GSDR Background Report Outlines Circular Economy Benefits, Initiatives
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The report titled ‘Circular Economy for Sustainable Development’ states that circular economy is much more than waste management, and also requires policy instruments that focus on upstream phases such as product design and service development.

The report is released as a background contribution to the 2019 edition of the GSDR, which will have a focus on identifying pathways to transformation.

October 2018: The Finnish Environment Institute released a report on the concept of circular economy as a background contribution to the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) 2019. The authors note that in Europe alone, a circular economy could create “direct primary resource benefits” worth €600 billion by 2030.

The report titled, ‘Circular Economy for Sustainable Development,’ outlines various benefits of a circular economy, including: minimizing pollution, climate emissions, waste and the use of raw material; preserving natural systems; increasing competitiveness and creating new markets; and providing employment opportunities and social benefits. It states that circular economy is much more than waste management, and also requires policy instruments that focus on upstream phases such as product design and service development. It notes that the transition from the linear, “take-make-dispose” economic model to a more circular economic system will require fundamental changes in technologies, markets, user practices and institutions.

Authored by Annukka Berg, Riina Antikainen, Ernesto Hartikainen, Sari Kauppi, Petrus Kautto, David Lazarevic, Sandra Piesik and Laura Saikku, the report explores: the history and current state of circular economy; circular economy as a business and technology case; promoting, managing and measuring circular economy; social aspects of circular economy and poverty eradication; and a global transformation towards circular economy.

Characterizing Europe as a pioneer in circular economy policy development, the report notes that in 2014 the European Commission released the communication titled, ‘Towards a Circular Economy: a Zero Waste Programme for Europe,’ and in 2015 an EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy was issued. It also notes the European Commission’s adoption of measures such as: the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy, a Communication on options to address the interface between chemical, product and waste legislation; a monitoring framework on progress towards a circular economy; and a report on critical raw materials and the circular economy.

The EC’s circular economy monitoring framework includes a set of ten indicators for measuring success.

According to the report, Finland was the first country in the world to launch a roadmap to a circular economy in 2016. It intends to be a “frontrunner” in the circular economy by 2025. African countries such as Rwanda, South Africa and Nigeria launched the African Circular Economy Alliance in late 2017, and the World Circular Economy Forums (WCEFs) have emerged as “important global meeting points” for circular economy thinkers and doers around the world.

On measuring success towards a circular economy, the report refers to the European Commission’s circular economy monitoring framework, which includes a set of ten indicators grouped into four stages and aspects of the circular economy.

The GSDR is a quadrennial publication produced by an independent group of 15 eminent scientists and experts appointed by the UN Secretary-General. It is meant to provide guidance to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs in ways that integrate economic, environmental and social dimensions. The 2019 GSDR, which has a focus on finding pathways to transformation, will be considered during the July 2019 session of the HLPF.

The independent group of scientists (IGS) met in: February 2017 to identify activities needed to ensure the scientific credibility, legitimacy and relevance of the 2019 GSDR; in July 2017, to consider the scope and objectives of the report; in December 2017 for a workshop with scientists from around the world to consider how flows of raw materials between countries and continents and shifts in lifestyles affect sustainability; in March 2018 with a focus on population and macroeconomics, and an Africa consultation in May 2018.

The GSDR 2019 website notes that the IGS has finished the report’s annotated outline and a work plan for engaging with scientific communities and other stakeholders, especially from the global South. [Publication: Circular Economy for Sustainable Development] [GSDR 2019 webpage] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on Second Committee-ECOSOC meeting on circular economy]

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