Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Circular Economy

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Sustainable Development Climate Change and Circular Economy Responsible Behaviours to Adopt


Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali Direzione Generale del Terzo Settore e della responsabilità sociale delle imprese

THE PROJECT “SE MI LASCI NON VALE” (IT’S NOT FAIR IF YOU LEAVE ME) AND THE FOUR DOSSIERS This booklet was produced by the Social Promotion Association “Centro di Documentazione sui Conflitti Ambientali – CDCA Abruzzo” (Environmental Conflict Documentation Centre CDCA Abruzzo) within the project “Se mi lasci...non vale! - Conoscere e prevenire” (it’s not fair if you leave me – Awareness and prevention) financed by Abruzzo Region - Department for Health and Welfare - Social Planning Service - dpf014 under the tender procedure “Financing of initiatives and projects of regional relevance promoted by voluntary organisations and social promotion associations for the implementation of activities of general interest”. The general objective of the project is to raise awareness of waste management, waste prevention, sustainable development, climate change and circular economy through a set of activities aimed at reaching different population groups and public and private bodies, including the dossiers’ translation into the seven foreign languages most widely spoken in Abruzzo region. In particular, said four dossiers are available in the following foreign languages, in order to involve and facilitate communication and understanding of the necessary cultural change that our time imposes: Romanian, Albanian, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, English, French. These four dossiers are:

NO. 1 – “Waste cycle, appropriate disposal and recycling of end-of-life products: the 4Rs”. NO. 2 – “Damage caused by dumping waste in the natural environment and the social, environmental and economic benefits of adopting responsible and sustainable behaviours”. NO. 3 – “Alternative uses of food - avoid food waste and much more” NO. 4 – “Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Circular Economy - Responsible Behaviours to Adopt”. Anyone can distribute and print the dossiers, retaining their graphic and content features. “...We will be known by the tracks we leave behind...” Dakota Proverb

August 2021


Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Circular Economy Sustainable Development The concept of sustainable development emerged towards the end of the 20th century. By its definition, sustainable development means a level of progress that is evenly distributed among populations, capable of using the planet's limited resources in a responsible manner. Sustainable development suggests a future projection of human needs, considering future ones equally important. A high pressure on resources (food, energy, mineral resources) exerted in the present, would risk significantly compromising the ability of future generations to have access to them. Each production process uses inputs (labour, capital, technology, natural resources), so their use and coordination must be optimised. Intermediate goods and services

Capital Labour Raw Materials Natural resources

Goods and services



Inputs that, for the same costs and results, produce less negative environmental impacts and externalities should therefore be preferred. The concept of sustainable development is general in scope and does not address a single aspect of environmental policies. It can involve multiple elements on a systemic level: resources, biodiversity, waste, climate, etc. Sustainability is therefore a necessity today and not a trend to be followed. Countries that have produced the most pollutants in the past must now take a pioneering role in defining an alternative model, considering the finite nature of the resources and the natural limits of growth. Even macroeconomic indices traditionally used to measure growth and prosperity (GDP, Gross Domestic Product) need to be backed up by innovative tools capable of investigating the reality in much greater depth. This is the direction in which BES (Sustainable Economic Wellbeing) indicators developed by ISTAT (the Italian National Statistical Institute) are moving, with a view "beyond GDP". A project that in a decade has progressively gained interest among citizens and decision-makers. Structured into 12 domains and 152 indicators, BES ranges from health and health services to digital resources, climate change and human capital. The basis of this work is the realisation that a holistic reality cannot be explained by partial numbers but that progress in an evolving world must be measured. One of the BES report’s domains is "Environment", which provides timely measurements of measured quantitative aspects but also of perceptions and sensitivities expressed by citizens. For example, concern about climate change has increased by ten percentage points in a decade: two out of three people now consider climate change or the increasing greenhouse effect to be a primary environmental concern. Again, the trend is in contrast with the national value. The landfilling of municipal waste in Abruzzo region has decreased until 2014 and then increased again to represent about 35% of the total in 2019.

BES, therefore, investigates many aspects of human life, measuring performance and changes over time. Recently, a subset of 12 BES indicators was included in the EFD (Economic and Financial Document), with the aim of monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of policies on some dimensions that are fundamental for the quality of life, placing Italy among the leading countries in this field. To be truly sustainable, development must also provide for fairness and equal allocation of resources. Strong inequalities, either within or between countries, put social peace at risk, producing difficulties and divisions that can then degenerate into conflicts or outright wars. Severe stress tests in little more than a decade (international economic and financial crisis of 2008, spread of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic) have accelerated processes typical of a market economy. Polarisation of wealth, increasing insecurity, unemployment and poverty are just a few aspects of our times that need to be looked at critically, forcing political decision-makers to change course. Therefore, we can understand how the paradigm shift must start from a greater diffusion of knowledge of alternative tools suitable for measuring the multiple dimensions of well-being. Remaining tied to indices designed to measure only the value of production and its variations would condemn us to a short-sighted and far from virtuous perspective.


Transfer of municipal waste to landfills

Percentage of municipal waste sent to landfills (including incoming and outgoing municipal waste streams from other regions) of total municipal waste collected. The figure also considers the flows of municipal waste entering and leaving other regions, which can modify the value of the numerator even to a significant extent. In Campania region, the share of waste from mechanical-biological treatment plants was also considered, which, due to the unavailability of recovery plants, was stored annually awaiting disposal (also outside the region). As of 2011, this share is zero. Unit of measurement: Percentage values Source: Ispra (Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research), Production, recovery, treatment, and disposal of municipal, special and hazardous waste. Abruzzo

Reference Italy

Absolute and relative poverty (Italy, ISTAT)

Incidence of individual relative poverty (% of people living in households in relative poverty out of all residents) Incidence of individual absolute poverty (% of people living in households in absolute poverty out of all residents)

Climate Change The concept of sustainable development in relation to energy sources will be analysed due to its importance and impact. The increasing use of fossil sources (hydrocarbons with different carbon dioxide release) in production processes has significantly altered the amount of greenhouse gases produced in the atmosphere. From the first industrial revolution until the present time, many countries have tied their industrial and energy policies to oil, natural gas, and coal. Combustion, which is necessary to transform chemical energy into thermal energy and finally into electricity, inevitably produces emissions of climate-changing gases. Coal and oil, in particular, emit greenhouse gases when burned; released into the atmosphere, they contribute to the rise in global average temperature. Of the many environmental problems, global warming due to human activity is the greatest emergency. Attempts at international agreements and protocols (e.g., the Paris Agreement) often conflict with specific geopolitical interests of stronger countries. Today, the United States continues to rank first in terms of CO2 production per capita. The People's Republic of China first in terms of global production and is expected to peak by 2030 and then gradually begin to see the effects of decarbonisation. Europe (the current EU of 27 countries) is the most virtuous, even though the continent's largest manufacturing producer (Germany) will not shut down the last coal-fired power stations before 2036. Even the massive use of LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) is not exempt from emitting greenhouse gases: unintentional releases of methane during extraction and transport are substantial and will increase with the increased use of this resource. Although methane is present in lower quantities in the atmosphere than water vapour and carbon dioxide, it has a much higher climate-changing power, making it a process accelerator that should not be underestimated. Efforts will be made in the future to contain greenhouse gas emissions, trying not to exceed the global average temperature increase of +1° C. That's a tough task considering that less optimistic forecasts tend to show an increase of up to +4°C. The massive use of renewable energy sources will therefore play a strategic role. Focusing mainly on wind, photovoltaic and hydropower, the energy transition should lead to full decarbonisation for the better performing countries by 2050. However, the transition from hydrocarbons to renewable energies is not entirely without difficulties and impacts. Wind power, for example, produces negative externalities to wildlife species (mainly birds or fish species for offshore installations), photovoltaic requires the use of large areas of land to be taken away from agriculture, hydroelectricity alters the natural course of rivers and their ecosystem. In addition, many of the technologies using renewable sources require large quantities of rare earth elements and metals for their manufacture. The extraction of rare earth elements and metals is very impactful, as they are present in a very fractionated way on the Earth's surface and need polluting treatment.

Their recycling and recovery are limited because once processed they are combined with other materials that can no longer be separated. Temperatures rise and fall, precipitation comes and goes. Forests thrive and perish, deserts expand and contract. Humanity has evolved between warm and cold phases, benefiting from climatic optimum and adapting to Ice Ages. Today, the Earth is warming, and human activities are a major part of that process. With different sensitivities and proposals, governments and international organisations are thinking about strategies to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases, whose presence in the atmosphere is considered the main cause of global warming. Between 1960 and 2016, carbon dioxide emissions increased 270%, averaging 2.4% per year. Carbon dioxide is certainly not the only greenhouse gas, indeed there are other molecules (CH4, CFC, HCFC, etc.) with even greater capacity to retain heat from solar radiation, but it is the one present in greater quantity and, consequently, taken as a reference base. According to models built in the early 20th century, climate warming estimates predict an increase in average atmospheric temperature between 2.7°C and 3.7°C over the next 50 years. These are summary values with high inhomogeneity across countries and latitudes. These values could be able to melt part of the glaciers and raise up to 15 cm the sea level (raising already in progress and putting at risk many Pacific atolls). Climate change also determines significant changes in the hydrological cycle that affect the distribution of rainfall, making it less frequent but more intense and therefore more capable of generating damage. In addition to the many changes in weather and biodiversity, climate change affects aspects of human life such as migration and the economy. However, this variable should not be understood in an exclusive sense, but rather as a competitor within a holistic system, multiple aspects (conflicts, political and economic instability, etc.) are involved. Migration flows can be internal to a country or transnational. They are an epochal phenomenon, and among the causes, we find the increase of temperatures with its direct and indirect effects. The loss of fertile land for agriculture (especially in tropical latitudes), environmental disasters resulting from increased weather phenomena, social peace challenged by social inequalities, and absolute poverty contribute to the exodus of hundreds of thousands of people. Economic systems also make deep connections to ongoing climate change. The correlation between global GDP and atmospheric emissions of climate-altering gases is very high. Not all sectors of the economy have the same impact on emissions. Some, sometimes with small numbers of businesses and employees, have huge impacts. Therefore, acting on technologies and processes in these sectors is a priority.

These values are reported in National Accounts through the NAMEA system (National Accounts Matrix including Environmental Accounts): this is an accounting system that represents the interaction between the economy and the environment in a manner consistent with the logic of national accounting and in a way that ensures the comparability of economic and social data with those relating to the pressures of human activities on the natural environment. As far as atmospheric emissions are concerned, the NAMEA aggregates are the result of a collaboration between ISTAT - Department for Statistical Production and Scientific-Technical Coordination and APAT - Department for the State of the Environment and Environmental Metrology. Emissions are expressed in GRHO (tons of CO2 equivalent) so that the impacts of the different greenhouse gases can be reported in a single value. The production and sale of energy and the primary sector have the greatest impact. The main difference is that there are very few companies active in the sector in the first case, and they are responsible for more than 2/3 of emissions.




GDP (current US$) CO2 emissions (kt)

Mondo - Emissioni CO2 World - CO2 emissions (kt)

Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, United States. License: CC BY-4.0

Italy - GRHO: greenhouse effect (tons of CO2 equivalent) - 2017 Source: NAMEA accounts, ISTAT Companies

GRHO: Greenhouse effect (tons of CO2 equivalent)



90.000.000 1.000.000

80.000.000 70.000.000


60.000.000 50.000.000 40.000.000

600.000 379.381


30.000.000 20.000.000 10.000.000 0


95.023 3.376 W h o l e s a l e Metallurgical t r a d e , industries excluding m o t o r vehicles and motorcycles

4.371 Manufacture of chemicals

L a n d transport and pipeline transport





Manufacture of coke and refined petroleum products

Maritime a n d waterway transport

Sewerage management, waste collection, treatment and disposal activities, materials r e c o v e r y, remediation activities and other w a s t e management services

Manufacture of other non-metallic mineral products

11.271 Plant and a n i m a l production, hunting and related services

Supply of electricity, gas, steam, and air conditioning





CIRCULAR ECONOMY The idea of a circular economy responds to the need for sustainable growth, in a context of increasing pressure on resources in the environment. With its "production-consumption-disposal" paradigm, the current economic model imposes that every product is inexorably destined to reach the "end of its life". Valuable materials are used for food production, construction of houses and infrastructure, and manufacturing consumer goods or energy supply. When their useful life is complete, these products are disposed of as waste. The increasing demographic depth and the greater propensity for consumption of the part of the population push up the demand for resources more than ever and lead to environmental degradation. This increases the prices of metals and minerals, fossil fuels, food for humans and animals, clean water, and fertile land. Each EU citizen's average waste production per year is about 5 million tons while using nearly 15 tons of materials. Half of the waste is disposed of in landfills without any valorization. The linear economy, which relies solely on resource exploitation, is no longer a viable option. The transition to a circular economy shifts the focus to reusing, fixing, renewing, and recycling existing materials and products. What would normally be considered "waste" has not necessarily exhausted its useful life, it often still holds an intrinsic value waiting to be valued and transformed into a resource. The circular economy is better understood by looking at natural living systems (biosystems). They function optimally and in a balanced condition because each of their elements fits well into the whole. In living systems, residual waste is close to zero, the matter is efficiently allocated in the different phases ensuring balance and durability. The transition to a circular economy requires the participation and commitment of different groups of people, fundamental is the strategy adopted by political decision-makers for actions to enhance the role of consumers and define how citizens can benefit from the changes taking place. The business world can completely redesign supply chains, aiming for resource efficiency and circularity. ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) developments and societal changes are helping this systemic transition.

The circular economy can therefore open up new markets that respond to changing consumption patterns: from conventional ownership to the use, reuse and sharing of products. It can also help create more and better jobs. For the circular economy to become normality rather than a niche, all levers of opportunity need to be mobilised and all possible actors need to be involved (NGOs, business and consumer organisations, trade unions, schools and universities, research institutes and other stakeholders, at all levels of government).

Once again, the paradigm shift will only come through widespread and shared knowledge.


CDCA Abruzzo 3491357990

Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali Direzione Generale del Terzo Settore e della responsabilità sociale delle imprese

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