Statement directeur generaal IenW Klimaattop Madrid

Toespraak van de directeur-generaal van het ministerie van Infrastructuur en Waterstaat Roald Lapperre op maandag 9 december 2019 bij het High Level evenement over de circulaire economie tijdens de 25e Klimaattop in Madrid. De tekst is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Ms Schmidt, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

First, I’d like to thank the Chilean presidency and in particular, you – Minister Schmidt – for organising this event on the circular economy. I fully agree with you that the transition to a circular economy is necessary if we want to reduce emissions and build long-term resiliency. I also greatly appreciate Chile’s efforts in accelerating this transition.

For instance, by organising this high-level session. And by introducing a landmark circular economy law, the 2016 Framework Law for Waste Management, Extended Producer Responsibility and Promotion of Recycling. It’s the first South American country to have done so. In fact, it’s possibly the first law in the world that seeks to directly incorporate the informal waste sector into the regulated market as a recognised, certified trade.

Finally, Chile’s also drawing up a Roadmap to a Circular Economy – to which my minister for the Environment and Housing is happy to contribute Dutch knowledge and experiences with the transition so far.

Fortunately, developments towards a circular economy are not limited to Chile and the Netherlands. There’s great momentum worldwide. The number of circular initiatives is growing. There are pilots, programmes, startups: now is the time to take things to the next level.

I see 2 reasons for this growing awareness:

1. Until now, climate talks and actions have focused on sustainable energy and energy savings. Especially since the Paris Agreement. That makes sense – sustainable energy is a very direct way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is one aspect that we tend to overlook: the exploration, processing, and use of raw materials, which results in significant carbon emissions throughout the material chain.

A growing body of research confirms that a smarter use of raw materials can substantially reduce industrial carbon emissions. In fact, according to several recent experts’ reports, the potential reduction is as much as 60 per cent by 2050. If you consider the alarming reports by the WMO and UN Emissions Gap Report published just before this conference about the growing emissions worldwide despite the historical agreement in Paris, you realise time is not on our side. And that a circular economy is not a luxury but a necessity in order to achieve our climate ambitions.

The second reason is more pragmatic: new economic and social opportunities! More and more companies, big and small, understand that they need to change. Not only to remain competitive in a world where resource security is under pressure, but also to reap the benefits of the global transition to a more circular economy.

The outlook for the European Union is positive. There’s a potential economic benefit of 1.8 trillion euros by 2030 and over 1 million new jobs across the EU by 2030. The crucial question now is: how do we get there?

It starts with ambition. The Netherlands is working to achieve a fully circular economy by 2050. By 2030, we want to have halved our use of primary raw materials. Long-term clarity helps businesses make investment decisions and helps regional governments develop their policies.

How do we manage this process?

Crucially, we do not talk about businesses. We talk and work with them about how to achieve our agreed goals, and how to overcome legal and financial barriers. It’s also vital to measure and evaluate how much progress is being made in the transition to a circular economy. We want to know how the measures and actions taken and our use of resources contribute to both circular economy and climate goals.

We’ve drawn up action plans, together with representatives of our leading economic sectors – such as plastics, construction and manufacturing. Businesses have committed to innovation in their production and value chains.

On the policy side, we’re going to expand our producer responsibility strategy, extending manufacturers’ responsibility for waste, as well as facilitating innovation. We’re developing new design standards, based on the principle of reuse and repair. And we’re stimulating the market, for instance, through green public procurement across central government. Government is a big party on the market, and accounts directly for 15 to 20 per cent of our GDP. These policies support new sustainable business and new jobs, often of higher value to society.

All this will support innovative steps towards more efficient use of resources. For example:

Multinational DSM has teamed up with the startup Niaga to develop a new technology for recycling carpets. All carpets made with this technology can be fully recycled and made into new carpets, in the same volume and with the same quality. We’re talking about 4.5 billion square metres of carpet, carpet tiles and rugs every year!

Or take new, upcoming companies like Ioniqa. It has developed an innovative technology to infinitely recycle PET bottles, textiles and carpets. It has joined forces with big players like Unilever and Indorama, a global PET producer. Right now they’re building a new plant in the Netherlands.

And of course, we’re a country of bicycles, so you won’t be surprised to hear that we’ve now got the world’s first bike path made entirely from recycled plastic. What’s more, the fashion and textiles industry is increasingly discovering new methods to recover and reuse textile fibres, thus reducing virgin production and associated environmental pressures.

Ultimately of course, it’s innovative companies that make a circular economy. And I’m glad to see so many companies are coming up with great circular ideas. Thinking: this can be done better, smarter, with less waste, and at lower costs to business and society. Companies are finding new business models.

We’re learning by doing. Partnerships between companies as well as with the public sector are crucial.

A circular business model is a cooperative model. The key lesson is: find the right partners. You can only create a circular business model together.

The Netherlands wants to create a business climate where circular initiatives can flourish. We stimulate, we share knowledge, we seek cooperation. Nationally and internationally.

For example in Europe. Together with France we’re aiming for a European plastics pact. In spring 2020 we hope to present this pact, which will reduce plastic litter and packaging and promote renewable plastic use.

We’re also active at international level. For example, through our membership of the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy, PACE. All Platform members, which includes some of the world’s leading companies in their fields, are committed to accelerating the transition to a circular economy, by working together: public-private partnerships, scaling up circular solutions and business models. The PACE secretariat is located in the Netherlands.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To conclude. We’re in this together. So we need to share knowledge and work together on this big transition to a circular economy. Because it’s our shared responsibility.

The circular economy is going from startup to scale-up. We need to accelerate and start spreading our ‘circular’ wings. Because it is possible to grow an economy that has less impact on the environment. Less impact on resources. And lower costs.

That’s not only good news for the shareholders of businesses, but also for all the 7.5 billion shareholders of this planet and for the next generations!

Thank you.