Speech State Secretary Van Veldhoven High Level Political Forum, side event Circular Economy in New York

“If we use raw materials more efficiently we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent globally.
Consumption of raw materials deserves to be in the international spotlight.” Quote from State Secretary Van Veldhoven in New York at the side event on Circular Economy, 16 July 2018.

Welcome to this event on the circular economy, which we’ve organised in close cooperation with the European Commission.
I’m pleased to see representatives of so many different countries. You all have different backgrounds, but you share similar goals and face similar challenges:
How can we create an economy with less waste and more re-use?
How can we grow our economy while reducing our use of raw materials?
How can a circular economy contribute to the Paris climate goals?

This is a side event. But the subject we’re talking about is anything but marginal.
A circular economy is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Resource management is linked directly to 13 of the 17 SDGs, including ending poverty, zero hunger, sufficient water, and economic growth.

The circular economy is also a driver of the Paris Climate Agreement. If we use raw materials more efficiently we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent globally.
Consumption of raw materials deserves to be in the international spotlight.
We also owe it to future generations. Their quality of life will depend on the way we deal with our scarce resources.
In the next 35 years, the global population will grow by one-third. All these people will need food, water, energy and fertile land.

I’m an optimist. I believe it’s possible for 10 billion people to live in prosperity on this planet.
But only if we make some changes.
In the past century, the world has used 34 times more raw materials and 12 times more fossil fuels. If this continues, we’ll need three planets.
We can keep looking for those two extra planets… but we’d do better to focus on the ground beneath our feet.
Because there’s so much scope for improvement:  
o    We need to use new technologies better.
o    We need more international cooperation on re-design, re-use and repair.
o    And we need a dynamic exchange of knowledge and experience on business models and job opportunities.

Interest in the circular economy is growing, especially among less prosperous countries.
More and more governments are creating better conditions. And companies around the world are getting on board.
o    There’s the African Alliance on Circular Economy, for example. The Indian Resource Panel’s actions aimed at greater resource efficiency. And there’s the Singapore Circular Economy Action Plan.
o    And what about the new regulations in the EU and China? China wants three-quarters of its largest business parks to become circular in the next few years.
o    And then there are the international, multi-stakeholder partnerships, like the One Planet Network and the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy.

We’re making the transition in my own country too – step by step.
In five key sectors (construction, plastics, biomass and food, manufacturing, and consumer goods), we’re working with public authorities, companies, knowledge institutions and civil society towards concrete targets – to reduce carbon emissions by 49 per cent by 2030. And to cut raw-material use by 50 per cent.
I’m proud that we’re one of the first countries to set quantitative targets for a circular economy.

A few weeks ago I set out how we’re going to achieve these targets:
o    Re-use will become the new standard in design. New economy: new design strategies. The Netherlands already recycles 81 per cent of waste. The next step is eco-design.  
Producers will be made responsible for disposing of their products. This will encourage re-use and cut down on waste.
o    The government will engage in circular procurement.
o    And we’re banning plastic disposables. We’ve all seen the pictures of plastic soup. Plastic doesn’t belong in our natural environment, and there are plenty of sustainable alternatives. The more countries that join in, the better!
o    Finally, we want to promote international cooperation and knowledge exchange. So that we can scale up our efforts, not only in combating plastics and e-waste, but also in striving for more sustainable textiles, biomass and food.

So, to conclude, I’m interested in your views.
What opportunities do you see for a circular economy?
And how we can support each other internationally?