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10th Veolia Institute Conference in Oxford: "Strategic Materials for a Low-Carbon Future, from Scarcity to Availability"

On 2 and 3 November in Oxford, the Veolia Institute held its 10th international conference in partnership with the Oxford Martin School and with the support of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. Researchers, policy makers, civil society representatives, industrialists, financiers, and entrepreneurs from all over the world came together around two challenges: natural resource scarcity and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Antoine Frérot, Veolia Chairman and CEO, concluded the conference.

"With population growth and rising living standards, humankind is facing a bottleneck of dwindling resources and growing needs. The climate crisis has become a reality with heat waves and unprecedentedly violent hurricanes. The Earth can only partly clean up the CO2, it is up to us to do the rest," said Antoine Frérot.


Inspired by nature, make the economy "circular" 

To meet the two challenges of overconsumption of natural resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we must move from the linear "Extract - Manufacturing - Discard" model to the circular economy that allows resources to be used in an endless cycle.
By giving back value to what no longer had any, the circular economy makes available what was rare: obsolete electronic equipment becomes precious metal, wastewater becomes bioplastic, organic waste becomes fertilizer, used food oils become biofuels.
Currently, 75% of urban waste and 95% of wastewater is not recycled or reused. The development of the circular economy will make it possible to produce new raw materials from waste while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


"The low-carbon society is not utopian. We can’t control the climate, but we can decarbonise growth and produce differently. By taking inspiration from nature in which everything is a resource, we can make the economy circular, and therefore more frugal and more efficient, by extending the cycle of raw materials, water and energy," stated Antoine Frérot.


The return of the "scarcity - innovation" dynamic

Reproducing the natural material cycles requires advanced technologies. Today, for water, energy and materials, the "scarcity - innovation" dynamic has begun. Progress must be made in scientific and technical fields, in the economic and financial sphere, and also in governance, so that an economy that is less carbon-intensive and less costly in natural resource becomes widespread.


"If we want to stabilize rising temperatures to 2 °C and protect nature, we must make a triple effort: decarbonise, dematerialize, and dehydrate the economy. Biologist Jean Rostand said: "Humankind has become too powerful to allow itself to play with the environment. Its excessive force condemns it to virtue". In the face of resource scarcity and climate degradation, solutions exist or will be invented provided that we persevere along the paths of friendship with the environment and a low-carbon world," concluded Antoine Frérot.


More :

The Institute's conference on resource availability in a low carbon world
The conference program and its high-level speakers 
Oxford Martin School is an Oxford University research centre that focuses on global issues such as climate change, the future of food, global epidemics.
The Veolia Institute website
> The circular economy”, “Carbon price” and “Climate solutions”, read in Veolia’s climate blog
The circular city: creating local loops to generate territorial value