Post-pandemic, should we move away from resource extraction and accelerate moves to a circular economy? What new economic policy theories and approaches should we entertain? And how might these innovations more effectively address pre-coronavirus issues such as social and economic inequality? A Chatham House webinar considered all these questions on 18 November 2020.
Following the presentations and inspired by our recent policy brief, I asked the question: ‘What does the panel think of Ursula von der Leyen’s plea for a new European Bauhaus for a green transition? Will that inspire people to engage en masse with the circular economy and really build back better?’ The Chatham House experts answered as follows:
Patrick Schröder, Senior Research Fellow, Energy, Environment and Resources Programme
‘On the political level and on the EU level, this will definitely create momentum for the circular economy, but whether or not it’s going to inspire people is a different question. Generally, within the EU, there’s still a lot of scepticism about many things that are designed in Brussels, so to really get community support and involvement to build back better requires not only macro level plans by Brussels but very specific initiatives by EU Member States, regional councils, regional governments and cities to enable and provide these spaces where people can actually become engaged. That’s something that’s so far missing. But overall I think it’s going in the right direction. Whether the circular economy becomes a social movement or not and design transition remains to be seen – but I’m hopeful.’
Creon Butler, Research Director, Trade, Investment & New Governance Models: Director, Global Economy and Finance Programme
‘Indeed, going back to your previous point about circular versus linear, if normal economic signals and levers aren’t working, then one needs a cultural movement to bring about that kind of change.’
Elizabeth Isele, Associate Fellow, Gender and Growth Initiative
‘Yes, but in terms of a social movement, I think you really have to have an economic basis for that. It sounds a little paradoxical, but I think unless you give people a reason to join together and collaborate to make change happen, first they have to understand what that change needs to be and second they have to understand what the impact of that change is going to be.
‘So it’s not just a social movement in theory, it’s a real pro-active social movement. And it’s not something that we can just write research papers on and say this is the way the world should be. We need to actually come up with an action plan that is fundamental to the social movement, in order to move it ahead out of the world of theory and into the world of reality.’
The opinions expressed here are the authors’ own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.