adopting national policies and launching initiatives to promote the circular economy. To promote collaborative opportunities for an inclusive and sustainable circular economy transition at the international level, a clearer understanding of the opportunities, trade-offs and winners and losers of such a transition is needed.
Supporting transformative alliances and finding solutions to overcome challenges especially in poorer countries, disadvantaged industry sectors and consumers is equally critical. In short, a ‘win-win-win’ vision for the environment, people and the economy, needs to be built together with credible pathways to achieving this vision.
This virtual conference brings together circular economy leaders from policy, business, academia and civil society across the emerging economies and the developed world to identify best practices, initiatives and existing alliances that can help to build the pathways for achieving this vision.
It builds on previous and ongoing research by Chatham House, and others, to drive forward an inclusive circular economy agenda and promote a just transition from linear to circular economic models.
The first day of the virtual conference consists of keynote speeches and panel discussions focusing on the cross-cutting themes of just transition and inclusive circular economy as well as interconnections with other global key agendas and themes:
Inclusive policy approaches for solving the global waste crisis.
Financing the circular economy and closing the investment gap.
Trade in the circular economy: closed local economies or global collaborating systems?
During the second day of the conference, more specific circular economy themes are discussed in virtual panels including the following topics:
Beyond plastic recycling: innovations for sustainable packaging.
Advancing multilateral action on marine plastic pollution.
Industry 4.0 and circular economy: identifying opportunities for developing countries.
The Chatham House Circular Economy conference forms part of the programme of events to celebrate the Chatham House Centenary highlighting the main goals for the institute’s second century.