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  • Davide Bonesi

From Concept to Action: A Global Roadmap for an Inclusive Circular Economy

The proliferation of national circular economy roadmaps initiated by governments all over the world is critical to the transition to a circular economy. Yet, there is no international framework facilitating a global coordination process. The lack of such a structure is due to the absence of the most important factor in multilateral coordination: a common vision. Currently, there is no collective vision for an inclusive global circular economy transition. This premise led to the idea of creating a global roadmap for an inclusive circular economy. Its aim is ambitious, but still just the beginning: developing a common vision for an inclusive global circular economy transition.

At the Stockholm+50 conference in June 2022, Chatham House launched a paper that presented the idea of a global roadmap for an inclusive circular economy. Based on feedback received by multiple stakeholders from around the world, Chatham House with partners UNIDO, WBCSD, AfDB, ACEN, GIZ, Circular Innovation Lab, EU CE Stakeholder Platform, PACE, World Economic Forum, IGES and Circular Electronics Partnership, have decided to move from concept to collective action and proceed with the Global Circular Economy Roadmap Initiative.

With this solid base, the launch process of the Global Circular Economy Roadmap Initiative followed in Kigali, Rwanda, at the World Circular Economy Forum 2022. On December 8th, we participated in the Accelerator Session titled “From concept to action: A global roadmap for an inclusive circular economy” with other experts in the field.

The goal of the session was to present and inform about the launch of the initiative, which has the aim of embracing a global approach and favouring a just and inclusive transition. The main topics discussed were the development of a shared, global vision for an inclusive circular economy; the identification of essential areas for mutual collaboration and international coordination; and increasing the level of ambition for a circular economy in order to address environmental and human development challenges. These main topics represent the essence of the global roadmap. However, the speakers also highlighted the need for sequencing, the importance of bringing in the voice of businesses, and the relevance of harmonizing metrics.

To begin with, the different steps of the global roadmap were presented. The sequential phases designed over a relatively short time frame start with a vision, continue with the identification of areas for functional collaboration, and end with making collective areas for action operative. As for the first phase, co-creating a vision is essential to embracing all initiatives in one global and positive cacophony. As Stephen Sicars (Director of the Circular Economy and Environmental Protection Division at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization) affirmed during his intervention, “We see a lot of engagement and initiatives, but we need guidance for common steps.” Given all the proposals, we need a clear plan about how to move forward together. Moreover, he specified that a roadmap would be useful to understand where to start working to enable a circular economy, how fast to move, and how to connect all initiatives. According to the roadmap plan, after its launch in December 2022, the first milestone should be reached in September 2023. At this point, the outcomes of the visioning process should be implemented.

In terms of identifying areas for functional collaboration, the speakers emphasised the importance of involving as many actors as possible in the roadmap's implementation. In particular, the more diverse the set of actors, the better the result will be. Governments, academia, businesses, NGO’s and other institutions should collaborate to design the circular economy’s future. Linked to this, a need for harmonizing metrics arises. In fact, many different stakeholders cannot find an effective solution if they don’t speak the same language. This point was brought into the discussion by another panellist, Clea Kaske-Kuck (Director of Policy, Advocacy and Member Mobilization at WBCSD). Together with the importance of harmonisation, she stressed the relevance of alignment and making sure that businesses are part of the process.

The harmonisation process taken into account by the speakers was linked to another fundamental realm of the roadmap: inclusivity. The Minister of Environment of the Republic of Angola, Paula Francisco Coelho, supported this idea in her opening remarks. In particular, she stated that “the circular economy transition should be all-inclusive while respecting all countries’ and institutions’ peculiarities.” In addition, she mentioned the relevant work that many institutions are bringing to the transition, mentioning in particular the Circular Innovation Lab. Circular Innovation Lab is one of the stakeholders playing a role in the realization of a global roadmapping process. Together with different stakeholders, the minister suggested that new alliances can be enabled. The overall effect would be to raise a general ambition for a circular economy. The latter would be the third main aim of the roadmap, besides the operational part.

Bringing together as many different stakeholders as possible can help us address one of the key issues on the roadmap. Apoorva Arya (Founder and CEO of the Circular Innovation Lab) found that in sharing the best practices and knowledge among the global south and north. “There are solutions out there that don’t need reshaping processes…they are just out there…and we should build a framework for them.” Following that, Apoorva focused on how the roadmapping process would be valuable for the Circular Innovation Lab. She reported that there is a lot of confusion about the areas to focus on and the indicators to address when talking about the circular economy. A global roadmap can help us solve this problem.

Given the international experiences gained in their jobs, a need for sequencing the global roadmap among the speakers emerged. Both Stephen Sicars and Astrid Schomaker (Director of Green Diplomacy and Multilateralism and Directorate General for Environment at the European Commission) shared that the roadmap will soon be outdated, given the speed of our world today.

Finally, Astrid Schomaker recalled the circular economy as a broad and inclusive policy in her closing remarks. After all the important contributions of the panellists, she wanted to mention governance. Common, international governance in such a topic would provide a governmental approach to collective action, thus, reinforcing the action. Well-established governance would also help in giving more visibility to the important measures, giving them political resonance around the world.


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