The adoption of a circular economy model could recover the world’s biodiversity levels to those in 2000 by 2035, according to a new study from Finnish innovation fund Sitra and Vivid Economics.
According to the study’s findings, by designing an economy and a society without waste and producing lasting products that can be kept active for longer, society will get more value from what it has. This would reduce the need to extract new natural resources, which in turn, would leave more room for nature.
The study, entitled ‘Tackling root causes – Halting biodiversity loss through the circular economy’, quantified and analysed the global impact that a transition to a circular economy in various sectors would have on biodiversity, and discovered that the food and agricultural sectors have the largest positive impact potential.
According to the study, a greater shift towards alternative proteins and regenerative agriculture, combined with reducing food waste by 50%, could halt biodiversity loss by 2035.
“It is possible to halt biodiversity loss, but it requires significant changes in how we produce, consume and manage products and materials,” said Kari Herlevi, project director at Sitra.
“The circular economy offers solutions, and the best thing is that these solutions are ready to be used.”
A circular economy within the food and agriculture sector would see the food consumed by the global population produced on a much smaller area of agricultural land, using fewer inputs such as fertiliser and fuel.
The study analysed what impact significant changes in land use would have on biodiversity. It concluded that adopting circular interventions in the agri-food sectors could free up land equating to one and a half times the size of the EU by 2050.
Ultimately, the less land being used for agricultural purposes, the more land there is, in theory, available to give back to nature. The study also found that if this change was made, methane emissions from agriculture would reduce by as much as 90% by the same date.
Developing a circular economy
To make transitioning to a circular economy possible, policymakers and businesses must integrate the concept into all decision making processes and strategies, the study explained. It states that circular interventions that will both halt biodiversity loss and mitigate climate change should be emphasised immediately.
“Biodiversity loss is a challenge that may even eclipse climate change in the years to come, and thus far we are not doing nearly enough,” Herlevi said.
“The good news is that the circular economy has largely been an overlooked opportunity, even though we already have the circular solutions right in front of us.”
The study gives examples including substituting alternative proteins for meat and reducing food waste. Throughout the study, these strategies are focused on, as they both have strong impact potential and are relatively easy for people to adopt.
“We can halt the biodiversity decline before it is too late, even as early as the next decade,” Herlevi concluded.