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  • STEAM Team

Circular Economy Global Development Trends

The circular economy is becoming the key economic driving force as governments worldwide and the private sectors have shown commitment in this transition. To incorporate the social-economic dimension of the economy, Circular Urban Metabolism is emerging. The world economic forum (WEF) published the New Nature Economy Report in January 2020, calling to build the Nature Positive Economy. Thailand’s Bio-Circular-Green Economy framework is very much aligned with global development trends.

WEF launched the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) in 2017 as a platform for public and private sector leaders to make commitments and accelerate collective action towards the Circular Economy​. Today PACE has attracted over 75 community members from public and private sectors consisting of major government and corporations in Europe and the USA, and Chinese and UAE governments. The World Bank groups started to develop the financing mechanism to support the CE transition. It has conducted market studies on plastics circularity in Thailand and other east Asia & pacific countries to provide better financing guidance for WB groups. The Asia Development Bank (ADB) has been active in waste to energy and plastic circularity. Recently ADB launched a knowledge and support technical assistance program to develop policy and capacity, technical guidance, and pilot design to advance further and enable mainstream green circular economy, zero waste cities in the People's Republic of China (PRC).

The EU launched the Circular Economy Action Plan in May 2020 under the European Green Deal. It includes a) A Sustainable Product Policy Framework, b) Key Product Key-Value Chains, c) Less Waste, More Value Policy, d) Making Circularity Work for People, Region, and Cities, e) Crosscutting Actions, f) Leading Efforts at Global Level, and g) Monitoring Progress. In Asia, major economies have launched CE policy. Notably, Taiwan has been particularly progressive in globalizing its partnerships led by Taiwan CE Network funded by the government. South Korea, ranked 2nd (after Germany in 2013) among OECD countries in this recycling rate, enacted in Jan 2018, the "Basic Law on the Resource Circulation." The law includes systems for resource recycling, recycling performance management, evaluation of product cycle utilization, and set waste disposal fees. Japan compiled the Circular Economy Vision 2020 in May 2020.

China passed the law for promoting the circular economy in Aug. 2008 and created the Circular Economy Development Strategies Action Plan on January 23, 2013, where it further embedded the idea of a circular economy into Chinese legislation. The plan outlined the circular economy in China, being within a company, industrial park, and city or region. The plan outlines various targets for 2015 and 2020, where they are meant to address both industrial and social sectors. The government launched in 2020 the “Accelerating Green, Low-carbon and Circular Economy” action plan. One of the key features in China’s CE policy is its “Multi-sectoral coordination and hierarchical policy framework” implemented from national, regional, down to the municipality. In 2021, ADB provides technical assistance (TA) for piloting zero-waste cities in Guangzhong and Qinghai provinces in partnership with the Chinese government.

India launched in early 2019 an action plan to accelerate Resource Efficiency (RE) and circular economy. This has been instrumental in building domestic recycling infrastructure, developing and promoting sustainable product designs, and supporting innovative business models towards a circular economy.

UNEP launched the circularity platform ( in 2019 focuses on circularity by design concept. Most recently, during May 13-19th UNEP held the Global Environmental Outlook (GEO) for Business- Author Meeting on Business for Nature Positive Economy, where the circular economy transition is one of the key topics. GEO will publish, in 2021, Business Brief 2-‘Moving from linear to a circular economy: what this means for business?’ where discussion focused much on the Covid-19 recovery and resilience alongside with Nature Positive, Circular & Green Economy.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), the circular economy transformation could yield annual benefits for Europe of up to EUR 1.8 trillion in 2030. For China, activating broader circular economy solutions in cities could significantly lower the cost of access to goods and services and save businesses and households approximately USD 11.2 trillion in 2040. The annual benefits could amount to USD 624 billion in 2050 compared with the current development path for India. Details of EMF business opportunities in China, Europe, and India are summarized in “An Introduction to Circular Economy” book by Springer Nature edited by Liu & Ramakrishna.

Courtesy of Claire Thiebault (UNEP, Paris) presented at the CELP Summit 2021, where she shared the UNEP Circularity Platform.

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