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[#WeFACE] Circular economy only answer to post-pandemic world: Gerd Leonhard

Gerd Leonhard speaks on why the circular economy is the only answer to the post-pandemic world in his keynote speech at H.eco Forum 2021 held in Seoul, Thursday (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Gerd Leonhard speaks on why the circular economy is the only answer to the post-pandemic world in his keynote speech at H.eco Forum 2021 held in Seoul, Thursday (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)


Unlike for COVID-19, there is no vaccine for climate change.

However, there is a treatment to prevent further damage -- a circular economy that focuses on sharing, reusing and extending the life span of products rather than making mere profit, futurist Gerd Leonhard said in a keynote speech at H.eco Forum held Thursday.

“We are going to have more money but there won’t be any planet to spend it on. You can’t do business on the broken planet,” he said, showing global capital stocks per capita in which produced capital is increasing, human capital is staying stagnant and natural capital is declining.

The current economic model is “unfit” for the future and the new economic model should put people, planet, purpose and prosperity at its core, said Leonard, who has authored five bestselling books, including “Technology vs. Humanity.”

“It requires us to go beyond capitalism – sustainable capitalism, renewable capitalism. Engaging in activities that produce profits? That’s it? No, that can’t be it, because that will kill us,” he said.

The transition to a circular economy will be driven by two things – big blue and big green – along with the right government policies such as ending fossil fuel subsidies, he said.

Big blue represents cutting-edge technologies such as cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence, which makes it possible and cheaper to pursue sustainability, while big green refers to decarbonization efforts.

The pandemic was a much-needed “accelerator” that brought climate change and decarbonization into the center of discussion and is an “opportunity” to restructure the world in a new way, he said.

Citing the current situation where coal is becoming a thing of the past, he said, “In 10 years, it’s the end of oil. It doesn’t mean we won’t have oil. It just means it won’t be lucrative anymore.”

Decarbonization and sustainability are a new source of profits, creating new jobs and opportunities, he said.

“We have reached a takeoff point for sustainable everything. It is possible, affordable and becoming more affordable,” he said. “Sustainable everything is no longer an ideology. It is humanity’s business plan.”

As we are at the “fork in the road,” what we need is the will and guts to push for what he called a “great transformation.”

“It is not ‘de-growth,’” he said. “I think ‘de-growth’ is a very bad argument. Of course, we’re going to have to cut back and grow less sometimes, but it’s not going to be not growing.”

“The future is created by the choices that we make, not for somebody else’s choices,” he said. “That’s how we’re going to build the circular economy -- making the choices and making the right moves and bringing people with us and changing the way that we look at the future.”

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)
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