Going circular in Finland


Joanne Green, Senior Policy Associate at Tearfund, reflects on her trip to the first World Circular Economy Forum in Finland. 

This week I attended the first ever World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) generously hosted for free by the Finnish Government in Helsinki. For those who are unfamiliar, the circular economy is a new approach to economic development that recognises biophysical limits by using resources as efficiently as possible in every stage of a product lifecycle. For more info see here. [Read more…]

When will Trump have his Damascus road experience?

So he’s done it. After months of speculation President Trump has announced the US will be exiting the Paris Accord on tackling climate change.

It is disappointing that President Trump does not see the opportunity for economic growth which clean energy presents; what the world is now waiting for is his Damascus road experience. We need that dramatic reversal of position in the near future. But if we have to wait 4 years, some experts say that wouldn’t be too disastrous – whereas if we had 8 years of the same rolling back progress on climate change, that would be a game changer. [Read more…]

Why advocate on waste and a circular economy?

RS67759_LEB2015_DXC_R_0162Well, we’ve produced a guide which aims to answer just that question. We’ve explored in previous posts (in particular here, here and here) how the current approach to resources is creating mountains of waste, which are harming some of the most vulnerable communities in low- and middle-income countries. This waste could instead be re-used or eliminated; this circular economy approach – keeping resources in use for as long as possible – would: [Read more…]

Mission 2020: don’t be late

2020 tipping point_mission2020

Source: Mission 2020


Monday began with a reminder that Hugh Grant hates people being late. This montage of cinematic near misses reminds us that being late can have different consequences – for our love lives, dance careers and, in some cases, our survival. It is a light-hearted introduction to a new campaign with a weighty message: we can’t afford to be late on curbing our carbon emissions. [Read more…]

The sky’s the limit for the circular economy


On the 30th March, the first ‘second-hand’ rocket was launched into our skies. Rockets – like many products in our current economy – are traditionally one-use only items. They are made, used and, with their mission complete, discarded. SpaceX have made history by finding a way for their boosters to return safely to Earth to be used again. Through this new approach, rockets can return to the skies again. [Read more…]

From India’s villages to Morocco’s talks


Source: Peter Caton / Tearfund

Ramesh Babu reflects on last week’s global climate talks. Ramesh is Programmes Director for EFICOR, a partner of Tearfund and an Indian development and humanitarian organisation working with five million people across the country.

All the way from India to Morocco for global climate talks, I think about my childhood growing up in a rural village and my work now with communities mostly dependent on agriculture to survive. I think of every farmer’s reliance on the seasons and climate and the tragedy of another bad year. When the crops dry up, it means more than poverty – homes are locked up and families forced to leave in search of work. Farmers are ending their lives in shocking numbers because they see no way to support their families and clear debts. [Read more…]

Waste Less, Warm Less: Building A ‘Circular’ Economy Would Take Us A Long Way Towards Achieving The Paris Climate Agreement

At this critical time for action on climate change, Richard Gower, Tearfund’s Senior Economics and Policy Associate, explores how the circular economy can play a big part in a low-carbon future.

It’s been a momentous but mixed two weeks for the climate and clean energy agenda. At the beginning of the month, the Paris Agreement – a global compact negotiated in December 2015 – came into force, following much faster ratification by the world’s big players than anyone dared hope. Then a few days later, the US elected a man who has threatened to pull out of the agreement and reverse Obama’s Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions (thankfully, the US has already ratified the Paris Agreement and can’t pull out for four years). [Read more…]

The waste that creates disease can save lives instead


Staff from across Tearfund teams gathered recently to discuss how using resources differently can create jobs, reduce waste and and the associated health problems. The circular economy is a new way to think about how we use products and services. In our linear economy, we take natural resources, make items, use them, then throw them away when we’re done with them. The circular economy instead keeps resources in use for as long as possible. As outlined in Tearfund’s recent policy report, Virtuous Circle, this can save lives (around 9 million people die of diseases linked to mismanagement of waste and pollutants every year) and create job opportunities. [Read more…]

Love food, hate waste

This blog was published on Reuters Alertnet first here

Half of all the food produced globally is wasted and never makes it onto the plate.

Half of the food bought in Europe and the US is thrown away.

That’s like throwing cash in the bin. The latest report from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers Global Food: Waste not, Want not addresses one of today’s biggest challenges: how to produce more food and eat sustainably in world of finite resources.

I buy peaches in my local shop in the UK fully intending to eat them, but then discover them a week later all rotten.

So why do I do it?  Do I really need to buy a whole punnet of peaches, when I have other food to eat?

It doesn’t always cross my mind that I’m throwing away a harvest which farmers in developing countries worked hard to produce.  But that’s what it means for farmers like Haringa Ram in India who are often limited to growing one crop a year, cut down meals, and have to take loans to feed their family and to buy animal fodder for his cattle.  It’s scandalous that we throw away food, while one person in eight – the equivalent of the combined populations of Europe, Canada, Australia and the US – goes hungry every night.

Largely, we waste food because we get used to buying more than we need and we have the choice.  But farmers like Haringa Ram don’t have that choice.  And they struggle with poor storage facilities, roads, transport and markets.  China, for example, loses 45% of all rice produced.


Women farming in India. Pic: Layton Thompson/Tearfund

On my travels with Tearfund, farmers have woefully described food rotting in poor storage facilities in India, rats eating harvests in Myanmar, locusts in the Sahel (West Africa) and elephants trampling all over crops in Chad.

It’s not just the food that is wasted, but also all the resources used to produce food: land, energy, water and fertilizers.  That’s an unnecessary waste of valuable resources that are gone forever, once used.

This is crazy, as we face an increasing pressure on resources needed to produce food – water, land and energy – for a growing population.

Meat eating will almost double by 2050, according to the report. Already a third of all cereal produced globally is fed to animals. Beef requires 50 times more water than vegetables in the processing stage.

It worries me when my friend in Nigeria tells me that he sees a trend in people wanting the ‘good life’ that they see in the West, and modelling their lifestyle in a similar way.  Clearly, that is not sustainable all over the world.

We have lost our connection with food producers. We cannot continue with unsustainable eating patterns that mean there is less food available globally, especially for people in developing countries, and that degrade land, soil, and water.  We must change our attitudes and behaviour: farmers, food producers, supermarkets and consumers alike.

The UK’s Prime Minister has promised to tackle hunger at the G8 summit this year, which could be a key step forward in ending hunger.  He must stick to his promises to increase both aid and funding for farmers to adapt to changes in the climate through the UN Green Climate Fund. Farmers and herders, especially women, need seeds, livestock, land, tools and technologies that can equip them to feed their families, to produce more nutritious food, store it, get it to market, earn money and stop their children being hungry.

We must tackle the deep inequalities in the global food system which allow a few to make billions while leaving hardworking smallscale farmers and ordinary people to struggle to eat enough.

Consumers in developed countries could change the world by shopping more simply. Everyone has different eating habits, but we can buy little and often, not more than we need, plan meals before shopping, be creative with leftovers, buy fair-trade, shop locally and buy food in season. We all have a key role to play, from farm to plate.

A view from home –what on earth do we do with the international climate process?

2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP17), Durban, South Africa

So the lesson I’ve learned recently is that you really shouldn’t take two months to post blogs you wrote when fresh back at work after maternity leave. I was going to post on the UK domestic scene and the lack of cohesive action by environment and development groups but events bypassed me – with the brilliant Green is Working stunt and tube ads last week.

So I’ve abandoned that blog. Here instead, are some ruminations on the international climate process. Frankly, after this, I’ll have to give up any pretence of being newly back on the scene…

There is serious international stalemate in the international climate talks, and in most multilateral processes and it is really hard to see how to break it.

This is stating the obvious. What shocks me is how far backwards things have drifted over the past year. National government positions that would have been totally intolerable to the NGO community are now accepted as fact. We have become a lot more pragmatic, and, in some areas lost our sense of outrage and fight. I can totally understand this – what is the alternative? Do we give up on trying to make a bad situation better? Do we become complete outsiders to the process? If we stop trying to influence the creaking wheels of the international climate process what do we usefully do instead?

While the continued commitment and energy of colleagues working in Climate Action Network International  and other networks amaze me, looking at things from the outside it seems hard to see where things are going.

Recently the Center for Global Development’s William Savedoff (his paper is helpfully summarized on From Poverty to Power ) challenged the assumptions of many NGOs that stable global governance institutions such as the UN, World Bank, IMF etc are the norm. Savedoff’s research argues that the post 1945 consensus with its US and European dominance was anomalous, and that a more fluid ‘multipolarity’ of ‘mixed coalitions’ of the willing, including non-state actors is actually how international relations normally work. This is problematic for climate change because it requires, as Duncan Green puts in his blog, ‘something much more coercive and self-sacrificing from national governments and economies’.

In the run up to Copenhagen we closed our eyes and hoped that the momentum towards a global deal would be enough to defy some of these political realities, but in fact they defined the unravelling of the talks, and their subsequent deterioration into endless agreements to agree something relatively weak at some point in the future.

Rich countries that have caused climate change are the main blockage in any progress in these talks – their refusal to accept their historic responsibility and decarbonise, or truly pay what is owed for developing countries to develop sustainably and adapt, has been, and continues to be, the main sticking point.

But the situation is so much more complex than rich countries pitted against poor. Wealthy Middle Eastern oil states; strongly leftist Latin American countries (some of whom are also big oil producers); rapidly industrialising countries like India and China with huge levels of poverty (a recent IDS paper found half of the world’s poor live in India and China); small island states at risk of disappearing; least developed countries; a fiercely sceptic and anti-science US; a stagnating Europe locked in its own crisis; an autocratic Russia with little regard for the views of others – I could go on. International politics has always been complex and tough but seeing a way through to a global agreement on climate (or anything else), particularly in the context of the financial crisis, seems nigh impossible.

But a patchwork, piecemeal, voluntary, unscientific, self interested approach means doom for the planet, and the poorest, so somehow we must find a way.

2010 Cancun Climate Talks

What I can’t quite work out is whether this crisis means we should jump in further to try and make it work, or disengage and focus our energies on creating better political conditions in capitals or on getting action on the ground. I’d say most of us NGOs have gone for disengagement from the international process and refocus (for example Tearfund is putting more resource into equipping partners and allies in the US, Brazil and India) which leaves a smaller (maybe more agile and effective?) rump of experts lobbying internationally.

I would love to hear what others think – both inside and outside the climate policy bubble. We don’t want to waste our limited time and resources on something lumbering inevitably towards failure (either endless stalemate, breakdown or a weak pointless agreement) but likewise we don’t want the process to fail because we didn’t throw everything we had at it. How can we find the right tactics to reinvigorate the international process?