Daily reports with Pär Larshans from COP25 in Madrid

Pär Larshans, Head of Sustainability, will on behalf of Ragn-Sells publish short daily video updates together with people that have a circular example, circular experience or have influence on future legislations that will need to shift in order to create a more circular world.

13 Dec 2019

December 12 - We are not in the end, only in the end of the beginning

The number of people at the conference are now decreasing , there are only about 25% left, and the negations are mostly closed sessions. The ministers started their discussions on Wednesday and shall end according to plan on Friday. They have never had so little time to agree upon so many outstanding differences. Will they come to an agreement about Article 6? We must wait and see!

From Ragn-Sells side Thursday was the last day at the COP in itself. The CEO of EasyMining Jan Svärd will participate on Friday as well.

Today we met with representatives from Denmark. Discussing how we can increase the collaboration going forward. See below interview with Charlotte Gjedde from State of Green and Camilla Mai Petersson from Danish Industry.

In the COP you have all parties represented, the indigos people, the NGO:s, the young, the different business sectors, the unions besides the official delegates from each country that participates in the negotiations etc. I met with one of the representatives from the youths, representing the future. I asked Fenja Feitch from Klimadelegation e.V Germany what she is doing at the COP?

The two weeks for me is over, it means that I now have a long list of new contacts. I have gained new friends, I have understood that circularity is talked about across the globe BUT we are not in the end, not even in the beginning of the end – we are just in the end of the beginning, but the clock is ticking and we need to speed up the transition to a fossil free AND a circular economy.


December 11 - Business + politics = fast change

Don´t let the children be poisoned with heavy metal that causes osteoporosis. Stop the degradation of the soil in Europe that is caused by how you allow spreading of cadmium and uranium. It is in your capacity to stop this as a member of the EU parliament!”. That was how my speech started addressing the MEP (member of the European parliament) Alice Bah Kuhnke from the green party. She had just before given a passionate speech about acting in the climate issue and that everybody can make a difference. That I truly agree upon, but we need the EU commission and the EU parliament to change the fertilizer directive so that “Quality” comes before “Origin” in order for the recycled resources to have the same possibility as virgin in production. After my speech I reached out my hand, and she took it and agreed that she gladly will stand in the front row to make it happen.

Moderating the first session - too little friction?
I started the day by moderating the first session with the theme “business+politics=fast change”. Besides the Ragn-Sells case I had the honour to have representatives from LKAB, VATTENFALL presenting Hybrit, Swehydro presenting their storm water challenge, and Arvet presenting their solution with building high buildings in timber. All of us focused on the different challenges we see in existing policy framework and how the policies are being implemented.

The politicians on the panel were the MEP Pär Holmgren from the green party and Louise Meijer from the conservatives (M) in the Swedish parliament.

We had a one hour discussion that was VERY polite, and I even had to ask the companies if the answers from the politicians were only positive? If we want to change things, we need friction, we need to show passion and we need to be bold to say what’s needed. But they all were happy with what Louise Meijer and Pär Holmgren had promised from stage.

Louise Meijer (conservatives) and Pär Holmgren (green party).

In the next panel moderated by a member of “Stortinget” in Norway, we showed more passion (see the beginning of today’s blog). In the debate we had representatives from the parliament in Denmark as well as from the parliament in Norway. A youth representative, one from WWF in Sweden (based in Chile) representing civil society, and myself representing business in Norden, were asked to formulate questions to the politicians:

  • How can the role and responsibility of parliamentarians be maintained and developed into a context of a changing world where well known answers to global challenges no longer are valid, but represents the answers of yesterday?
  • How can parliamentarians facilitate involvement and participatory processes and create results beside the legislative process? Can parliamentarians be change agents, and if so, what does it take?
  • How can a just and democratic transition be secured and what are the threats?

The panel in the second session.

I am glad to say that both main sessions today were crowded. MEPs from several Nordic countries and parliamentarians from all countries were present throughout the day.

I left Nordic Council day by 5 pm for meetings with UN and the last session I joined as an observer was about circular economy. Circularity has been raised in many of the sessions and that surprised me. But as the UN people we met with late in the afternoon today said - “what you are talking about is real circular transition, these are the type of solutions we need”.

Introduction by Hans Bruyninckx, general Director European Environmental Agency.

I have been asked to present Ragn-Sells circular story at COP26 and today I was asked to present it also in The Netherlands on the 3rd of February, 17th of March in Finland and finally at Folkemötet in Bornholm in June. One thing is important to state, we gladly share our story and our knowledge about the needs for a circular transition with anyone that wants to listen. We strongly believe that a call for ACTION needs a call for COLLABORATION and creating trust by sharing knowledge is a good starting point.

The COP for my side is soon over, the last day is tomorrow with just some follow-up meetings and the journey home to Sweden soon starts.


December 10 - The discussion at the COP stands still… or?

Today the observers (non-governmental organizations) were not invited into the different COP negotiations and discussions. I would say that this is normal at every COP and they need to find ways to compromise in order for the debate to change. So we do not know much about the progress. My focus today has therefore been on climate positive initiatives.

What does it mean to be climate positive? The correct answer is that there is no standard yet. IKEA, Max Burger, H&M have together with WWF discussed how a standard can be set. But there are other organisations doing the same thing. I like the initiatives from UNFCCC where they try to showcase good examples to inspire more action, I believe that it is very important. As one of 15 organizations, Max Burgers was honoured by UNFCCC for their climate positive menu.

I happened to pass by the Saudi Arabia Pavilion and saw that they had a carbon circular economy presentation. I could not resist going in there and join in the discussion. When the actual presentation started the theme was – how to reach a climate positive world by using the carbon more and in other ways.

Carlos M Duarte, marine ecologist and professor at the King Abdullah University. started with a presentation on how important it is to learn from nature.
William McDonough, architect, designer and author (co-author of cradle to cradle) on climate positive thinking.
Representativ for Saudi Aramco demonstrating their way of creating circular flows.
Jorge Gascon, professor of chemical engineering at the King Abdullah University, describing solutions how collected carbon can be used.

What problems do I have with this?
- No detoxification
- Huge costs
- No reduction of use of fossil fuels
- Etc

I believe that we need to change and how a carbon positive/climate positive world will look is not yet decided.  Ragn-Sells is clear that we need to change and we need to reduce our emissions. we have defined how this can be done in a 2 pager.

The focus for Wednesday is on business + politics = fast change. I recommend the Nordic Pavilion between 11.30-14.00. Several members of the EU parliament will also talk about what they can do to increase the speed in order to transform the society towards a circular and fossil free world.


December 9 - Call for ACTION and Call for COLLABORATION

That was the start of my speech at the UNFCCC/SIWI meeting about SDG 6 (Sustainabiity Development Goal nr 6, Access to fresh water).

In 2009 professor Johan Rockström led a group of 28 internationally renowned scientists to identify the nine processes that regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth system. It became the nine planetary boundaries. 3 of them was already in the red territory - biodiversity, the nitrogen and the phosphorus cycle. I started my speech at the UNFCCC/SIWI meeting with a reference to the call for action that has been made by professor Rockström and his fellow scientists since 2009. But I added a call for COLLABORATION to solve the challenge once and for all. I shortly described how we have developed solutions that recirculate phosphorus without any heavy metals or toxin. And how our nitrogen solution reduces Co2 emissions, as well as it solves the challenge with health issues that the world now is facing due to high nitrogen content in water in a growing number of areas around the world.

If you are intrested to see the whole session the recording can be downloaded here, my part starts after 54 minutes and is 2.45 min long. 

Start of the day – update about the progress
Mattias Frumerie, the chief negotiator from Sweden in the COP, informed all participants at the Nordic pavilion of the progress in the negotiations about article 6, and the challenges that the ministers need to find a solution on. Is it worse than any other year before? No, I would say. 2009 was maybe the worst year when it comes to failure and the previous COP should have solved the article 6 issue already last year. It will be interesting to see the outcome. Mattias was very clear in his morning update that the role of business is so essential going forward, we need to inspire the politicians and showcase the concrete solutions we would like to see. You will find his morning speech here.

Helena Mueller from Doconomy, interview at the Japanese pavilion
There are pleny of good examples at the COP. 1,5 year ago, the company Doconomy started with a vision to make people aware of how their consumption affect the climate by letting the credit card and everything you buy with it count your emissions. They started with 2 people in 2018 and are now already 22 people and the international expansion has started. To be honest, this is one of the simplest way to control your own personal impact. I have not yet a card and need to order one. See the interview with Helena where she sends a clear message to the negotiators.

Tuesday, just half day at the COP
Tomorrow I will be just half a day at the COP, I will kickstart with a meeting with the ministry of environment in Sweden. The first expert meeting will be held about the government's mission for setting environmental targets for oceans. All experts will meet for the first time to discuss the year to come and how we can contribute in best way. I will participate online from Madrid and then head for the COP after lunch.


December 8 – Sunday at COP25

Today the COP venue was closed, but I had accepted an invitation to attend the World Climate Summit – The Investment COP. This side event has been organized 10 years in a row, during each COP meeting in December and is organized from Denmark.

There were no Swedish companies presenting, and I don’t really understand why when it is the investors that will play an important part of the transition. The money they decide to invest will show what sustainability solutions that will be put out on the market. I will just comment one of the events and it was the Circular economy discussion that held a very high standard.

Steven Ko from Korea held a key-note about his product line that is in many ways great, but they are not able to recirculate in other ways than by composting or incineration. Solution that degrade the material too fast will be used for other applications I believe.

I have always been impressed by 3M and today I listened to Gayle T. Schueller, Vice President and CSO, on how they are continuing to develop their product with focus on sustainability and circularity 

Me and Gayle T. Schueller
Me and Gayle T. Schueller

Their challenge is that some of their material needs to be incinerated due to how they need to design material for special functions, but I hope that I gave her inspiration by in brief showing how to create circular loops using incineration (waste to energy). The incineration act as a concentrator of resources but it also makes it possible to remove toxic substances and heavy metals. Ragn-Sells Ash2Salt technique can be a solution that should be integrated in systems in order to create circularity.

From the other speakers I must say that it was a pleasure to listen to Miranda Schnittger from Ellen MacArthur foundation (EMF). She was very clear with that circularity will need large scale solutions in place crossing borders, and she especially talked about the WTO process that started 2 weeks ago. IKEA, Skanska, Stora-Enso and Ragn-Sells were invited by the WTO ambassador of Sweden co-hosted by ICC Sweden and ICC Geneva to be in the last panel connected to a WTO meeting in November. In this panel we demonstrated what challenges that industry sees in creating circular material flows with resources that have been classified as waste.

Tomorrow the focus will be on water with two events with Ragn-Sells present and later in the evening a complete Swedish delegation will meet with the Swedish minister of environment.


December 7 - The importance of protecting the oceans

Saturday is no resting day at the COP. I started the day by giving a short statement in the BINGO morning update about what was said at the COP25 Presidency’s NDC Ambition Event.

The Blue COP
After that I headed directly to the Blue COP event in the EU pavilion. It was the president of COP25, the minister of environment Carolina Schmidt from Chile, followed by Peter Thomson, United Nations Secretary - General's Special Envoy for the Ocean speaking. The minster was clear, the protection of the oceans is so important since the oceans both absorb high amounts of CO2 and also provide food.

The road to a Blue COP started as late as 2016 and was confirmed in 2017 when Fiji held the presidency at the COP23 with the launch of a Talanoa dialogue*, a one year discussion period. And in 2018 the dialogue had convened into a Call for Action for the seas. You can read more here

In his speech, Mr Peter Thomson did honour both Sweden and Fiji for their great support to have this Blue COP being able to work through. 

For Sweden and us at Ragn-Sells the care for the Baltic ocean is of high importance. We have operation in 3 countries neighbouring the Baltic Sea but have possibilities with both our nitrogen and phosphorus solutions to contribute with a solution that will be able to reduce eutrophication.

After a full day I meet with Peter Boswell, the young PhD student that between 1969-1971 did most of the calculations to the book Limits to Growth. Many says that it was the starting point for today’s modern circular economy (before the industrial revolution there was closed loops). The book was criticised by many in being all too pessimistic, but now 2019 when we can compare the outcome between 1970-2000, they correlate well. Some of the conclusions differs but not the calculations. I met Peter in Paris in October, in Geneva in November, and now at the COP in Madrid. His ambitions are to create circularity within the construction sector that are one of the areas with high carbon emissions. He still represents FIDIC Sustainable Development Committee that he officially retired from in 2011 

* What is talanoa? In Fiji, “talanoa” means to hold a conversation in an inclusive, receptive space. It is traditional method of solving differences in the Pacific.


December 6 - Focus on the National Determined Contributions (NDC)

Today my focus has been on the NDC:s, National Determined Contributions. The process at the COP includes both negotiations, exhibitions, formal- and informal meetings. Some of them are open to all that has a pass to the blue zone, and some are closed and just open for the country representatives. 

I was asked to speak and represent business in a closed informal roundtable about NDC:sThe NDC: s is the ambition that each country shall set goals to contribute to fulfilling the Paris agreement. Each country must after 2020 according to the Paris agreement start to communicate their climate activities. 

At those meetings the time is very limited and I was given one minute to comment the discussions. I stresses the importance to include business when national NDC:s are set. I honoured EU and some induvial countries' ambitions becoming climate neutral by 2050. We are some companies that have higher ambitions to  become climate positive and implementing circularity into the core of the company as early as 2030 and I asked the individual countries to support the ambitions. Circular ambitions, circular targets, policies that assists circularity need to be added into the NDC:s. I started with IKEA as the example why we need to create circular material flows. 50% of their carbon emissions are embedded in the material or in the products they sell and therefore they have decided that by 2030 be the circular and climate positive IKEA.

I ended with a short answer to a question I was given “What are the main opportunites and challenges to enhance ambition, and how do they link to the broader agenda of sustainable development?"

The example I gave was based on our circular innovation with recovery of nitrogen out of water that addresses several of the SDG:s (health, climate, fresh water etc). The challenge is how this technical solution can be implemented, scaled and also used in developing countries. Therefore I also asked the country representatives not to just focus on reduction of carbon emissions but also implementing sustainable business models as part of the NDC:s.

Ericsson takes circularity seriously
Today’s circular example is Ericsson that for more than 10 years have used a business model based on replacable systems that means that things can be reused, upgraded and so forth over and over again. Listen to Mats Pellbäck Scharp, Head of Sustainability at Ericsson.


December 5 – What is on the agenda in Madrid?

The aim is to discuss the Article 6 in the Paris agreement. All participating countries are required to set national GHG emission reduction targets referred in the agreements as the NDCs latest in 2020. What is well known is that countries need to increase ambitions in order to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, and this is important to significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

One of the keys to this increased ambition lies in the implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. While at COP24, in Katowice, Poland last December, participating countries reached an agreement on the implementation of the Paris Agreement (the Paris rulebook). They did not succeed to agree how to implement Article 6. It is necessary that the Madrid COP reaches an agreement. Read more here about Article 6 

One examples of what could happen if there is no Article 6 is that there will be no regulation on how to measure carbon counting and carbon offsetting by regulating carbon emissions trading. 

How is the temperature of the negotiations here in Madrid? Will the parties come to an agreement? The feeling is that the progress is very slow. What I hear from many here at the COP is that many things will be unsolved until next week when the ministers arrive. The US did send in an application to withdraw from the Paris agreement on the 4th of November but it will take a full year before they can formally withdraw. According to people that participate in the negotiations, the US delegates have a very passive approach.

The number of people here at the COP are increasing. Jan Svärd, CEO for Ragn-Sells innovation company EasyMining, did his first day as we started with the ICC Business update and then headed for the Nordic Pavilion for two different sessions in a row. The good thing being here is being able to schedule meetings with people that normally a very hard to reach out to, so we had a full day. It all ended with a reception at the Swedish residence where the Swedish ambassador welcomed everyone from the Swedish business delegation. “Hello, my name is Sweden” is the theme of the delegation and in total we are 65 people from business in Sweden here in Madrid.

See the whole interview with Jan Svärd here

Who is the world leader of the transition into a circular economy?
According to me it is IKEA. I had the opportunity to interview Malin Pettersson Beckeman, Head of sustainability & communication at Inter Ikea group, about their circular ambitions, but also about why IKEA are present here at COP25.


December 4 - The emission continues to increase + interview with a large company that has set circularity in the core of the strategy

At midnight between the 3rd and the 4th of December, the 2019 report of how much CO2 emissions that are emitted to the atmosphere was published. In order to succeed with the 1,5-2-degree target to 2100 (Paris agreement) we need to see an annual decrease in carbon emissions by 7,6%. The result in 2019? An increase with + 0,6%. Notable is that due to weather conditions in India the increase there was not +5% as predicted, but instead +1,8%. My conclusions, we need to speed up the transition.

You are able to download the full report here 

The day started with a morning breakfast session arranged by Business Sweden and AFRY. Invited guest of honour was Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation, Peter Eriksson.

The theme was “Sustainable transition - a Nordic approach to sustainable development and how our solutions could be used as a vehicle for transformation also in developing economies”.

Great presentations from AFRY, ABB, Scania and Ericsson about the technology shift and the need of having telecom connecting people but also the challenges to have them work in developing countries. I then had the opportunity to share the knowledge that almost 50% of the emissions are not part of the negotiations in the COP process, that is everything that is connected to material use or todays state of un-circularity. This data was published in October by Ellen MacArthur/Material economics here 

When it comes to extracting nitrogen out of water, I suggested for the Minister to create a joint Nordic/Swedish collaboration enabling future export of a technique that can both reduce cost for society, avoid stunting for up to 150 million children, and as a big bonus - reduce carbon emissions. See film about the water crisis at worldbank.org

Scania has set circularity in the center!

The company that has set circularity as one of 3 priorities in their strategy is Scania. I had the opportunity to interview their head of sustainability Andreas Follér about his expectations here at the COP.

By collaborating we will have all the possibilities to start bending the curve and start moving towards a maximum 2-degree increase.


December 3 - The meeting has started

Mattias Frumerie, the appointed chief negotiator from Sweden, started the day with a briefing session to the Business Sweden delegation. This week the delegates are trying to solve as many questions as possible so that the next week, the different ministers of environment across the world only have to deal with the ones that are more tricky to solve. Mattias was very clear, the role of business is to inspire, showcase, participate in the discussion, speak up and most important - “make your voices heard” especially important with the little time we have left. Why not a "2business COP” where all the good solutions are shared?

I have also spent the day to understand the set-up of COP25 and I must say that I am amazed how organized and well-functioning everything is considering the little amount of time given to Madrid when Chile cancelled their hosting. And I had also the honour to moderate the first business Sweden session at COP25 – “How circularity can contribute to the Paris agenda”, the short answer is a lot. I am very pleased with how Business Sweden have been able to put this session together.

Together with me, Marie Trogstam from AFRY (used to be ÅF+Pöyry) gave the background how circularity and the global warming are connected. Ellen MacArthur together with Material economics have presented a study that clearly shows that without circular material streams, we will never be able to reach the Paris agreement that states “well below 2 degrees, down to 1,5”. www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/completing-the-picture-climate-change

During our session there where people from different parts of the world present and Virginia Cariera from Madagaskar had a clear message, “we focus everything on sorting but what should we do with the waste when we have collected it? We need help”.  My belief is that we need to create resources with a value in combination with that regulations are based on a Time – Place – Function principle that would be possible. Time = the resource are at hand when needed, Place – the resource are placed or easy accessible where we need them – Function – used in the way where it creates most value.


December 2 - Talking about sludge in The Netherlands before arriving to Madrid 

This was a day of transport, speeches and interesting meetings. Before 06.00 I left the home in Stockholm, heading towards Den Hauge in The Netherlands and the waste water treatment plant in Harnashpolder. It was a day when all the 5 waste water management boards had a day to workshop with the aim to turn their problem of handling of sludge from a problem to a possibility, is it possible to turn it into a circular future? Together this water boards represents 47 cities/communities in The Netherlands.

It was inspiring to see that they invested so much into new technology, they had just put a new green gas production in operation. Turning “biogas to electricity” to green gas being able to be used for transport sector instead. The aim? To be able to replace natural gas.

I interviewed Joyce from “HVC groep” about the aim of todays meeting but also what messages she would like to send to the politician at COP25 in Madrid.

I had the honour to present Ragn-Sells solutions to recover nutrients and to detoxify before recirculating it back. My message was that even if we have the technique we will not be able to implement them if we do not have circular policies in place and more companies with ambitions for the future. I ended with a question to the audience if they believed in the circular story I gave them and asked them if they would like to follow us – 90% of the people raised their hands.

I ended my meeting in The Netherlands before heading down to Madrid with a dinner accompanied by the founder of the “ladder of Lansink”, in this case it was Dr. Lansink himself. I asked him especially about how he sees that the transformation to a industry 4.0 will look like. He was one of the key people interviewed in the ISWA report from Oct. Time-Place-Action needs to be the new norm for policymakers when new legislations are put into place.

I also ended with a short interview and the interesting thing was that Dr Lansink gave the same message to the politicians in Madrid as Joyce.

I arrived in Madrid just after midnight and tomorrow I will come back with reflections from the COP meeting in itself.


November 29 - Introducing "The Project Nitrogen" to Minister of Environment and Climate in Sweden

The last working day before COP25 we had the honour to have the Minister of Environment and Climate Isabella Lövin visiting our research facility “EasyMining” in Uppsala where we demonstrated solutions for phosphorus recovery and Nitrogen extraction from water. The Project Nitrogen that we published news about in August is a collaboration between BIFOS, Denmark, EasyMining, Ragn-Sells and Lantmännen in Sweden. We have succeeded to extract ammonia (Nitrogen) from water by directly produce high quality nitrogen fertilizer. This solution will reduce cost for society, denitrificate the water that otherwise can be a health issue and also produce fertilizer with any need of fossil fuel.

This nitrogen solution will be something that we will present on several of the seminaries we will participate in, or in workshops that we will attend.

See you on the COP25 blog or why not in person at the COP in Madrid.

/ Pär

Isabella Lövin besöker Ragn-Sells innovationsbolag EasyminingYariv Cohen, Research and Development Manager at Easymining, talking to Isabella Lövin, Minister of Environment and Climate


November 28 - Hello and welcome!