Biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate and the extractive, wasteful and polluting linear economy is increasingly recognized as one of the main underlying causes of this crisis. Currently, more than 90% of the loss of biodiversity is due to the extraction and transformation of natural resources.
To halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity, the way products and food are produced, used and consumed must be radically transformed. Conservation and restoration efforts alone, crucial as they are, will not be enough.
The circular economy offers a framework for that transformation. If waste and pollution are removed, products and materials circulate and nature is regenerated, biodiversity can thrive. Applied together, these three principles can help address the root causes of biodiversity loss, as demonstrated in the recent Ellen MacArthur Foundation report: “Nature’s Imperative: How the Circular Economy Addresses Biodiversity Loss”. biodiversity”.
The three principles of the circular economy that can have a positive impact on biodiversity are:
Eliminate waste and pollution: to reduce threats to biodiversity. In a circular economy, driven by design, waste and pollution are removed to reduce these direct threats to biodiversity. For example, eliminating unnecessary plastics and redesigning plastic products so that they have value after use (to reuse, recycle or compost) means that they can circulate in the economy instead of being wasted and polluting the environment.
Circulate products and materials to make room for biodiversity. When products and materials circulate in the economy, the need to produce them from virgin materials is reduced. In fashion, for example, business models that keep cotton clothing in use longer, assuming new clothing purchases are displaced, will reduce the amount of land needed to grow cotton. This leaves more space for other uses, including the conservation of natural spaces.
Regenerate nature so that biodiversity thrives. Economic activity can and should actively rebuild biodiversity. For example, regenerative agricultural approaches, such as agroecology, agroforestry, and managed grazing, sequester carbon in the soil and improve its health, increase biodiversity in surrounding ecosystems, and allow agricultural land to remain productive rather than degrade with time, thus reducing the pressure to expand them.
Read the full report here.