According to Collins Dictionary, „single-use” was considered the most popular word in the UK in 2018. The adjective made a career thanks to imaginative images of polluted oceans, garbage islands and fish with plastic inside. It has become synonymous with the harmful effects of civilisation as well as bad consumption and production models that dramatically change ecosystems, have catastrophic environmental and climate impacts with dangerous economic and social consequences.
But there is another reason for the popularity of the term “single-use”. This is a move away from one-offs. Resignation from e.g. plastic straws and other disposable products. The process of changing the existing models, the development of circular economy, the economy of sharing and the emergence of new models that allow to reconcile environmental, economic and social objectives in a response to climate challenges.
The crucial 1,5 s. C
Discussions about global opportunities and climate-related challenges will take place this year for the third time in Poland. One of the most frequently cited documents will certainly be a publication that appeared in the first days of October. The report was prepared by nearly 100 experts, on the basis of several thousand works, taking into account tens of thousands of comments from experts and government representatives. It shows the actions necessary to limit the increase in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius (no longer 2 degrees Celsius, as previously proposed) and to protect the Earth from the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change. These changes, which have a very real impact on people’s lives for environmental reasons, also have negative social and economic effects. They are linked to migration, conflicts caused by droughts, floods, fires or, for example, diseases caused by poor air quality.
It is the social and economic consequences and climate change scenarios that are an important part of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report to be used in the implementation of Agenda 2030. The SDG report that Poland submitted to the UN in July shows in a comprehensive way where we are in relation to each of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Climate-related challenges, although directly addressed in Goal13, are closely related to other environmental aspects such as: water (Goal 6), energy (7), cities (11), sustainable consumption and production (12), oceans (14), ecosystems, biodiversity (15).
Poland’s main climate challenges are probably well visible in our everyday life. The common experience is that in the Polish plebiscite for the word of 2018 the word smog could, unfortunately, have the greatest chance of winning. According to the latest October data from the World Health Organization, Poland is the infamous no. 1 on the list of the 50 most polluted cities in Europe. As many as 36 of them are Polish cities. Although the most difficult situation is in Bulgaria, where the air pollution standards set for 2020 are exceeded by over 80%, the situation in Poland is not much better – Polish cities exceed the limit by over 70%.
Energy is a priority issue. IPCC experts postulate a complete abandonment of fossil fuels. But how to reduce CO2 emissions in a situation where, according to 2016 data, about 78% of electricity in Poland came from hard coal and lignite?
According to the declarations of public administration and energy producers, „Poland supports the ambitious goals of the EU’s energy and climate policy, but wants to achieve them by its own means”. Poland, like some other countries, recognizes the need to seriously approach the social aspects of the energy transformation. Concerns about rising energy prices and unavoidable social costs caused by sectoral changes take precedence over environmental consequences.
Determination and hope
The implementation of SDG requires not only determination, but also hope. There are grounds to have it. Over the last three years circular economy has begun to be implemented in companies’ strategies across Poland. The main assumption of circular economy is the use of production waste as recyclable materials. Closing the cycle and zero waste are the postulates of circular economy. In the context of key challenges and opportunities for the future economic development of Poland’s circular economy is also important due to the current mix of the used mineral raw materials.
According to Deloitte’s latest report ” Closed-loop – new opportunities for Poland”, introduction of circular economy in Poland may be possible thanks to:
- Critical raw materials – mainly metallic, which, despite the smallest share in the mass of raw materials used in the economy, are of great importance due to difficulties with obtaining and replacement;
- Raw materials in the construction sector – mainly non-metallic, which are the largest group of raw materials in terms of mass and are used to build construction and infrastructure resources, which remain in the economy for a long time;
- Fossil fuels – used primarily as energy carriers in the power and transport industry, the main source of emissions;
- Biomass – raw materials of biological origin and a potential for creating a bio economy.
Focusing on the above mentioned raw materials and designing activities related to them in accordance with the principles of circular economy will help achieve measurable economic, environmental and social benefits.
Experts from various sectors are looking for ways to change the existing rules and habits of consumers in terms of waste management (we are no longer talking about rubbish) whereas new business models of the economy of sharing are interesting not only for start-ups. Last but not least, there are also the very much-needed communication initiatives that disseminate knowledge, such as the Campaign of 17 Goals, Circular Week or the competition „Stena Circular Economy Award – Leader of the closed-loop economy”.
All that remains is to hope that in the coming years, thanks to the sum of all these activities, the most popular words in Poland will be: circular economy, innovations and energy efficiency.