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Circular economy

Leading the way to a resource-efficient and circular economy at the global level.


Our consumer-driven society is putting an enormous pressure on the planet. The goods we use are often produced in developing countries. As these producer countries become more prosperous, the global demand for resources and energy also increases.

Sustainable production and consumption and a global resource-efficient circular economy offer practical solutions for long-term development. Sustainable consumption and production (see Sustainable Development Goal 12) is one of the essential requirements for sustainable development. It is about fulfilling the needs of all, while using fewer resources, including energy and water, and producing less waste and pollution. It can contribute to alleviating poverty and the transition towards a low carbon, green economy. It is essential for improving the lives of the world’s poorest people, who depend so closely on the natural resources provided by their environment.

Global circular economy

The EU’s circular economy action plan stresses that the EU cannot deliver a climate neutral, resource-efficient and circular economy alone. The action plan confirms that the EU will continue promoting a global circular economy in

  • bilateral, regional, and multilateral policy dialogues
  • fora and multilateral environmental agreements
  • pre-accession assistance and neighbourhood
  • development and international cooperation programmes including the International Platform on Sustainable Finance

The EU will also use its influence, expertise and financial resources to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the EU and beyond.

It will also ensure that Free Trade Agreements reflect the enhanced objectives of the circular economy and step-up outreach activities, including through European Green Deal diplomacy and Circular Economy Missions to third countries.

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Global alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency

Concrete actions to promote the circular economy abroad include a Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency. It was initiated by the European Commission and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in coordination with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The Global Alliance brings together governments and relevant networks and organisations. The aim is to identify knowledge and governance gaps in advancing a global circular economy and take forward partnership initiatives.

The following are currently members: Canada, Chile, Colombia, European Union, India, Japan, Kenya, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, South Africa, Switzerland. 

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Circular economy missions

The Circular Economy Missions are a series of high-level political and business meetings organised in third countries by the Directorate-General for the Environment of the European Commission. The aim of the missions is to increase cooperation between the EU and third countries in the field of environmental policy, achieve a better understanding of the environmental challenges faced by third countries and promote green solutions through business partnerships abroad. The missions center on the topics of circular economy, resource efficiency and sustainable use of natural resources.

International Resource Panel

The International Resource Panel (IRP) was launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2007 to build and share the knowledge needed to improve our use of resources worldwide. The Panel studies key questions around global resource use and produces assessment reports that distil the latest scientific, technical, and socio-economic findings, proposing practical solutions, to inform decision-making. Its goal is to steer us away from overconsumption, waste, and ecological harm to a more prosperous and sustainable future. Decoupling resource use from well-being and adverse social and environmental impacts is the key to achieving sustainable development. The European Commission co-chairs the Panel's Steering Committee.