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This op-ed was published in The Jakarta Post, 25 October 2018. Read HERE
Can Indonesia be a regional leader in circular economy?
By Karmenu Vella
EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
Scientists warn us that the global use of materials will more than double by 2050, and the annual resource use per capita will grow by 70% by mid-century. By the same date, demand for food could increase by 60%, for fibre by 80–95%, and for water by 55%.
There are limits to the Earth’s resources. There are also clear ceilings to the environmental strain that ecosystems can safely bear. What is required is to separate resource use from the concept of economic growth. This is one of the targets of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
This is a huge challenge for humankind, especially considering that we are already living beyond our ecological means. Why? Because we are consuming resources at a pace that is not sustainable.
I know that a lot of these issues resonate in Indonesia. The country is witnessing rapid urbanisation and economic development, with millions of people being lifted out of poverty as a result. At the same time however, consumption and production patterns are changing, requiring ever more resources and increasing pressure on the environment and human health. Air quality problems are increasing and waste generation is soaring.
I also know that Indonesia suffers greatly from the plastic waste that ends up in the ocean. In a country whose coastline of nearly 55 000km is home to roughly 70 % of the population, marine litter is an existential problem. It devastates local economies, kills the fish on which communities rely, and destroys tourism potential.
For the EU there is only one way forward: a transition from linear extraction, manufacturing, consumption and disposal to a circular economy model that keeps the resources within the economy through better design, recycling, remanufacturing, and re-use.
Circular economy offers a triple win – social, economic and environmental. It reduces waste and environmental degradation. It increases competitiveness, creates jobs and helps switch to a green economy. It leads to a truly sustainable economic development.
The EU wants to lead this global transformation by example: we have taken concrete action – through our Circular Economy Action Plan, our Plastics Strategy and recently with new rules targeting fishing gear and the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on beaches and in seas. This legislative framework is accompanied by ambitious investments in research and innovation in environmentally-friendly technologies and business models.
However, we cannot do this alone. To achieve a resource-efficient, circular and low-emission future we need global cooperation and strong partnerships.
The Indonesian government recognised the urgency of the issue and announced in 2017 it would invest up to EUR 850 million (IDR 15 trillion) over the next four years to develop a national programme to address the management of waste from land-based sources. The government also announced it would include the issue of Marine Plastic Debris in the national education programme. Finally, it's also great to see that the principles of the circular economy – smart use of resources, minimal waste and maximum re-use and recycling of materials – are gaining ground among Indonesian businesses.
Acknowledging these efforts, the European Commission has collaborated with local authorities, EuroCham and the EU-Indonesia Business Network to organise a Circular Economy Mission – a high-level political and business meeting to promote sustainable and resource-efficient policies around the world, and explore avenues for cooperation between EU and global green companies and entrepreneurs.
This is the first event of this kind in Southeast Asia. It is taking place in Jakarta from 25 – 27 October. The Circular Economy Mission will offer political and business exchange on circular economy, plastics, chemicals etc.
For Indonesian businesses, there are significant untapped opportunities from increased resource efficiency.
This year at the EU-Indonesia Business Dialogue (EIBD), youth will be put at the forefront. Transitioning to a Circular Economy relies on everyone's commitment to consume better and to manage waste responsibly. It also relies on innovators who bring smarter products and business models to the market. The EIBD Youth Dialogue will invite big brands like Nestle and Danone to exchange with smart-ups and activists, like Evoware or Waste4Change, who advocate for fundamental changes with far reaching consequences. Today the average Indonesian loses twice as much plastic into ocean as the average Chinese citizen. We want to work together with Indonesia to make it a circular economy champion.
The potential is there. We need to inspire a wave of technological and business model innovation in the country. Indonesia will need new technologies, processes and services, as well as new business models.
The circular economy must play a role in shaping our sustainable future. It requires a fundamental change, and this will not be easy. But without change there can be no progress.