Delegation of the European Union to Colombia

The Benefits of a Circular Economy for Achieving Climate

19/02/2021 - 17:48

25 February 2021 - Circular Economy Event


Co-hosted by the EU Delegation and the Permanent Missions of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Singapore, Kenya and Finland

25 February 2021, 9.00AM EST


We stand at the beginning of the Decade of Action to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. The climate COP 26 in Glasgow is coming up, and governments have submitted or are in the process of preparing enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and Long-Term Strategies to reduce greenhouse gases and other emissions, protect lives and livelihoods and the world's resource base. Governments are designing COVID 19-recovery strategies and investment packages aiming at “building back better”. This provides a key opportunity for governments to provide support for more sustainable, resource efficient and resilient economic growth while creating job opportunities and reducing inequalities.


The circular economy is an economic model that responds to all these objectives. It implies a systemic change that goes beyond waste management and resource efficiency. It aims to design out waste[1] and pollution and covers the whole life cycle of products, from design for longer lifetime or recyclability of products, as well as circular production processes and business models for re-use, to collection and recycling. A circular economy maintains the value of products, materials and resources in the economy for as long as possible, and aims to regenerate natural systems. If integrated into key economic sectors, including energy, water, construction or agriculture and food production, it can bring multiple benefits.   


While the modelling of the impact of the transition to a circular economy on our climate and environment is being developed, in 2017, the UN’s International Resources Panel (IRP) estimated that, by 2050, resource efficiency policies could reduce global extractions by 28%. Such policies can reduce greenhouse gases emissions around 63%, and increase economic growth by 1.5%[2] if combined with ambitious climate action: the production and incineration of plastics have been estimated to annually produce 400 MtCO2e emissions globally. These emissions are the equivalent of 3.5 billion of oil barrels per year. Recycling a million of tonnes of plastics is equivalent to the emissions of one million cars[3]. The Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation estimated that action in five key areas (cement, plastics, steel, aluminium, and food), in particular designing out waste, keeping materials in use, and regenerating farmland in five key can reduce emissions by 9.3 billion tonnes. That is equivalent to eliminating current emissions from all forms of transport globally.[4]


At the same time, there are many other opportunities of implementing circular economy approaches, particularly relevant in the context of a green recovery which aims at job creation and increased economic growth. As an example, within the EU, where the circular economy is a key pillar of the European Green Deal, it is seen as an opportunity to create 700,000 jobs and to increase GDP by an additional 0.5% by 2030[5].


A steadily growing number of countries endorses and implements circular economy approaches, illustrated in new coalitions around the globe, including the African Circular Economy Alliance, the Latin American and Caribbean Regional Coalition on Circular Economy or the new Global Alliance for Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency[6] (GACERE), which will be launched in the margins of UNEA 5 in February 2021. An increasing number of countries also acknowledges the crucial link between the circular economy and addressing climate change in their national climate policies, including their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).[7]

In our event, we will discuss the potential of the circular economy as an essential tool in a comprehensive and effective climate policy as well as ways to strengthen its uptake in the context of enhanced NDCs and Long-Term Strategies at country level, and in the UN's climate strategy. The conclusions of this meeting will lay the foundation for further discussions at the WCEF+Climate on 15 April 2021, hosted by the Netherlands, together with Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, in cooperation with partners across the world. The conference aims to raise ambition on the circular economy approaches as a necessity for achieving climate neutrality.


Programme (moderated by Jocelyn Blériot, Ellen MacArthur Foundation)

Opening remarks by the Heads of the Missions of the EU, Singapore, Kenya and Finland

Setting the scene: Janez Potočnik, Vice-Chair, International Resource Panel  

SCP and the circular economy in the UNs climate strategy: ASG Selwin Hart

Circular Economy in the NDC enhancement process -        
UNDP (Cassie Flynn, Head, Climate Promise) and national experiences
(Gonzalo Muñoz, Chile - Bubacar Jallow, The Gambia - Antony Garae, Vanuatu)  

Q&A / Statements from other countries

Closing remarks: PR of The Netherlands


[1] See UNEA Resolution 4/1, UNEP/EA.4/Res.1, Innovative pathways to achieve sustainable consumption and production,

[2] UNEP (2017) Resource Efficiency: Potential and Economic Implications. Nairobi: UN Environment. In:

[3] Communication “A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy“ COM(2018) 28 final.



New York
United States of America