More than 1,000 people gathered at the City of Yokohama on October 22-23, to attend the 2nd World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) co-hosted by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra and the Japanese Ministry of Environment. Decision makers, experts and reformers in governments, municipalities, industries and civil organizations from over 80 countries came to present and listen to the world’s best circular economy solutions, seize new business opportunities and aim for a sustainable future.
The sound of Japanese ‘wadaiko’ drums marked the grand opening of WCEF 2018 on October 22, followed by a video message by Prime Minister Abe, stating that “circular economy is an essential key in building economies and societies that are sustainable.” Minister of Environment Yoshiaki Harada then went on stage, addressing that “humankind must break away from economies of mass production and consumption”. He noted that there is a rising momentum of a shift to circular economy and that recently, the Japanese Environmental Ministry came out with the new “Plastics Smart” campaign to tackle marine pollution.
Finnish Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing Kimmo Tiilikainen continued on with the same topic, mentioning in his speech that Finland just published the new National Plastic Roadmap last week, containing a set of key actions to find solutions to challenges caused by plastics. “Strong leadership is required from governments and enterprises. The governments must create a supportive operational environment for companies and markets,” asserted Minister Tiilikainen. “Then pioneer businesses will lead the way.”
The two Ministers also signed a Memorandum of Cooperation in the Field of Environment on the same day, followed by bilateral discussions on the topic. The co-operation between the two countries is especially important in promoting the solutions of circular economy and fighting environmental collapse and climate change, with Finland’s EU and Japan’s G20 presidency coming up in 2019.
With WCEF2018 focusing on building the future visions for the circular economy towards the year 2050, multiple sessions were held to discuss economic benefits, energy and climate solutions, food systems, education, and mobility revolution within the context of the transition to a circular economy model. It was not just the experts and decision makers who gathered at WCEF2018 though. As representatives of future generations two local junior high school students faced the audience at the grand opening, and stated in fluent English that a change was needed and more efforts should be put in educating young people.
“I want to continue enjoying delicious sushi with my family. Great nature of the sea needs to be protected,” said Masayasu Takayama from Nitta Junior High School in Kanagawa prefecture. A comment given by a group of 15 year olds sharing their thoughts on sustainable future at one of the parallel sessions said it all: “As long as 7.4 billion people can act together, we can change the world.”