Completing the Picture: How the Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change (PDF) makes the case that shifting to renewable energy and energy efficiency in buildings and transport can meet only about 55 percent of greenhouse gas reductions needed to meet the 1.5-degree Celsius cap in temperature rise set out by the 2015 Paris Agreement - and that addressing the other 45% will requite embracing a circular economy. The report, like so much groundbreaking research on the circular economy, came from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with Material Economics, a Stockholm-based management consultancy firm focusing on sustainability strategy, technology and policy.

"To meet climate targets, a fundamental shift will be needed in the way the economy functions and creates value," say the report’s authors. That means moving away from today’s linear, take-make-waste model "towards an economy that is regenerative by design."

In such an economy, they explain, "Natural systems are regenerated, energy is from renewable sources, materials are safe and increasingly from renewable sources and waste is avoided through the superior design of materials, products and business models."

The new paper shows how applying circularity principles to just five key areas — cement, aluminum, steel, plastics and food — can eliminate substantial emissions while increasing resilience to the physical impacts of climate change.

For example, it says, by keeping materials in play, companies can decouple economic activity from the consumption of resources vulnerable to climate risks, and therefore build greater flexibility if supply chains are significantly disrupted. In the food system, regenerative agriculture improves the health of soil, which can increase its capacity to absorb and retain water, thereby reducing the devastating impacts of both floods and droughts.

Tomorrow’s middle class won't just be buying more goods, they’ll also be eating higher on the food chain — more meat and dairy products, for example, along with a rise in processed and packaged foods. How those meals are produced and delivered will be as key to solving climate change as the shift away from fossil fuels.

Read the full article about the circular economy by Joel Mackower at GreenBiz.