As if 2020 wasn’t already interesting enough, this year we’re getting a new James Bond movie AND a new EU Circular Economy (CE) Action Plan...
The Working Paper behind the latter reads like a bureaucrat’s version of a Bond script: World Domination, Global Alliance, East versus West.
The EU is a powerhouse when it comes to many things - green-policy making in particular. The new Action Plan released last month is a great example. Realising that plastic waste freely crosses borders, taking its toll where it will (much like Bond), the EU has devised a cunning plan – a blueprint for World Domination of CE policy making. Like Bond’s nemesis Spectre, they recognise the need for a global front, and will shortly propose the formation of the Global Circular Economy Alliance (GCEA), from which they will take control of the global plastics agenda. (cue the musical sting)
Now imagine Ronny Chieng is playing Bond: GCEA moves into Asia with the firm ideology that European CE and plastic policies are right for the whole world. Will our Bond propound lengthy arguments as to why Asia and EU are different? Will he storm the villain’s lair with Cling Film? Or, will he (wisely) relax by the pool with his martini, secure in the knowledge that it will take years before the global-agency formed by self-interested-nations actually makes an environmental policy decision?
OK, plastic is a serious matter, so here’s my point. The EU has a strong record of sustainability-focused decision-making, and some European nations lead the World in CE application. But Asia is not Europe! Asia’s plastic CE challenges are different to EU.
Certainly, share learnings and help each other, but EU’s Green Diplomacy is about achieving global uptake of the EU’s CE policies and approach. The EU appears to want us all to accept their approach to plastics circular economy without localisation or contextualisation. And, herein lies the issue: plastic is a shared problem - and everyone needs to have a stake in the solution. WW1 was the turning point for European colonial trade and its power over the ‘East Indies’. A century later, new thinking and new approaches are well overdue - especially on an issue we all agree needs solutions.
In reality, there is no Bond – James, Ronny or otherwise – defending the environment. Equally, despite its overreach, the EU is no villain.
We’re all on the same side. We share a planet; a global economy; and a vision for a world where the use of plastic does no harm. The way we achieve this vision needs to be shared too. A starting point would be for the EU to engage with Asia in a vigorous exchange of views and information.
Circular Economy: shaken AND stirred.