We need to speed up!
We need industry and agriculture to adopt sustainable business models NOW that solve social and environmental problems economically – not create them
These sectors are key to solving the world’s sustainability challenges because of their sheer size. Portland cement production alone is responsible for 5% of global CO2 emissions
Population growth and growing aspirations of that population are driving the impact of industry and agriculture
In industry, there is a growing demand for materials. By 2050, global demand for energy intensive industrial materials such as steel, cement, aluminium and plastics will probably increase by a factor of two to four. Compare that to the adoption rate of renewable electricity and process improvements – and it becomes clear that meeting environmental targets will be very difficult
Global food demand is thought to increase by almost half unless both consumers and producers change their habits significantly.
Success in these sectors will be critical. And we need to speed up. Meeting the 1.5oC climate target requires an annual decarbonisation rate of the energy system of 11.3%
The circular economy is based on three principles
Design out waste and pollution
Keep products and materials in use
And regenerate natural systems
This adds up to a redesign of entire value chains
Production of new materials is the main source of CO2 emissions by industry. But we can change this. By reusing products including CO2 itself, we save the energy embedded in them and also prevent new emissions from the production of new products. A particularly wasteful industry now is fashion. The lifetime of clothing products gets shorter all the time; and a substantial proportion of clothes is thrown away even without being sold. Recycling materials requires much less energy than producing them anew.
We need to complement this renewed industry with ‘regenerative agriculture’. This means a cultural practice that sequesters CO2 in the soil. This can be done by a variety of techniques, like ‘using organic fertilisers, planting cover crops, employing crop rotation, reducing tillage, and cultivating more crop varieties to promote agro-biodiversity
Regenerative agriculture gives benefits like improving soil structure to enable better water storage and promoting more biologically active soils that generate their own soil fertility without the need for synthetic inputs. Soils will have a greater capacity to absorb and retain water, increasing resilience against both intense rainfall and drought
A circular economy offers a systematic response to the environmental crisis by both reducing emissions and increasing resilience to its effects. The benefits encompass meeting other goals such as creating more liveable cities, distributing value more widely in the economy, and spurring innovation