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“We need to have open minds to radical new

concepts such as urban mining. This means we

have to reuse the chairs, the walls, and the

resources in the building where we sit, and we

have to move away from the concept of waste. If

we really want to stay in planetary boundaries but

also have a vital economy as resources become

scarcer, the circular economy is fundamental to

having better biodiversity and a lively, future-

oriented economy. We have to change the

fundamentals of the economic system.

“Efficiency leads to lower prices, and the

market is a basic principle of organising how

much things cost; if the price is lower, we will

use more. Recently, the big oil companies have

argued for a carbon tax, and this shows the true

reluctance of politicians, who do not dare talk

about the carbon tax.”

Holemans added that a more holistic approach

towards the environment is needed: “If we

move beyond planetary boundaries, it’s also

bad for the economy. Every day of the week, we

have to think about these planetary boundaries

and about biosphere integrity. My message is:

if you discuss Nature, you should discuss

economic politics in the first place. This politics

of the economy is also about democracy: are

people really having a say on what happens to

the resources on their land or not?”

Circular economy

According to the European Commission, a

circular economy aims to maintain the value of

the materials and energy used in products in

the value chain for the optimal duration, thus

minimising waste and resource use. Preventing

losses of value from materials flows creates

economic opportunities and competitive

advantages on a sustainable basis.

In May, the European Commission announced

it had opened a public consultation to collect

views to help develop a new approach on the

H

uman activity is having a particularly negative effect on

the environment, and maintaining a balance between the

consumption of natural resources whilst encouraging

economic growth is difficult. According to Dirk Holemans, co-

ordinator of Oikos, a think tank based in Brussels focusing on

social and ecological change, radical new thinking is needed to

provide a solution.

Following a policy debate on the future relationship between Nature and

human activities at Green Week 2015 in Brussels in June, Portal spoke

to Holemans and asked the Flemish former MP how to safeguard

biodiversity whilst also realising economic growth in Europe. He began

by outlining the importance of connecting these concepts: “Until now we

have seen Nature conservation and economic development as two

separate worlds where we put the economy first and then we can see

whether there is still some room to protect Nature.

“The message of ‘planetary boundaries’ makes it very clear that we have

to leave so-called ‘frontier lands’: external places that we consider

warehouses for resources. For example, in the Amazon rainforest, we

are cutting down forests because we think they are empty and we need

them for resources. In reality, these forests are full of life and people. If

we really acknowledge the message of planetary boundaries, we have

to radically enter the circular economy, and this will change everything.

I S S U E S E V E N

H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L

www.horizon2020projects.com

208

S O C I E TA L C H A L L E N G E S : C L I M AT E A C T I O N

Green family circle

At Green Week 2015 in Brussels,

Portal

spoke to

Dirk Holemans,

co-

ordinator of the social and ecological change think tank Oikos, about the

growing EU circular economy

Dirk Holemans

The Amazon rainforest

is seen by some as a

resource to be exploited,

said Holemans