It will be impossible to reduce emissions to zero by 2050 with our current linear approach to production and consumption (make-use-dispose). Globally, each year, there are 100 billion tonnes of materials entering the economy with only 10% being recycled or re-used. This puts a tremendous strain on global systems and pushes us outside of planetary boundaries. We must rapidly move to a more circular model of production and consumption that sees products being made to higher standards, lasting longer, being repairable and easily recyclable, and being produced, as far as possible, with sustainable raw materials and renewable processes. This must be a priority in the UK and globally. This circularity work is something we have championed in our work in energy access in the Global South, through our collaborations with academia, international trade associations focused on off-grid renewables and the promotion of international business model innovations in circularity. The UK Climate Change Committee has recommended in its recent sixth carbon budget that by 2050, the longevity of electronics will need to increase by 120% with a 30% increase in longevity by 2025.
Electricity production is expected to increase by 60% by 2030 globally due to increased use of equipment, appliances, lighting and other devices, as well as the electrification of transport, heating and industrial processes. This poses a challenge for governments around the world to maintain or create a stable supply of electricity (with an ever increasing demand) while simultaneously decarbonising. However, there is a solution to this increasing electricity use, and most of the technology has already been researched, developed and is market-ready: energy-efficient products that deliver the same performance but require less power to operate. The need for efficient equipment and appliances is greater than ever, as they hold the power to lower energy costs, enhance energy security, expand energy access, reduce energy poverty and reduce harmful emissions.
The economic impacts of increased energy efficiency are staggering: only a 10% reduction in electricity consumption by 2030 would save consumers $350 billion; savings in material costs could be worth up to $630 billion per year by 2025 in European manufacturing sectors; and we could see $500 billion of spending on energy efficient products by 2035.
Consumers should be able to easily tell which products are well-made, easily repaired, have had less of an impact on the planet, and will be efficient and cheap to run. This can be achieved with better labelling that takes account of these features and also offers consumers the opportunity to learn more if they choose. Manufacturers should be supported to make the necessary changes and market surveillance undertaken to ensure that products are being produced to the correct standard and customers are being protected.