Environmental cooperation: European Commission promotes circular economy and green partnerships in Singapore and Malaysia - Parlementaire monitor

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Vrijdag 10 juli 2020
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Environmental cooperation: European Commission promotes circular economy and green partnerships in Singapore and Malaysia

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC) i, gepubliceerd op woensdag 5 juni 2019.

A combined Circular Economy Mission to Singapore and Malaysia between 5 and 12 June 2019 is promoting intelligent, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in these countries, while opening markets for EU i green companies and entrepreneurs. Circular economy missions are a major tool to promote sustainable development in a global context, confirming global EU leadership on circular economy and supporting green European SMEs to expand their activities abroad.

With 60% of the world population, that will continue to grow from currently 4.5 billion to 4.9 billion in 2030, and 5.3 billion in 2050, Asia has a key role to play in the global transition to a resource-efficient, circular and low-emission future.

The EU delegation, headed by Director General of European Commission’s Directorate General for Environment Daniel Calleja, is composed of around 40 representatives from 14 Member States, from sectors such as construction, waste, energy, textile, plastics, recycling, transport and food. The European companies and business associations present in the delegation employ more than 600,000 employees and their combined turnover represents nearly the GDP of Hungary.

Throughout a number of matchmaking events, they will be discussing with their Southeast Asian counterparts how to turn circular principles into green business opportunities in the European Union and in Singapore and Malaysia.

Political discussions will focus on waste management (plastics, marine litter, construction, e-waste, solid and domestic waste, food waste, packaging waste, recycling) and links with robotics solutions and Industry 4.0, sustainable finance, water, and urban issues.

Background

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is the EU's 3rd largest trading partner outside Europe (after the US and China). EU is ASEAN's 2nd largest trading partner and by far the largest investor in ASEAN countries. ASEAN is the most dynamic economic region in the world and as a regional integration organisation a natural partner of the EU.

The Southeast Asia region is facing a major challenge in keeping the delicate balance of environmental sustainability and economic development. The region is endowed with rich natural resources, but is highly populated. Increased population and rapid economic growth have had negative environmental consequences. Urban issues are especially prominent in large metropolis such as Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The latter has one of the highest population density in the world.

With an increasing population, urbanisation and economic growth, they are faced with new challenges to manage increasing amounts of waste. Singapore generated 7.7 million tonnes of waste in 2017. This is a seven-fold increase from 40 years ago, and enough to fill 15,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Singapore’s Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) has designated 2019 as the Year Towards Zero Waste. Singapore aims to achieve a recycling target of 70% by 2030 from its current 61%. It is working towards becoming a Zero Waste Nation by reducing its consumption of materials and reusing and recycling resources.

Malaysia’s rapid industrialization supported by foreign investment has resulted in pollution problems that particularly affect urban areas. These include industrial wastewater and other waste, air pollution caused by the tremendous increase in road traffic and water pollution from household wastewater.

Urbanization, unsustainable forestry and agricultural expansion are the main causes of declining forest cover in Malaysia and particularly in Borneo. Tropical rainforests encompass in between 59% to 70% of Malaysia's total land area. Malaysia's deforestation rate is accelerating faster than that of any other tropical country in the world.

The Government of Malaysia has taken several legislative and governance related initiatives on circular economy. These include, inter alia, solid waste & public cleansing management, enhancement of public awareness, as well as re-engineering waste facilities and efforts to maximize use of high technology.

As a way forward, Malaysia has set up several future targets to be achieved by 2020. These include: 40% landfill diversion, 30% recycling rate, developing reliable database, extended producer responsibility (EPR), separation at source in industry, commercial and institutional.

On circular economy missions

The contribution of emerging economies to key environmental challenges and their potential for economic growth make them key partners in promoting the transition to a circular economy.

EU circular economy missions are a major tool to promote sustainable development in a global context, confirming global EU leadership on circular economy and supporting green European SMEs to expand their activities abroad. They consist of a series of high-level political and business meetings to discuss and exchange on topics of mutual interest between non-European countries and the European Commission.

So far the Commission has taken the circular economy concept to Chile, China, Iran, South Africa, Colombia, India, Japan, Indonesia and Mexico.