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From COP28 to a circular world: Investments need to focus on the circular economy alongside renewables

In the wake of COP28, which called upon parties to transition away from fossil fuels, the World Circular Economy Forum 2024 (WCEF2024) emerges as a landmark event that highlights the circular economy as the premier post-fossil fuel investment frontier. WCEF2024 will take place in Brussels, Belgium from 15-18 April, and convenes thousands of experts to explore the vast opportunities that the circular economy presents.

Money piled, oil drill, Manneken pis, globe and the WCEF2024 logo
Image by Topias Dean, Sitra

HELSINKI, 24 January 2024 – The transition from fossil fuels to renewables is imperative, yet alongside this, a strong focus on circularity is also needed. This means we must commit to manage all materials more sustainably, reducing dependence on fragile supply chains and alleviating pressure on nature. The opportunities in the circular economy are enormous. According to Circle Economy Foundation’s global Circularity Gap Report 2024 which was published today, the global economy is currently only 7.2% circular, emphasising the untapped economic potential in this transformational shift.

“We are convinced that the next big play in the investment arena we’ll see is around circular solutions,” states Atte Jääskeläinen, president of the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, the initiator of WCEF. “Regulations are essential for steering investment flows towards circularity, which is crucial for the sustainable development of societies. This shift is necessary to tackle overconsumption of natural resources.”

This year, the landmark event of the circular economy underlines the world’s extraordinary opportunities after the decisions made in the UN’s Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai last December. The final outcomes of COP28 noted circular economy approaches as a tool in the transition to sustainable patterns of consumption and production.

The co-chair of the UN’s International Resource Panel (IRP) Janez Potočnik notes that it is possible to mitigate growth in resource use while growing the economy, reducing inequality, improving well-being, and significantly reducing environmental impacts. “Our economic system is wasteful and unjust. Material (over)use is a main element of global sustainability and equality challenges deserving proper policy attention.”

Initial findings of the IRP’s upcoming flagship report, the “Global Resources Outlook 2024”, show the undeniable need for a circular economy: The use of new (virgin) materials has continued to grow on average over 2.3 per cent per year. Without urgent and concerted action to change the way resources are used, material resource extraction could increase by almost 60 per cent from current levels by 2060, from 100 to 160 billion tonnes.

“After decisions made in the COP28, there is plenty of room for wiser, circular solutions among global systems – for example in agrifood, mobility and consumables”, says Ivonne Bojoh, CEO of Circle Economy Foundation. “We must reform our finance and labour policies to put in place lasting and impactful changes that address the root cause of climate change and social inequity.”

The World Circular Economy Forum WCEF is a global initiative of Finland and Sitra. This year marks the 8th iteration of WCEF. As a collaboration platform for circular economy thinkers and doers from all over the world, the forum strengthens its science-based approach through new partnerships with the International Resource Panel (as a science partner) and Circle Economy Foundation (as a programme partner). WCEF2024 is organised also in collaboration with several other international partners.

In addition to showcasing solutions from around the world, WCEF2024 offers plenaries, parallel sessions and hands-on workshops. The forum also collaborates with two major players in Brussels: the European Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform who delivers a European track to the main event, and the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union who curates a full day of accelerator sessions on 17 April, including site visits to circular economy companies in Belgium.

If you are interested in learning more about the event and taking action to build a sustainable, circular future, please visit the WCEF2024 website.

Further information on the event

Mika Sulkinoja, Project Director of WCEF, Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, mika.sulkinoja@sitra.fi, tel. +358 50 357 1723

Rebecca Nohl, Sherpa to Janez Potočnik (co-chair of IRP), Systemiq, rebecca.nohl@systemiq.earth

Ilektra Kouloumpi, Senior Innovation and Global Alliances Lead, Circle Economy Foundation, ilektra@circle-economy.com

Media contacts

Samuli Laita, Media liaison of the WCEF, Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, samuli.laita@sitra.fi, tel. +358 40 536 8650

Amy Kummetha, Communications Manager, Circle Economy Foundation, amy@circle-economy.com

Media accreditation, the media kit and online briefing

Accreditation for media participants is open. Please find the registration form as well as the media kit at wcef2024.com/media.

An online media briefing will be held for journalists on 8 April from 14:00 (CEST). To register, please follow the WCEF2024’s media website and subscribe to the newsletter!

For editors

In a circular economy, we get more value from what we have by making products that last and by keeping those products in active use as long as possible. This also reduces the need to extract new natural resources, leaving more room for nature to thrive.

The World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) creates a new economy, businesses and jobs, by leveraging circular solutions to solve the planetary crises. Since 2017, the forum has gathered forward-looking thinkers and doers showcase and enact the world’s leading circular economy solutions. WCEF is a global initiative of Finland and Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund. WCEF2024 is organised by Sitra and produced with Circle Economy Foundation (programme partner) and the International Resource Panel (science partner), in close collaboration with international partner organisations.

The Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra is an active fund for the future. It aims to create a fair and sustainable future and work with partners to ensure that Finland can lead the way in the transition to a fair and competitive carbon-neutral circular economy – a new society in which our everyday lives and well-being are no longer based on excessive consumption and fossil fuel use. Sitra was founded in 1967 and is an independent public fund operating directly under the supervision of the Finnish Parliament.

The International Resource Panel was launched by the United Nations Environment Programme in 2007 to build and share the knowledge needed to improve our use of resources worldwide. The Panel consists of eminent scientists, highly skilled in resource management issues from both developed and developing regions, civil society, industrial and international organisations. Their reports distil the latest scientific, technical and socio-economic findings around global resource use.

Circle Economy Foundation is a global impact organisation with an international team of passionate experts based in Amsterdam. We empower industries, cities and nations with practical and scalable solutions to put the circular economy into action. Our vision is an economic system that ensures the planet and all people can thrive. To avoid climate breakdown, our goal is to double global circularity by 2032.