arnold tukker presentation

The Circular Economy – some (in)convenient truths and policy lessons

Colombia's conferences on Green Growth

On 18 and 19 July 2017, Colombia held one of its first major conferences on Green Growth. Prof. Dr. Arnold Tukker of Leiden University / CML and LDE CfS gave an invited keynote on The Circular Economy – some (in)convenient truths and policy lessons.

The conference was organized in Bogota by the Colombian Government, the Universidad de los Andes, and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). ‘It really was an interesting experience’, says Arnold Tukker .

There was an interesting mix of speakers from Colombia, other Latin American countries and from other parts of the world. ‘You can see that Colombia is really leaving behind its troubled past. They now move fast in implementing some interesting innovations in the field of sustainable infrastructures. They introduced one of the first high –density bus systems in the world, the Transmilenio. For a fraction of the costs of subway systems, high quality public transport is now offered in Bogota. And you see more of such examples’.

The conference was live-streamed and hence followed by a much larger audience than the 200 conference participants. Additional information on the program can be found here:

Inconvenient truths 

Arnold’s presentation "(in)convenient truths" tackled the popular assumption that technology will solve all problems around resource depletion. Sunlight and wind are free, right? We only have to "catch these energy sources" to have unlimited power. This goes also for other resources: with better technologies, the efficiency will go up and we will need much less resources for the same products or services.

Sounds hopeful, but it is not true. The inconvenient truth is: there are limits to growth. This isn’t news: already in 1972, the Club of Rome published its report "Limits to growth" and warned us that the earth is finite, hence exponential economic and population growth will lead to a shortage of resources and eventually to a crash.

Arnold Tukker explains in just a few simple slides that unlimited growth is impossible. 

First of all, let's have a look at the numbers: if we take a global growth percentage of 7%, how much resources do we need in the future? 


It is clear that the earth doesn't provide us enough resources for eternal growth. But what if our efficient rate will grow with 7% as well? Is this possible? 

slides 1 and 2

The inconvenient truth is: there is not such a thing a eternal global growth. We simply have not enough resources and technology can't solve this gap. But there is also a convenient truth: we may not get eternal growth, but a circular economy gives us 20 time more wealth. And we have to start the transition now! 

slide 3



Read the full presentation of Arnold Tukker (2.24 MB)