A circular economy is starting to roll towards zero carbon in Ireland. Geraldine Brennan writes.
Since the 1970s global resource use has tripled, reaching some 92 billion tonnes in 2017, with 90% of biodiversity loss, water stress and over half of global climate change impacts attributed to resource extraction and processing. These are some of the findings from the United Nations’ recently published Global Resources Outlook. It makes for sobering reading.
Now more than ever, the urgency to scale up action has never been greater. We have a narrowing window of just over a decade to implement radical reductions – 45-to-50% – in global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to stay well below 1.5°C.
Business is starting to embrace new economic models, like the circular economy, which radically reduce resource extraction and processing and associated GHGs. The circular economy should be seen as a group of strategies that enable us to decouple economic growth from consumption of resources. Circular strategies optimise resource flows and enable the recirculation of products, components and materials in our economies. Circular strategies include, but are not limited to: eco-design; life-cycle optimisation; product-service systems (see below); collaborative consumption; industrial symbiosis; re-use; repair; remanufacturing; resource recovery and recycling.
This alternative circular economic model has risen to prominence globally over the past decade, driven largely by volatility in resource prices and scarcity of resources. But uptake of the model at scale is patchy due to gaps in capacity building, knowledge and implementation of the circular economy. More broadly speaking, this is the “circular innovation gap”.