Following COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021, WRAP published the report Delivering climate ambition through a more circular economy which identifies the potential for a more circular economy to create net increases in employment in the UK and the EU, whilst also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and demand for raw materials.
This report revisits and updates the report produced between 2015 and 2018 WRAP-Employment-and-the-circular-economy-summary and Extrapolating resource efficient business models across Europe, and models three scenarios (business as usual, modest increase in circularity, and a rapid transformation towards a circular economy). The activities that qualified as being part of a circular economy included rental, reuse, repair and remanufacturing; closed and open loop recycling; biorefining (UK only).
This report demonstrates that the circular economy is not an abstract future concept; it is already a vital part of our existing economy with immediate growth opportunities and can contribute to revised NDCs for countries around the world over the coming years.
In the UK between 2014 and 2019, almost 90,000 new jobs were created in the circular economy, taking the sector to almost 560,000 employees. This boosted national gross value added whilst reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pressures on the environment. This research identifies the potential to reduce emissions associated with UK consumption of products by up to 33 million tonnes CO2eq p.a., boosting UK Gross Value Added by £82 billion and creating 550,000 jobs by 2030. The exact contribution of these scenarios to the UK’s Nationally Determined Contribution depends on the way in the circular economy continues to evolve, and in particular how it interacts with imports of products and domestic manufacturing.
Across the EU27 between 2014 and 2018, over 500,000 new jobs were created, again boosting gross value added and reducing environmental impacts. For the EU27, there is the potential for an additional 2.5 million jobs by 2030, boosting GVA by €241 billion and reducing emissions associated with EU27 consumption by 134 million tonnes CO2eq. The proportion of these savings which occur within the EU depends on the way in the circular economy continues to evolve, and in particular how it interacts with imports of products and domestic manufacturing.
This report shows that sectors of the economy which prolong the life of products and materials are already stepping up to this climate challenge, and have the potential to contribute even more in future. They are not the solution to climate change, but they nonetheless have a fundamental role to play in delivering a Net Zero ambition.
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