The panel on climate change and circular economy at the Bled Strategic Forum stressed that, as the former is becoming an alarming issue which needs to be addressed with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the latter could contribute a lot to the effort, but only if the idea becomes globalised and widespread.
The panel Climate Change – Saving the Planet by Going Circular was opened by H.E. Mr Pekka Haavisto, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, who noted that the latest reports on climate change were very concerning, and that the situation was getting out of control.
Ms Marjeta Jager, Deputy Director-General at the European Commission, noted that the EU was a leader in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and that additional documents and strategies in the field were in the works.
She believes that more incentives should be given to partner countries, as “for a carbon neutral planet we need to go all aboard”. “We need to work together with SDGs, we need them to work in order to arrive to a carbon neutral planet.”
Mr Alejandro Adler, Director of Well-Being Science and Policy at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network in the United States, made the point that education was of key importance in battling climate change and changing the related habits.
Adler believes that the education system needs to be changed, as one needs to work with people at a very young age, when it is possible to change habits, adopt healthy habits. “My big ask from the rest of the world is to look for novel education policies.”
That climate change and waste issues could be resolved by better education was also one of the points made by H.E. Mr Bernard Fautrier, Vice-President CEO of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, who said that politicians should be attentive to what was told by science.
He focused on waste, noting that “we absolutely need to reverse the trend in which we perceive plastic products” as people in the Mediterranean were not aware that they had a very high level of plastic pollution.
The importance of education was also stressed by Mr Jack Pineda Dale, Legal Director at Microsoft Central and Eastern Europe, who said that developers and companies should also be educated about climate change and its risks.
“Not a lot of solutions are going towards sustainability,” he said, wondering how it was possible to make sure that companies developing artificial intelligence solutions lean towards sustainability and sustainable development.
As the debate switched towards the use of circular economy for reaching these goals, Mr Kari Herlevi, Project Director for Circular Economy at the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, said that one of its most important aspects were fair and just transition.
He pointed out that other countries needed to follow suit in terms of developing circular economy, which was also one of the points made by Mr Freek van Eijk, CEO of Holland Circular Hotspot, who wants European players to connect to contribute to circular transition.
Mr Van Eijk called for internationalisation, saying that “we created a foundation to work at international level, it does not make sense to create an island of Netherlands, while the rest of the world goes down the drain.”
Mr Ben Macpherson, Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development at the Scottish Government, presented his country’s experience with circular economy, also on a local and regional levels.
There is an initiative called Zero Waste Scotland, which is also based on the effort to develop a community-based action on circular economy. “This is also a thing that can bring people together,” he said.
Making a network with the other circular economy hotspots is what Mr David McGinty, Global Director, Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) in The Netherlands, deals with. He said that PACE was trying to convene a global movement promoting the need for circular transition.
Ms Cathrine Barth, Co-founder and Head of Strategy at Circular Norway, admitted that her country had to learn from Finland and the Netherlands in this respect, and that it was increasingly investing in circular economy.
The Norwegian economy wants to catch up with the European tempo in this respect, and can contribute to circular economy, she said, while also promoting the concept of “circular diplomacy”, with diplomats “connecting our nation states”.