Circular Economy: a solution to cutting carbon emissions

Circular Economy:
a solution to cutting carbon emissions

The European Green Deal

In 2015, the European Commission launched the EU’s circular economy action plan. The action plan aimed to ensure that the right regulatory framework was in place to give clear signals to economic operators and society on the way forward with long term waste targets and an ambitious set of actions to be carried out before 2020. The 2015 action plan did include a ban on single-use plastics and new recycling targets, however according to the climate panel report delivered by the Danish Innovation fund, still only 9% of more than 90 billion tons of materials are reused. Despite the ambitious goals in the 2015 action plan, the number of non-reused waste has tripled over the last half-decade and is set to double again by the time we reach 2050 unless we slow this tendency drastically.

On the 13th of November, the European Commission announced the importance of embracing the Circular Economy as a direct tool to “bridge half of the gap towards the 1.5C target” as implementing a circular solution can help cut large CO2 emissions. The 1.5C target is a more ambitious target from the earlier aspiration to keep global temperature rise below 2C by the end of this century. The newly appointed Commission President Ursula von der Leyen emphasized the aim for Europe to cut carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050, where a new circular economy action plan will make up for about half of the carbon cuts. It was also mentioned that National Governments urged for the adoption of a new circular action plan in the industrial sectors, which haven’t been tackled yet in the 2015 action plan. The industries mentioned include textiles, transport, food and the sectors of construction and demolition sectors. With the newly appointed Commission, a second circular economy action plan is being prepared and will be released shortly after the new Commission takes office.

“[The circular economy] will be erected as “the number one priority” of the upcoming European Green Deal.”

Source: Euractiv, 13th Nov 2019

White Paper on solutions to mitigate climate change

On the same day, the 13th of November, the Danish Innovation Fund released its ‘White Paper on solutions to mitigate climate change and assessment of Danish Strongholds’, formulated by the Fund’s Climate Solution Panel. It’s clear that lately fighting climate change has become of big political priority. The Danish Government has responded to the 1.5C target, with the ambition to reduce emissions by 70% by 2030. To reach this target, the White Paper urges the need to find solutions that “require collaborations between business, science, energy, agriculture, transportation, industry, and infrastructure”. Moreover, this entails the adoption of low carbon technologies and production processes as well as universal behavioral changes. This calls for technological innovation, in addition to implementing policies and regulations to accelerate this transition to a low carbon society. The Danish Innovation Fund further mentions how this may enable “Danish innovation to play a key role in the global climate change mitigation efforts”.

Similar to the focus of the European Commission, the White Paper identifies the circular economy as one of the overarching solutions, accompanied by the solutions of using Data, AI and IoT as new connected ecosystems, enabling the decentralization of energy supply and demand.

The White Paper recognizes a lack of inclusion of circular economy in global policies, despite its vast potential to fight global emissions. They mention the disconnect between the efforts to fight climate change and the continued use of natural resources for production and consumption purposes. These manufactured products have the potential, through innovative practices, to extend their lifespan either through recycling or re-utilization. Moreover, mentioning how the circular economy serves as a big part of the resolution as climate solutions need to follow value chains. This is closely related to Sustainable Development Goal 12, targeting sustainable production and consumption patterns, and The Danish Innovation Fund recommends increasing the circular approach to industrial processes, for a more effective energy use and increasing materials lifecycles.

Circular Economy in the Maritime

At Reflow Maritime, we find it evident that the circular economy is an effective solution to cutting carbon emissions and aims at combining technology with an innovative approach to facilitating circular economy in the maritime industry. We believe that the key to engaging maritime components in a circular flow, while simultaneously complying with security standards is to increase traceability on the individual component. Traceability has previously been key to the facilitation of circular economy, for example, industries such as aviation and automobile use traceability to re-utilize components. As the new European Green Deal values circular economy as the number one priority, especially in the industries that haven’t been tackled in the 2015 action plan, we find it obvious that the maritime industry will be affected by this new action plan.

International Maritime Organization has already facilitated strict regulations in NOx and SOx emissions from engine fuels, however, at ReFlow we find it necessary to look into the whole value chain of the vessel. By engaging maritime components into a circular flow, it’s possible to decrease carbon emissions up to 70%, and by increasing traceability on the component, we can ensure that the re-utilization still comply. The circular economy and increase of traceability can be implemented costless, however, the obstacle to tackle is the change of behavior. This change of mindset serves as the biggest challenge to facilitating effective climate change efforts, and therefore the industry needs to be eased into this transition.