Over time, circular economy has gained traction among a broad range of stakeholders. Circular economy is an alternative to the traditional linear economic model where resources are kept in use for as long as possible, maximum value is extracted from them, and waste is relocated from the end of the supply chain to the beginning, giving the used materials a new life. The concept is also indispensable for the global action on climate change. In fact, actions related to circular economy and climate change are seen as complementary and mutually reinforcing.
Encouragement and incentives by Governments worldwide to adopt circular economy principles, leading to higher resource efficiency and a reduction of industrial waste, are therefore of utmost importance. At the global level, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by United Nations Member States in 2015, incorporate many related ambitions such as those covered by SDG 9 “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure”, SDG 12 “Responsible Consumption and Production”, and SDG 13 “Climate Action.”
UNIDO, together with its Member States, is already working on addressing various circular economy building blocks in its initiatives. Some of its projects support resource efficient and cleaner manufacturing of products, others help develop safe, easy-to-recycle products with longer lifetimes, while a number of others deal with the recovery or safe disposal of resources at the end of a product's lifecycle. UNIDO also promotes industrial energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy for productive uses by optimizing energy systems, developing international energy management standards, and bringing sustainable energy solutions to industries.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with unprecedented challenges, it also offers a unique opportunity to rethink the systems that underpin the economy. Expectations are high that countries build back better and accelerate global actions to achieve the SDGs and fully implement the Paris Agreement. Coordinated actions are required among stakeholders to enable a fundamental paradigm shift towards more inclusive, resilient, and low-carbon circular economies.