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The Next Economy
Latin America, Caribbean Embrace Transition to Circular Economy

A regional coalition, led by UNEP, will support access to financing by the public and private sector, with special emphasis on SMEs — to foster innovation and the implementation of specific projects in the region.

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has launched a regional coalition that aims to support Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) transition to a circular economy. As the region continues to grapple with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, a circular economy transition offers new and better growth opportunities to build a resilient and low-carbon economic recovery.

The Coalition will support access to financing by governments and the private sector, with special emphasis on small and medium enterprises (SMEs), in order to promote resource mobilization for innovation and the implementation of specific projects in the region.

The need to move away from the conventional, ‘take, make, waste’ linear economy was already evident in the region even before the pandemic — many countries still lack recycling infrastructure. LAC now has an opportunity to build a new wave of development and prosperity based on circular principles — one that benefits society, business and the environment; and tackles the root causes of global challenges such as biodiversity loss, pollution and climate change.

Led by UNEP, the Regional Coalition on Circular Economy will create a common vision for a circular economy transition in LAC, and provide a platform for cross-sectoral collaboration and knowledge exchange to accelerate implementation.

“The creation of this coalition reaffirms the region’s commitment to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda — with special emphasis on SDG 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production — through the promotion of innovation, sustainable infrastructure, and an inclusive and circular economy,” said Leo Heileman, UNEP Regional Director in Latin America and the Caribbean. “Acknowledging that unsustainable consumption and production patterns are the root cause of the three planetary crises we face today — climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss — we have a unique opportunity to rethink our linear economy and reshape our unsustainable consumption and production patterns.”

The Coalition is supported by eight strategic partners — the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), the Climate Technology Centre & Network, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy Coalition (PACE), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the World Economic Forum. It will be led by a steering committee composed of four high-level government representatives on a rotating basis — starting with Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru and the Dominican Republic — for the 2021-2022 period.

“As extracting, wasting and ‘doing business as usual’ can no longer be supported by the planet, it is key to build a common regional vision on circular economy. The Coalition will help precisely to do that and to implement concrete and measurable practices,” said Carlos Correa, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia and Chair of the Coalition.

While many current climate discussions focus on switching to renewable energy and energy-efficiency matters, which will tackle 55 percent of the total GHG emissions; a circular economy can help address the remaining 45 percent, which are generated by the way we make and use products and the way we produce food, according to a 2019 EMF report.

The Coalition aims to help the region implement circular strategies through collaboration between governments, businesses and society as a whole.

“The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is committed to achieving the transition to a circular economy globally, which requires unprecedented collaboration at all levels,” says Luísa Santiago, Latin America Lead at EMF. “That is why we are delighted to announce the launch of a regional coalition that will create an ambitious common vision for a circular economy transition in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as integrating and accelerating regional efforts to achieve it.”