Pollution has a pervasive impact on people and society, on biodiversity loss and on climate change. One of the root causes of pollution – and also of climate change and biodiversity loss – is the unsustainable use of natural resources in our production and consumption models.

A key part of the solution to the three planetary crises that we face on climate, nature and pollution is to transition to a more resource efficient and circular economy, where waste and pollution are eliminated, products and materials are kept in use at their highest value and natural systems are regenerated. This is a priority, not only for our planet and our health, but also to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Working on the risks of pollution and the opportunities from circular solutions

Plastic pollution in particular presents one of the greatest risks to the planet’s health, yet the opportunities stemming from circular solutions can bring huge benefits. Without urgent action marine plastic pollution is estimated to double by 2040. However, research shows that a comprehensive circular economy approach could reduce the volume of plastics entering the ocean by over 80 per cent by 2040, reduce virgin plastic production by 55 per cent, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent in the sector and create 700,000 net additional jobs. Representatives from 175 nations endorsed at United Nation Environment Assembly 5.2 a landmark resolution to open the negotiations for a global agreement that tackles the root causes of plastic pollution by addressing the full lifecycle of plastic from source to sea.

Engaging the global financial sector

A transition to a circular economy will require a systemic shift in our production and consumption models. This requires significant funding directed to business models and activities which are often innovative. The global financial sector has a pivotal role to play and a tremendous opportunity to scale up financing of pollution-free and circular solutions. UNEP FI’s work on pollution and the circular economy engages both finance sector practitioners within its membership and representatives from a wider group of stakeholders in the public and private sectors. UNEP FI provides research and guidance, we raise awareness and build capacity within the financial community, and facilitate peer exchange and collective action, at global and regional level.

Check out the Get Involved section to find out more about current projects or contact Peggy Lefort.

Less polluting and more circular economies can significantly reduce emissions on the path to net zero. Join us to support the transition!