Renewable energy isn’t enough to tackle climate change – what else can the circular economy do?

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“Ethical Markets highly recommends this new report, “COMPLETING THE  PICTURE“, making a well-researched-detailed case for why we must go  beyond renewable energy and energy efficiency to complete the global transition to  sustainable economies on the SDG metrics to  achieve truly inclusive  circular economies which will indeed, complete the picture for the global green transition!  The report points out that for every dollar invested in companies operating on the three circular economy companies: (1) Designing out waste and pollution, (2) keeping products and materials in use, (3) Regenerating natural systems, there are potential returns of up to seven dollars.  We also  cover many of these innovative technologies and companies in our annual Green Transition Scoreboard ® reports, tracking since 2009 total private investments in green sectors worldwide, currently at a cumulative USD $10.387 trillion (see “Transitioning to  Science-Based Investing: 2019-2020“).  The section on the changes needed in the current global food system, covered many of the regenerative agriculture models we also advocate, but failed to  point out that this entire food system is perilously teetering on the planet’s 3% of freshwater, now diminishing, while  our planet is 97% saltwater and there are hundreds of nutritious, salt-loving food plants (halophytes, e.g. quinoa and China’s salt-tolerant rice) that thrive on saltwater and unused, degraded and desert lands without fertilizers, pesticides, and grow in 22 countries by local people for centuries!

The need is to change from over-hyped unhealthy industrially produced diets including livestock-grown meat, which is documented as better for the planet and human health. The report does focus on the need to target corporate advertising of junk foods and the need for public awareness campaigns.  This is why we sponsor the EthicMark Awards for Communications and Advertising Uplifting the Human Spirit & Society, to show this $570 billion-dollar industry that it must achieve higher standards for public education on these vital issues.  See all out past winning ad campaigns and illustrious global Judges Panel at  We applaud the report and all the amazing work for the circular economy by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation.

~Hazel Henderson, Editor“


Ellen Macarthur Foundation

September 23, 2019

As leaders from around the world gather in New York for Climate Week NYC, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in collaboration with Material Economics, has launched Completing the Picture: How the Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change. The paper reveals the need for a fundamental shift in the global approach to tackling climate change.

Moving to renewables can only address 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve UN climate goals, the paper highlights the urgent need to tackle the remaining 45%, and demonstrates the potential of the circular economy by looking at five key areas – steel, plastic, aluminium, cement, and food.

Adopting a circular economy framework in these areas can achieve a reduction totalling 9.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2050. This is equivalent to eliminating current emissions from all forms of transport globally. These examples provide a clear message to other industries – such as fashion, electronics, and packaging – of the value the circular economy can offer.

Diet shift, emerging innovations, and carbon capture and storage are the final pieces required to complete the picture of how the world can achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Completing the Picture: How the Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change brings an important missing piece to climate change solutions, demonstrating that by building a thriving and resilient economy – businesses, financial institutions, and policymakers play an essential role.

Switching to renewable energy plays a vital role in addressing climate change, but this alone will not be enough. In order to achieve targets on climate, it is critical that we transform how we design, make, and use products and food. Completing the picture through a transition to a circular economy can enable us to meet the needs of a growing global population, while creating a prosperous and resilient economy that can run in the long term.

– Dame Ellen MacArthur – Founder, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Carbon constraints actually represent huge ingenuity opportunities. That is true for every company, for every city, and any country. That is the direction in which we need to move, and this paper offers compelling figures to give confidence in our ability to optimise decarbonisation and economic development in mutual support of each other.

– Christiana Figueres – Former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Founding Partner, Global Optimism

Completing the Picture: How the Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change reveals that it is vital to move beyond the current focus on renewable energy as a solution to climate change.

Released in collaboration with Material Economics, the paper sets out that while moving to renewables can address 55% of global GHG emissions, to achieve UN climate goals it is imperative to tackle the remaining 45%.

Concentrating on five key areas (cement, plastics, steel, aluminium, and food) Completing the Picture: How the Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change illustrates how designing out waste, keeping materials in use, and regenerating farmland can reduce these emissions by 9.3 billion tonnes. That is equivalent to eliminating current emissions from all forms of transport globally.

The paper demonstrates how businesses, financial institutions, and policymakers can build a thriving and resilient economy while playing an essential role in reaching climate targets.