Climate Change | Readout and Recommendations

The Circular Economy Pathway to Pursuing 1.5°C

June 2017


Circular economy strategies—which address climate change, excessive resource extraction, and waste generation in parallel— expand the set of solutions and tools for climate action, giving policymakers more options and flexibility for limiting global warming to 1.5° C. They also address, in a tangible manner, lifestyle aspirations, production processes, and consumption processes, which have loomed as systemic issues contributing to impasse in climate negotiations. In short, circular economy strategies have transformational potential—bringing about systemic changes in business models, economic systems, and society and lifestyle. Circular economy strategies have been embraced by some subnational actors, especially cities; however, they have not been examined in much detail for international policy development.

On May 11, 2017, the Stanley Center held a policy salon dinner, “The Circular Economy Pathway for Pursuing 1.5°C,” during the intersessional UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany that included a presentation on circular economy strategies and climate change by Jelmer Hoogzaad of Shifting Paradigms and Matthieu Bardout of Circle Economy.

Bringing together UNFCCC officials, city representatives, civil society, and technical experts, the dinner examined how circular economy strategies can change alignments on issues around production and consumption processes, and contribute to the UNFCCC process and the development of articles in the Paris Agreement.

Opportunities to advance circular economy strategies in international climate change policy include:

  • Circular economy strategies can be raised in a variety of processes in the UNFCCC, including pre-2020 action, technical meetings, and the Paris Agreement. Circular economy strategies can be linked to the Sustainable Development Goals as well.
  • Circular economy strategies can enhance sectoral climate action efforts like renewable energy. Business coalitions are a prime audience for adopting circular economy strategies as they can help form innovative business models. There are also opportunities to mainstream circular economy in the analytical community, and highlight circular economy efforts in cities and regions.
  • Further analysis of specific numbers around waste and emissions pertaining to specific issues and stakeholders can bring more attention to circular economy strategies.