Circular Cars Initiative launched at WEF Davos

The Circular Cars Initiative (CCI), supported by EIT Climate-KIC, the World Economic Forum (WEF), SystemIQ, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and other partners, was launched at the WEF’s annual Davos meeting last week. EIT Climate-KIC CEO Kirsten Dunlop spoke at the community session, exploring how the circular economy and mobility-as-a-service can work synergistically to radically decarbonise the automotive sector.

The circular economy is an economic system aimed at reducing resource extraction and waste, as well as carbon emissions. Circular systems employ reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling and therefore involve entire value chains.

Today, the automotive sector is responsible for approximately 20 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Moreover, only 8 per cent of automotive steel can be recycled into new cars.

The circular economy could reduce CO2 emissions in the auto industry by 92 per cent. By investing more in design and improving end-of-life management, the industry can capture economic value while reducing its environmental impact.

The CCI community session’s audience featured stakeholders from diverse areas of the auto sector: OEM, aftermarket, manufacturers, recyclers, finance, mobility providers, academia and more. Therefore, it presented a unique opportunity and mobilising vision:

 “The first law of innovation is that progress always happens at the intersections. Today is about the opportunity that’s in our hands—the opportunity to create a new ecological ecosystem. It’s about how circularity and mobility can reinforce each other. This is a unique opportunity to bring together groups that do not regularly meet… It’s not unthinkable that, by 2030, we’ll live in a world where 50 per cent of our materials are in a closed loop and 70 per cent are designed for reassembly.”

The key to aligning the auto sector with the Paris Agreement goals is to reject embedded assumptions and rethink mobility as a whole. But as exciting as it is to reimagine the auto industry, it can be challenging to work without any precedents:

“The problem with the circular economy is that we don’t have economic models for what it looks like to run businesses and the policies that regulate them.”

One way to approach this challenge is to look at urban planning laws, car parking spaces… the physical infrastructure that dictates design constraints and possibilities. Importantly, policy and regulation must support new models, like mobility-as-a-service.

“We shouldn’t underestimate the ‘challenge owners’ that are cities. Regional governments in particular worry national governments are not doing enough, quickly enough. Cities and communities could lock down materials circularity with borders and recycle materials in that area for example. This kind of community determination and agency could change the dynamics of who is designing what—and for whom.”

Also key to the circular economy transition is education: How can we train people currently working across the auto industry’s value chain? And, how can we educate a new generation of innovative thinkers to further decarbonise mobility?

This year, the Circular Cars Initiative will create a roadmap on the future of circularity. Learn more about CCI here.

 
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