Nordic Council Identifies Instruments to Support Circular Economy Transition
Photo by Ivetta Gerasimchuk | IISD
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The Nordic Council of Ministers released a report examining the potential of policy instruments to support a transition towards a circular economy.

The report focuses on the construction and demolition sector, which produces the highest amount of waste in the Nordic countries.

Proposed recommendations highlight opportunities to make progress on SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production).

8 March 2018: The Nordic Council of Ministers has assessed the potential of 32 policy instruments to accelerate a transition towards a circular economy, with a focus on the construction and demolition sector. The resulting recommendations offer insight into ways to promote sustainable consumption and production and resource efficiency, in line with SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production).

According to the report from the Council titled, ‘Circular economy in the Nordic construction sector: Identification and assessment of potential policy instruments that can accelerate a transition toward a circular economy,’ the construction and demolition sector generates one of the highest volumes of waste in the EU and Nordic countries. The report aims to promote a transition to a more circular economy in the sector through maintaining, reusing, refurbishing and recycling resources and materials in all parts of the value chain. Such actions align with several SDG targets, including: target 12.2 on the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources; target 12.5 on reducing waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse; target 12.6 on encouraging companies to adopt sustainable practices; and target 12.7 on promoting sustainable public procurement practices.

The report presents findings from 16 interviews with stakeholders in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Interviewees primarily suggested policy instruments focused on rules and regulation, including supplementary requirements for documenting the content and quality of building materials, new requirements for documenting the use of reused or recycled building products, and new requirements for waste and building demolition plans.

Interviewees expect that resource consumption can be reduced 20%, compared to the current consumption of building materials in the sector. This reduction would result in a decrease of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by approximately 10 million tonnes across the building value chain for all four Nordic countries. These reductions would come from reducing GHG emissions caused by extracting raw materials, manufacturing building materials and transporting building materials.

The report addresses potential implementation challenges and budgetary impacts of this transition, including for public authorities and private companies. Most interviewees predicted that a transition towards a circular economy will generate positive annual growth in the long-term.

Recommendations to accelerate a transition towards a circular economy in the Nordic construction sector recommendations include: analyzing how the proposed policy instruments apply to the legislative structure and policies of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden; conducting a socio-economic impact analysis of the suggested policy instruments; and clarifying definitions of recycled and reused building materials among the Nordic countries. The report further recommends collecting and disseminating best case examples of value chain collaboration as inspiration for the Nordic construction sector and policymakers, and designing national roadmaps for a transition toward a circular economy.

SDG 12 is one of six SDGs that will be reviewed at the 2018 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July. [Report Webpage] [Publication: Circular Economy in the Nordic Construction Sector]


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