The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has found that circular economy has important potential benefits for nature, but needs to be integrated more closely with biodiversity policies and strategies.
In a new report– Towards a circular economy that begins and ends in nature, – , the IUCN Europe said that the integration would help to ensure unintended negative impacts are avoided while strengthening its positive contribution to nature.
The IUCN mentioned that circular economy was a positive step forward to help achieve environmental targets. When implemented with nature in mind, it can present an important opportunity for nature and biodiversity. As outlined by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services(IPBES, 2019b), to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, there is a need to transform production and consumption systems. This is precisely what this economy aims to address, the UN agency said.
“The circular economy concept can undoubtedly be a great asset in transforming our production and consumption patterns and achieving environmental goals. However, we cannot take this for granted: some practices linked to this economy, if not implemented with nature in mind, may potentially pose risks to biodiversity. To ensure we get the maximum out of this type of economy to help biodiversity, the two policy areas need to be more integrated“, says Alberto Schnell Arroyo, Senior Manager, Policy and Programme, IUCN Europe.
The new report mainly examines links and potential gaps between circular economy and biodiversity policy approaches in the European Union. It mainly focuses on policies related to food, water and nutrients value chain, which is a key driver of land use change and biodiversity loss, and was highlighted in the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan as a sector with high resource use and potential for circularity.
The report acknowledges the strong potential of the circular economy to achieve environmental targets. It also points out that some theories or practices associated with this economy concept today need to be carefully considered to ensure they do not pose a risk to biodiversity. For instance, a growing demand for bio-based materials to replace plastics can result in increased land use pressures and habitat losses, while a growing demand for timber as a sustainable building material may lead to a loss of primary forests or the plantation of monocultures.
To address these potential issues and ensure that efforts to transition to a circular economy maximises its contribution to reversing biodiversity loss, the authors call for more policy cohesion within the EU as well as internationally, for instance through the United Nations’ post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which is expected to be adopted in Montreal this month.