On the 9th of November the Common Representation of the European Region Tyrol – South Tyrol – Trentino in cooperation with ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, organised a conference on the subject of circular economy’s potential at regional and local level. The discussion was moderated by Peter Defranceschi, Head of ICLEI Brussels Office.

The debate was introduced by Herbert Dorfmann, Member of the European Parliament, who gave a definition of circular economy, opposed to the linear model we are following today. Today's linear ‘take, make, dispose’ economic model relies on large quantities of cheap, easily accessible materials and energy, and is reaching its physical limits. On the contrary, a circular economy is an attractive and viable alternative that businesses have already started exploring today. It envisions a continuous positive development cycle that preserves and enhances natural capital, optimises resource yields, and minimises system risks by managing finite stocks and renewable flows, by reusing, repairing, refurnishing and recycling materials and products. Furthermore the MEP emphasised the impact of the Circular Economy Package on the local and regional level and underlined the enormous potential of regions and cities in the field of circular economy. This has to be flexible, in order to enable the less advanced regions to catch up with the process of transition and the more advanced ones to engage further in circular economy.

The second speaker was Joanna Drake, Deputy Director General of DG Environment, who presented the recent work of the European Commission in the field of circular economy. Last year an ambitious Circular Economy Package was adopted, which included revised legislative proposals on waste to stimulate Europe's transition towards a circular economy, in order to boost global competitiveness, foster sustainable economic growth and generate new jobs. The Circular Economy Package consisted of an EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy that established a concrete and ambitious programme of action, with measures covering the whole cycle: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials. Furthermore, negotiations are going on in the European Parliament as well; an opinion is expected for January 2017 and the new eco-design work plan will be adopted before the end of the year. Miss Drake underlined the significant role of innovation, which represents the main driver of the transition to new technologies and new industrial models. Furthermore, the Commission needs to give evidence that the EU is in the position to exploit the potential given by the funding (in particular Horizon2020, cohesion policy and European Fund for Strategic Investment) and the feasibility to make these ideas work in a new way of rethinking the transition to circular economy, showing best practices to the member states. In this process, the EU needs the help given by regions with bottom-up initiatives: Miss Drake emphasised the importance of the proximity of people and of the raising of awareness in this process of transition. In this concern, local authorities are in a privileged position to create tools for implementation and can benefit from the possibility to put in place new infrastructures for citizens and local business.

After these keynote speeches, regional and local perspectives were presented by three speakers: Giulio Angelucci, Director of the Waste Management Department in South Tyrol, offered an overview of Bolzano’s best practices in the field of circular economy, especially concerning the rise of separate collection’s targets, the collection of construction and demolition waste and the improvements in recovering phosphors. Alessandro Gretter, Member of the Chief Scientific Office of Edmund Mach Foundation in Trentino, presented some initiatives carried out by the Foundation, aiming at bringing the circularity in all sectors of society and operating to preserve the diversity of nature. In particular, two projects were presented: the Cadino biodigestor and the Celle ipogee (underground cells) located in Val di Non and used to store fruits. Finally, Bruno Oberhuber, Director of Energy Tirol (Tyrol), presented his Tirol 2050 project, whose main aim is, to reduce energy consumption of -50%, to increase renewable energy of +30% and to motivate people to take part of the project actively, using renewable energy and reducing energy waste.

The presentations were followed by an interactive panel focusing on the challenges and potentials of the regional and local level. Alessandro Carano, officer of DG ECFIN and working on the Investment Plan for Europe, displayed the different funding possibilities in the field of circular economy, mainly the European Fund for Strategic Investment. He presented a new platform, built in cooperation with the European Investment Bank, exhibiting an aggregation of multiple projects looking to be sponsored by a regional or local authority having a certain financial expertise. Other similar tools, enabling project promoters to attract the interest of investors, are the Advisory Hub in the EIB and the European Investment Projects Portal of the European Commission.

Simon Wilson, Green Alliance Representative and Coordinator of Alliance for Circular Economy Solutions (ACES) emphasised the potential of the CE to raise employment through a circular economy package: for example a recent study showed how bio-economy has a lot of potential to drive economic opportunity in Italy. Furthermore he listed some of the main challenges concerning circular economy, mainly the lack of guidelines concerning public procurement, the complexity and bureaucracy originated by more regulation, the problem of raising awareness to facilitate the transition and the need to improve standards of secondary materials.

Delphine Lévi Alvarès presented the work of Zero Waste Europe, an organisation whose mission is the elimination of residual waste. She underlined the need for a collaborative process: in fact, it is not about adding more regulation to the system, but to try to look to the single municipality, taking account of its peculiarity.

Finally, Philippe Naudet, Project Manager of ACR+, explained the role of this international network of cities and regions working on sharing good practices and strategies on waste management and circular economy. According to him, local authorities are facilitators of the process of transition, because they are in touch with the stakeholders on the ground. The proximity effect is extremely significant and has to be combined with the cooperation among public and private sectors and NGOs, opening the floor to good practices and fostering strategies of circular economy.

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Joanna Drake, Herbert Dorfmann and Peter Defranceschi (moderator)

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Interactive panel between Alessandro Carano, Simon Wilson, Delphine Lévi Alvarès and Philippe Naudet

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Bruno Huber, Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Peter Defranceschi, Giulio Angelucci, Philippe Naudet, Alessandro Gretter, Valeria Liverini, Richard Seeber and Vesna Caminades

 

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