Sustainability is no longer just an aspiration; it is a dire necessity. In many countries around the world, climate change is already a matter of life and death – a humanitarian disaster that often affects those who have contributed least to its causes. The challenges go further than the climate.
Here in the Netherlands, by April we have already consumed the resources with which we should make do for an entire year. In other words, if everyone on earth lived like a Dutch person, we would consume 3.6 earths this year, according to calculations by the Global Footprint Network.
More than 80% of Amsterdam’s CO2 emissions are caused by the use of materials. This CO2 is not necessarily emitted in our city, but it is emitted by the people of Amsterdam. This means we have a major impact on communities beyond our borders. Because of our meat consumption, rain forests elsewhere are felled to produce cattle feed. We see more and more images of growing piles of discarded textiles and electronics in countries such as Ghana or Chile. And some of the plastic waste we produce eventually ends up in the oceans.
The economy has to be organised differently. The UN report Turning off the Tap (May 2023) shows that much is already possible. Using existing techniques, global plastic pollution can be reduced by 80% by 2040. Redesigning our economy is a great opportunity to make it greener and fairer. We can do this by helping the most vulnerable people in our city and by taking responsibility for what happens in the countries where our goods and raw materials come from.
That is why we facilitate textile companies which reduce the amount of water needed to make jeans, for example, or who turn old clothes into new yarns. We will make it easier and cheaper to have appliances repaired so that fewer new raw materials need to be extracted. We will provide more facilities to separate organic waste so that less peat from vulnerable areas is needed to produce compost. Where linear incentives are still present in economic policy, we will phase them out.
The transition to a circular economy is essential and not optional. We have no more time to delay difficult measures. We need to accelerate the pace of implementation. The Implementation Agenda for a Circular Amsterdam 2023-2026 sets out an overview of what the City itself does and what we make available, so that as many parties as possible can contribute to the transition to a circular economy. This transition will become increasingly visible in the city in the coming years.
Doing what we can do now
The road to a circular economy will be long and demanding, and the transition will sometimes be a source of discord. We will need to overcome great difficulty and resistance along the way. We also don’t know everything yet; experts still need to work on the necessary research and studies. But this should not be an excuse to delay action. We are not waiting for new laws and regulations from central government or the European Union. We will do what we can do now. And at the same time, we will keep making proposals to the government for stronger measures.
In times of transition, the government must provide clarity about the future. The more clarity, the safer the investment climate. As circular norms and standards become more specific in the coming years, Amsterdam will continue to make the transition. With this implementation agenda, we aim to send a strong signal that the City is an ally for all Amsterdammers who want to help shape the circular economy. The time for talking about it or waiting for others to act is over. Only by working together will we succeed. By acting, we inspire each other and that generates energy – energy to ensure that the generations to come have a future