Circular economy as a cross-sectoral strategy for sustainable development

CEPAL, Sesión de apertura, evento economía circular

CEPAL, Sesión de apertura, evento economía circular

On March 29 and 30, an event entitled "The circular economy: a cross-sectoral strategy for sustainable development" was held as part of the project "Inclusive, sustainable and smart cities in the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean", a cooperation program between the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

The circular economy has been gaining increasing relevance worldwide, especially because of its cross-cutting nature across economic sectors. The transition to a circular economy implies a profound change in the way we produce and consume, as well as the development of economic models that create value in a sustainable manner.

The objective of the event was focused on updating the state of the art of the implementation of the circular economy in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region, presenting studies and initiatives in the region in different sectors. During the event, learning experiences were presented in relation to the development of policies and implementation of technologies, as a kick-off to open the dynamics of the project aimed at encouraging regional efforts in this area, which contribute to meeting global decarbonization goals.

The opening session of the event was conducted by Joseluis Samaniego, Director of ECLAC's Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division, who commented that the circular economy is a way of transforming our systems to address the problems arising from the current development model, which is why it is identified as a strategy with the potential to reduce environmental impacts, close social gaps and generate economic growth. Samaniego added that in LAC, progress is already being made in the transition to the circular economy through regulations, plans and strategies, and that the success of this transition will depend on their alignment and the meeting between public policy and technological change, so that coordination and cooperation among actors is important to accelerate progress towards the implementation of this concept.

Thomas Schmitt, Minister of the German Embassy in Chile, who accompanied the opening session, commented on the impact left by the pandemic, causing a delay in economic, social and environmental development globally. In this context, Schmitt added that German Cooperation seeks to act collaboratively, together with ECLAC, focusing its priorities on recovery policies, and with a just transition towards more sustainable economic models. In this context, he added that the circular economy is of great importance, especially because it cuts across economic sectors, both in the region and in Europe, as it reduces CO2 emissions, boosts economic growth and creates new jobs.

Based on this same welcome, Jeannette Sanchez, Director of the Natural Resources Division at ECLAC, added that the application of the circular economy paradigm allows improving efficiency in the use of materials, water and energy, with emphasis on the need to make a relative and absolute decoupling of the use of finite resources. Sánchez added that there are possibilities of applying this paradigm in several fields where processes with a circular logic can be implemented, such as in mining, sanitation and energy generation. In this context, he added that good practices, standards and regulations are already emerging in LAC countries.

During the first day of the event (March 29), in part 1, three studies conducted by ECLAC were presented: "Overview of circular economy roadmaps in Latin America and the Caribbean"; "Modeling the macroeconomic effects of the transition to the circular economy in Latin America: the cases of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru"; and "International trade and the circular economy in Latin America and the Caribbean". In this same block of studies, Universidad del Desarrollo (UDD) presented the document "Circular cities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Towards a new paradigm for sustainable urban development". This overview of studies highlights the importance of the circular economy paradigm and presents a broader vision of its implementation in the region.

In the second part of the event, innovative initiatives for implementing the circular economy in different sectors, such as mobility, lithium battery management, waste, plastics and sustainable construction, were presented. In the third part, representatives from ministries and institutions in Chile, Colombia, Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Uruguay commented on the advances in public policies and initiatives that are being implemented in their national and local contexts.

On the second day (March 30), in the fourth part of the event, dialogues were held with experts on the policies and technologies needed to promote the implementation of the circular economy in the region, with the participation of actors from international organizations, the public and private sectors, academia and trade associations.

This event undoubtedly contributed to highlight the importance of implementing the circular economy in the region, putting into context the state of the art, both in research and in the strategies that countries and local governments are already adopting, as well as in the impulses that different sectors are activating so that changes can be generated towards a more sustainable development model.

We invite you to review the live recordings of the event in Spanish of day 1 and day 2 (day 1 and day 2 in Portuguese; day 1 and day 2 in English), as well as the presentations of the speakers and material that has been prepared in this framework.