These three circular economy principles can help combat the climate crisis

  • 45% of global emissions come from making things, everyday products like cars and clothes, and managing land
  • Only a systems-level approach will enable us to achieve the 1.5 ̊C target by 2050 while building greater resilience to climate change.

Energy lies at the core of efforts to address climate change. Worldwide, the electricity, heat and fuel consumed by buildings and transportation systems accounts for 55% of the greenhouse gas emissions heating the planet. But 45% of global emissions come from making things, everyday products like cars and clothes, and managing land.

Addressing those emissions will require rethinking how we make and use products and transitioning to a circular economy, according to a new report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a UK-based nonprofit that promotes the circular economy, and Material Economics, a consulting firm based in Sweden.

To tackle the emissions from producing products and managing land the report, “Completing the Picture: How the Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change,” urges international organizations, lawmakers, businesses, investors and researchers to work together in “moving away from today’s ‘take-make-waste’ linear model towards an economy that is regenerative by design.”

1. Design products and systems to avoid emissions-producing waste and pollution from the very beginning…

2. Cut energy use by using products and materials for longer in more ways…

3. Employ agricultural methods that regenerate ecosystems and sequester carbon in the soil…

…The report recommends that international institutions emphasize the circular economy in climate action and that policymakers include circular economy measures in national climate plans. It also recommends that other stakeholders, including businesses, investors and academia, collaborate.

“Only a systems-level approach will enable us to achieve the 1.5 ̊C target by 2050,” the report says, “while building greater resilience to climate change.”

Read the full Ensia article here and the report here (pdf).

Ellie Cohen

Ellie Cohen, CEO of The Climate Center, is a leader in catalyzing cross-boundary, collaborative and just solutions to climate change and environmental degradation. She has received numerous honors including the Beyond Duke Alumni Award for Service and Leadership (2019), the National Park Service Pacific West Region Partnership Award (2018) and the Bay Nature Environmental Hero Award (2012). She was named one of “100 Women Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet” in the US by the National Women’s History Project (2009) and she was selected to participate in the Climate Reality Project’s second training with former Vice President Al Gore (2007).

Most recently, Ellie served as President and CEO of Point Blue Conservation Science where she and the organization’s 160+ scientists worked with hundreds of public and private partners to develop climate-smart solutions for wildlife and people. Collaborative accomplishments during her 20-year tenure at Point Blue include growing the organization five-fold to a workforce of 200 and an annual budget of $14 million; winning official Observer NGO status at the global climate policy body, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Ellie represented Point Blue in Bonn, Germany at COP23 and in Katowice, Poland at COP24); securing ~$100 million of conservation investments in over 2 million acres of agricultural lands (rangelands, croplands, creeks, and forests) for water, carbon sequestration, biodiversity and local communities; and, guiding 95% of the urbanized coast of California (70+ jurisdictions) in preparing for sea level rise and extreme storms. You can follow Ellie on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Among her collaborative leadership roles, Ellie served as an invited member of the National Adaptation Forum‘s Steering Committee, the California Adaptation Forum’s Advisory Committee and the San Francisco Bay Area’s Resilient by Design Research Advisory Committee. As an invited member of the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Climate-Smart Conservation team, Ellie co-authored the climate-smart conservation principles and communications chapter in the national “Guide to Climate-Smart Conservation, Putting Adaptation Principles into Practice.” Ellie also co-founded the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium and served as Chair of the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative as well as the Central Valley and San Francisco Bay Habitat Joint Ventures.

Born in Baltimore, Ellie received her undergraduate degree with honors in botany from Duke University. Field studies in butterfly ecology brought her to California. She later received her Master of Public Policy degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where she was honored with the Policy Analysis Exercise Award for highly distinguished performance and the first annual Robert F. Kennedy Public Service Award. In 2001, she was awarded a fellowship to Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business’ Executive Program for Non-profit Leaders.

Ellie volunteers as an invited member of the County of Marin Drawdown Sequestration Collaborative, an appointed member of the San Anselmo Sustainability Commission and an appointed member of the Marin Municipal Water District’s E-Bike Community Advisory Committee.

She and her family live in San Anselmo, California with 2 teenagers, 2 dogs and 2 cats (indoors, of course!). Ellie enjoys e–biking, birding, hiking, baseball, Broadway musicals, bassoon, landscape painting, historical fiction, cultural exchanges, Stranger Things, Bananas, Rumikub and everything climate change related. You can follow Ellie on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Ellie Cohen
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