Helsinki:: WCEF2017 opened yesterday(5.6.2017) in Helsinki, Finland, with a live performance of music and movement celebrating the country’s culture on this 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence. Over 1,500 people were in attendance at the Finlandia Hall venue and thousands more were expected to follow this highly interactive event on a livestream.
At a “Grand Opening” session, an introductory panel discussion was held on aligning the circular economy with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Panelists included: Mikko Kosonen, Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra; Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister for Housing, Energy and the Environment, Finland; Matti Vanhanen, Member of Finnish Parliament; and Jan Vapaavuori, European Investment Bank and Mayor-elect of Helsinki. Participants heard a welcoming address by Kosonen, as well as two keynote addresses. Janez Potočnik, UN Environment’s International Resources Panel, gave an overview of global use of natural resources, and Achim Steiner, Oxford Martin School, and incoming director of the UN Development Programme, addressed the circular economy as a means to achieve the SDGs and reduce poverty. A panel discussion on the Forum’s core themes was also convened.
Four parallel sessions were held in the afternoon using innovative formats to engage, inform and invite direct participation. The first addressed drivers of economic transition in the Nordics and beyond, in the form of a “game show” or back-casting exercise. Jocelyn Blériot, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, delivered a keynote address. The second parallel session featured 17 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) active in the area of circular economy. They each presented their business case in a short pitch, showing how their work supports implementation of the SDGs. The SME representatives then engaged in “interactive table talks” with participants.
The third parallel session addressed innovation challenges for the circular economy, highlighting how partnerships, collaboration and innovation challenges can drive circular innovation and systems transformation. This session culminated with the announcement of the LAUNCH Innovation Challenge 2017, which seeks circular economy innovations and solutions for design and manufacturing from around the world. The final parallel session addressed collective impact for sustainable consumption and a circular economy. Participants discussed ways in which businesses, governments and citizens can interact to generate “collective impact” for sustainable consumption globally. This session featured a keynote address by Kitty van der Heijden, World Resources Institute.
Participants then reconvened in plenary for a session on circular cities. Presentations were delivered by Dimitri Zenghelis, London School of Economics, and Hans Bruyninckx, European Environment Agency. Representatives from several cities implementing circular economy strategies shared success stories: Amsterdam (Netherlands), Peterborough (UK), Helsinki (Finland), Vancouver (Canada), New York (US), and Abuja (Nigeria).
In the evening, participants were entertained at an evening reception hosted by the City of Helsinki. Sitra Director Mari Pantser and Xaver Edelmann, President of the World Resources Forum, shared their impressions of the first day of WCEF2017.