Co-sponsored by the Environmental Law Institute and the ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources
Additional sponsors: EOS Climate, Leveraged Green Energy, RSR Technologies, US Business Council for Sustainable Development
In response to the resource constraints, environmental pressures and economic barriers that characterize our “take and dispose” economy, many have put forward a vision for a “circular economy” that would not only conserve and recycle materials, but also contribute to new technological, financial and environmental innovations.
As the circular economy approach gains traction – with noteworthy advances in the EU, China and the US – it is becoming increasingly clear that adjustments to our system of regulatory and commercial law will be needed to further progress towards a circular economy.
This session acknowledged that the circular economy is not just another buzzword or slogan, but instead is a serious approach to supplant the way global production and energy systems operate. For lawyers and their clients, this represents a new and important thought construct that will lead to legal frameworks better adapted to the 21st century.
The purpose of this program was to:
- Explain the meaning of the “circular economy” and how it is being applied at the intersection of energy, environment and materials management.
- Present some of the specific regulatory, procurement, financial structuring, and other legal initiatives that are emerging to help actualize its objectives globally.
Attendees heard presentations designed to:
- Highlight the integration of the several legal disciplines comprising the future body of law related to the circular economy;
- Concretely illustrate some of the advances in industrial ecology are already contributing to the vitality of the circular economy; and
- Consider ways in which legal innovations for the circular economy will incorporate parameters of social responsibility and thereby facilitate both environmental sustainability and economic viability.
NOTE: Available presentation materials are linked after the individual panelist's name on the agenda.
Three Faces of the "Circular Economy" Concept
The first panel will provide a basic understanding of the Circular Economy from several distinct but complementary perspectives, including business, government and academia. The Circular Economy must be seen in an interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral context. Professionals and practitioners from a range of disciplines are creating a community of practice that draws from and builds upon current thinking in industrial ecology, recycling, solid waste regulation, materials management, and product re-design and re-use, among others. For some, the Circular Economy is more broadly construed as an alternative economic model. The transition to the Circular Economy will involve systems-level change, a re-thinking of business models, and new legal, finance and policy approaches. The expert presenters will introduce the concepts and principles that underpin the Circular Economy framework as it continues to evolve.
Luncheon Keynote: The Unifying Vision of the Circular Economy
The Circular Economy in Action: Energy, Renewables & Other Materials Conversion Initiatives
This panel will focus on the application of Circular Economy concepts and principles in specific critical sectors, including solar energy, battery storage, and chemistry. Throughout the industrial age, the burdens arising from this “linear” manufacturing/disposal process were largely ignored. Now, this process is recognized as increasingly untenable, and has led to the “circular” paradigm of planned resource reuse, remanufacturing and recycling of previously disposed of byproducts and supply chain sharing. In some important sectors, such as base metals and agriculture/biomass, the Circular Economy approach is already working effectively and is being pursued profitably. Under increasing public scrutiny, many types of businesses are voluntarily establishing “scorecards” to determine the bottom line effectiveness of their Circular Economy planning. The panelists will discuss several diverse applications and describe current examples of the implementation of Circular Economy principles.
Growing the Circular Economy Through Legal Initiatives
The legal concepts now emerging to advance the Circular Economy reflect the diversity of issues involved in the modification of behavior and legal obligations related to property ownership and responsibility for property use; facilitation of collaborative production and distribution to maximize materials use (in renewable energy, among other sectors) and economic competitiveness; and creation of viable financial and commercial structures to viably implement the innovations introduced. While the Circular Economy will certainly include facets of regulatory law designed to protect the environment and transition to sustainability, it is likely that the emerging body of law will incorporate other legal principles as well. Moreover, as the perceived applicability of Circular Economy innovations continues to evolve, regulatory policy and law will likely take on different forms in specific sectors or geographic regions. To provide more comprehensive coverage of this fast evolving field of law, this panel includes both public and private sector panelists from the United States, China, and Europe.
Circular Economy, generally
- "GreenBiz 101: Defining the circular economy" (GreenBiz, August 24, 2015)
- "The Circular Economy Is at the Heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution" (Peter Lacy, The Huffington Post, January 19, 2016)
- "The Night the Circular Economy Joined a Revolution" (Oliver Hurrey, LinkedIn Pulse, January 22, 2016)
- "Google Is Planning For a Zero-Waste, Circular Economy" (Adele Peters, Fast Company, October 7, 2015)
- "Towards the Circular Economy: Accelerating the Scale-Up Across Global Supply Chains" (Ellen MacArthur Foundation report, 2013)
Circular Economy in China
- Circular Economy Promotion Law, 2008 (English translation)
- "Country Analysis Paper: People's Republic of China" (Fourth Regional 3R Forum in Asia: 3Rs in the Context of Rio+20 Outcomes - The Future We Want, Hanoi, Viet Nam, March 18-20, 2013)
Circular Economy in European Union
- "Closing the loop: Commission adopts ambitious new Circular Economy Package to boost competitiveness, create jobs and generate sustainable growth" (European Commission Press relese, December 2, 2015)
- "European Commission (EC) adopts ambitious new Circular Economy Package" (Richard Waters, LinkedIn Pulse, December 2, 2015)
US EPA and Circular Economy
- "EPA's Stanislaus Outlines Waste Industry's Role in Achieving Circular Economy" (David Bodamer, Waste 360, June 16, 2015)
Carbon Impact Factor (CIF)
- "Concept Tool Launched at COP21 Offers Market-Based Climate Solutions" (Mary Mazzoni, Triple Pundit, January 11, 2016)
Yale Journal of Industrial Ecology
US Business Council for Sustainable Development
- "U.S. Materials Marketplace Wins Prestigious 'Circulars' Award at World Economic Forum Annual Meeting" (USBCSD, January 20, 2016)