Virginijus Sinkevicius the Commissioner for Environment EU gave a speech about the need to transition into a circular economy to help save the environment.
Wherever we look, we see the triple crisis facing the world – the combined threat of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. They bring increasing degradation, and a growing scarcity of the things that really matter – of land, forests, and water.
The risks are significant for us all, but I know they are especially acute in Africa. A clear and present danger to livelihoods and food security.
They compound the existing challenges, like moving out of poverty, food safety for growing populations, and creating jobs for young people.
The urgency cannot be denied. We need to address these multiple challenges together, with policies that work for people, and safeguard their future on the planet.
I firmly believe the answers lie in a fundamental economic transition.
We need a different system. A system that moves beyond that old style of thinking, where we extract, produce, consume and then throw things away, with devastating consequences for the planet.
In the EU, we have a plan to turn these challenges into opportunities.
That’s the thinking behind the European Green Deal. It aims at a radical shift towards a resilient, regenerative economy.
A world that is climate-neutral, where environmental degradation is reversed, and pollution becomes a thing of the past.
The Circular Economy is the opportunity to make the green transition a positive experience to all.
It’s about wiser use of our resources, better products, innovation and digitalisation, new business models, less waste. It’s about creating wealth in a sustainable way and keeping that value in the economy.
The circular economy brings also cost saving opportunities to citizens – be it from more durable and efficient products, or from less pollution and waste.
Our studies show huge opportunities.
For instance, implementing a first set of circular measures in priority sectors would have positive outcomes for GDP, with millions of additional jobs created by 2030.
That’s why we are preparing proposals to advance the circular economy, transform design, and make sustainable products the norm.
We also want to empower consumers on the way, a drive to improve information about products’ environmental characteristics.
Also, the first-ever EU Strategy for Sustainable Textiles will soon be in place.
The scope of this agenda is broad, and the long-term transformative potential is immense.
Europe can solve nothing on its own. We need a strong fellowship to advance the global transition to a circular economy, and in Africa, I see a very powerful partner.
We are aware of some very encouraging developments.
More and more, we see African leaders promoting the Circular Economy in multilateral fora.
The resolution on Circular Economy to be adopted at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi was tabled by the African Group.
The resolution on a Global Agreement on Plastics, which is gathering increasing support around the world, was proposed by Rwanda, working with Peru.
And GACERE, the Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency launched last year with UNEP and UNIDO, now includes Morocco, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and South Africa.
The work of the African Circular Economy Alliance is another example, and there is considerable potential for closer cooperation and exchanges on policy frameworks, investments, and business-to-business relations, especially in the five priority sectors you single out.
I would also like to expressly welcome the African Union Commission’s intention to develop a Circular Economy Action Plan for Africa. Commissioner Sacko, we are fully prepared to support you in this endeavour.
EU Development cooperation, and programmes like SWITCH Africa Green and SWITCHMED are already supporting circular and the green transition in a range of African countries.
But there are a number of areas where we could definitely do more together. And that’s why I want the Circular Economy to be a focus of our cooperation in the years to come.
We recently asked to join the African Circular Economy Alliance as a strategic partner. I think that would help us scale up work at the Commission in support of the objectives of the Alliance.
Through our trade policies and Economic Partnership Agreements, we could initiate a debate on benefits of circular economy with African states.
We need more EU-Africa business-to-business engagement.
That will boost investment in Africa, and help the large-scale deployment of green and circular business models.
Today is a great opportunity to push the Circular Economy further up the EU-Africa agenda.
We are fortunate to be joined by businesses from both continents – let’s use the opportunity to listen to what they’ve learned.
My hope is that it proves a great inspiration, and opens the way to making the circular transition a reality on the ground.