Speech by Vivianne Heijnen, Minister for the Environment, at the side event Circular Principles for Carbon Neutrality* Circular Economy, 17 November 2022
‘Growing rivalry and higher prices of raw materials, energy and food underline the fact that we’ve entered a new economic reality. Circular and climate-neutral business models are more viable models for the future. And the only way forward. To go truly circular, we need to embrace the idea that circularity stretches far beyond recycling and waste’. This said Vivianne Heijnen, minister for the Environment, at a side-event about the Circular Economy organized by Japan on November 17 (COP27).
First I’d like to thank you, Minister Nishimura, for organizing this event. And thank you for your inspiring words. Also, thank you Kristin Hughes of the World Economic Forum for co-organizing.
I’m grateful for this opportunity to share my country’s ambitions for a circular economy.
Unfortunately, the circular economy is still a best-kept secret when it comes to making our societies fit for the future. Around half of all global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the extraction, processing and consumption of raw materials. By drastically reducing inputs of new raw materials in a circular economy, we can significantly reduce these emissions.
One thing is clear: if we don’t radically improve global resource efficiency, it will be impossible to limit global warming to the 1.5 degrees Celsius agreed in Paris.
But there are more reasons why a circular economy is crucial. Significantly accelerating the circular transition will help us tackle pollution and biodiversity loss, too. And it will help us achieve the global goals for 2030.
The Netherlands and Japan – both highly open trading economies – are fully familiar with the vulnerability caused by dependence on foreign resources and transnational value chains.
Growing rivalry and higher prices of raw materials, energy and food underline the fact that we’ve entered a new economic reality. Circular and climate-neutral business models are more viable models for the future. And the only way forward.
To go truly circular, we need to embrace the idea that circularity stretches far beyond recycling and waste.
Take the built environment. Almost 40 per cent of energy-related carbon emissions are linked to building and construction. So in 2021 the Netherlands launched an action track on built environment as part of the World Economic Forum’s Circular Economy For Net-Zero initiative.
In 2018, the Dutch government and various private parties throughout the built environment value chain signed a voluntary agreement on concrete. This public-private partnership aims to make concrete radically more sustainable. Together, we have set goals to reduce carbon emissions by 30 per cent and to reuse 100 per cent of high-quality concrete by 2023. In addition to focusing on emission reduction and circularity, the agreement also sets goals for innovation and education.
This agreement is just one example of the many green deals we’ve initiated with stakeholders in crucial sectors. Like plastics, textiles and the events industry. All these sectors can make a big impact in reducing emissions, helping us reach our goal of a 100 per cent circular economy. And helping us set targets that go beyond statutory requirements.
To conclude. A circular economy enables us to tell a positive, optimistic story. But it’s not an easy transition. It is difficult, chaotic, and full of all sorts of risks. But it’s worth the effort, because it’s absolutely necessary. A fully circular economy is our door to a healthy global economy, with zero emissions and zero waste.
To open this door for everyone, we need to share our knowledge more effectively. Indeed, we need a shared language, too. We must invest in processes that lead to standardisation throughout value chains.
Moreover, we need a continuous dialogue with the private sector, with the people who make and sell the goods we want and need. But we also need a transparent dialogue with the public. To ensure everyone’s commitment to the goals, we need to make clear why and how we want to reach those goals. By showcasing the positive effects of a circular economy and showing people what’s in it for them.
I look forward to the panel discussion.