The situation on the planet is alarming; we are facing a triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. The three crises are deeply interlinked and cause a great challenge to humanity, even as the world battles with pandemics, war, and economic slowdowns.
Despite these rising global challenges, Africa is making progress in creating innovative and determined initiatives to create a fully circular economy to deal with the pangs of climate change. It is not surprising, therefore, that the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 27, is taking place in Africa, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
“We are contributing to the global triple crisis rapidly due to degrading, wasteful, and polluting linear economy and this threatens our economic and human well-being. We must increasingly strive for resilient growth, and a circular economy can create numerous new opportunities. Circular supply chains, repair, reuse and recycling of products can sustain local jobs at all skill levels, assure social integration and a higher gross domestic product,” said Dr Chris Kiptoo CBS, Principal Secretary National Treasury and immediate former PS of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry during the 7th Circular Economy Conference held in Nairobi on the 26th of October.
Themed ‘Together for Implementation’, COP27 will accent the implementation of the National Determined Contributions and the Paris Agreement. It will focus on Africa, in line with the fact that African countries are exposed to some of the most severe impacts of climate change despite being the least contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Also speaking at the Circular Economy Conference, Katrin Hagemann from the European Union Delegation to Kenya noted that the transition to a circular economy will be essential in reaching the goals of COP27. She further emphasized the EU’s support towards Kenya’s ambitious public-private action in promoting a sustainable economy through the EU Green Deal.
“Kenya is increasingly exploring opportunities and challenges that COP27 will bring, especially to the private sector. We will together explore the global, regional and national efforts towards a circular economy in Kenya, showcase pioneering ideas, share global visions and see their local applications and impact,” she added.
Kenya intends to expand the scope of the circular economy beyond waste management to cover the entire economic drivers. Enhanced public-private action on the circular economy will enable existing materials to be used severally to deliver high-value goods and services.
“Am convinced that Africa is more than capable of changing the story on climate change, and that’s why we convened the Circular Economy Conference. But to do so, there is an urgency to translate conversations and commitments at both the COP27 in Egypt and the just concluded Conference in Nairobi, into real transformation. The private and public sectors must collectively implement solutions that help address climate and biodiversity challenges,” Karin Boomsma, Director of Sustainable Inclusive Business Kenya.
According to the World Bank, low- and middle-income countries recorded a 49% increase in private investment commitments from 2020, to reach a total of $76.2 billion in 2021. This creates a significant opportunity to encourage quality investments in sustainable projects. In Kenya, efforts in promoting a circular economy have placed major emphasis on the following areas, as listed by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry:
- Encouraging circular business models and production processes, reverse logistics, and feedback loops integrating reuse, refurbish and re-manufacture of products.
- Promotion of alternatives to primary raw materials and use of recycled materials.
- Promotion of design for products that last longer and are easier to repair and recycle.
- Support for a local circular economy such as industrial symbiosis where waste from one company becomes the raw material for another.
- Supporting the use of non-hazardous substances and removal of contaminants from products.
- Promotion of economic instruments and tools that support sustainable consumption.
- Promotion of training and education for green skills.
- Promotion of green public procurement.
As the Kenyan government seeks to address the impacts of climate change, the need for private-sector participation cannot be underplayed. Setting the optimum level of public-private action should result in the implementation of more circular economy projects at the national level, even as global platforms like COP27 continue to drive international agendas.
Sustainable Inclusive Business – Kenya (SIB-K) is a neutral initiative established through a fruitful partnership between the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) Foundation and the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Kenya. Its main objective is to increase awareness and the adoption of sustainable business models with a positive impact on People, the Planet and Profit, working with the private sector, Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), civil society and governments. The initiative champions for mind shift from contemporary CSR practices to creating innovative business solutions which contribute to sustainability and inclusion. The focus on sustainability informs the focus areas SIB-K engages in including circular economy, blue economy, climate change, people power, and redefining business values. It is also the lead organization in the implementation of the Kenya Plastics Pact.
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