Understanding the nexus between Sustainable Consumption and Production, Circular Economy and Climate Change. Discover our latest publication.

Friday 15 March 2024

  • MedWaves launched the ‘Working Paper on the Contribution of Circular Economy to Climate Action’ in the framework of the COP28UAE at the occasion of the panel discussion “Circular Thinking for Climate Action: The Synergy of Circular Economy and Climate Change Mitigation” held in Dubai on December 1st, 2023.
  • Discover through this new report how a just transition to a Circular Economy can yield numerous beneficial effects on the economy, the environment, and society when systematically adopted and supported by effective policy-making.

The shift from a linear to a Circular Economy marks a monumental change in how we produce and consume. However, this transformative transition brings significant social and environmental consequences, highlighting the need for careful planning, coordination, and effective governance at every level.

This transition isn’t merely a concept; it’s an immediate necessity. Despite the Circular Economy’s potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions across various sectors, the global economy is only 7.2% circular—a concerning statistic. This underscores the critical need for policymakers to grasp the implications and advantages of Circular Economy strategies within the broader framework of mitigating climate change.

The Circular Economy presents vast potential, offering a robust solution to combat climate change, stimulate economic growth, and advance sustainability goals. However, realizing its benefits requires a collective effort from stakeholders, supportive policy frameworks, and a thorough understanding of the complex dynamics at play.

Exploring the potential of the Circular Economy and Sustainable Business Models to address climate change mitigation

This report explores the value of Circular Economy (CE) and Sustainable Business Models (SBM) in the Mediterranean region in terms of climate change mitigation (CCM). The report endeavours to offer practical insights and strategies to businesses and policymakers, aimed at fostering the widespread adoption and implementation of CE. This involves benchmarking CCM policies, identifying key domains for SBM, evaluating high-potential CE strategies, emphasizing CE’s regenerative role, and exploring gender and class dimensions in these strategies. While the report has a global scope, it gives particular attention to Mediterranean cases.

Transforming consumption patterns in wealthy countries is essential, emphasizing a shift towards renewable energy, transportation modes, and dietary changes. Sectors like shelter, food, and mobility dominate household consumption-related emissions, urging targeted mitigation efforts. Actions such as dietary shifts, transport mode changes, and energy-efficient refurbishments hold promise in reducing climate impact. These sectors serve as pivotal domains for SMB to significantly contribute to CCM. One of the main conclusions this report provides is how policies and institutional backing are pivotal for enabling the transition to SBM from the prevailing linear economy. For a successful transition, policies should focus on key economic sectors, employ diverse strategies, and provide clear definitions and objectives to guide stakeholders.

Legal frameworks play a crucial role in shaping and enforcing CE principles, potentially becoming ineffective if lacking in ambition, clarity, or enforcement capabilities. Challenges faced by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in adapting to CE frameworks due to cost and time constraints underscore the need for supportive policies, collaborative platforms, and protections for their economic activities. However, critiques highlight that a CE, operating within the current growth-centric economic framework, might not inherently decrease resource consumption or emissions. This underscores the need for a significant shift in economic priorities, requiring intentional political choices that prioritize action for substantive transformation.

The examination of the potential of CE on CCM reveals a strategic alignment with climate change mitigation efforts, as the CE emphasizes resource efficiency and sustainable practices. It focuses on optimized product use, longevity, and recycling to curtail emissions and reduce environmental strain. CE’s systemic approach across value chains contributes to broader decarbonization and economic resilience, notably through local sourcing and renewable energy promotion. In agriculture, CE practices, like regenerative farming, enhance carbon sequestration and resource conservation.

Recent studies hint at CE’s potential to substantially cut global greenhouse gas emissions, with interventions like dietary shifts and regenerative agriculture offering promising emission reductions and co-benefits. While the full scope of CE’s impact on national climate targets is not yet fully explored, initial estimates propose significant emission reductions if CE strategies are widely adopted. The integration of CE principles into climate change mitigation efforts underscores the potential for substantial environmental benefits and emission reductions. CE’s emphasis on resource efficiency, recycling, and sustainable practices aligns with strategies aimed at mitigation GHG emissions. Its systemic approach, applied across industries and value chains, shows promise in reducing environmental strain and fostering economic resilience. Notably, CE practices in agriculture, such as regenerative farming, hold potential for enhancing carbon sequestration and resource conservation.

Exploring the social dimension within the nexus of CE, SBM, and CCM reveals critical considerations for a socially just transition. The report stresses the significance of context in consumer choices and the pivotal role of policy infrastructure in promoting circular practices.

Addressing the democratic aspect, the report emphasizes political legitimacy as crucial for implementing effective CE policies, highlighting methodologies like citizens’ engagement and polling to amplify citizen voices. It underscores the necessity of societal acceptance and political backing, crucial for a sustainable CE implementation within democratic systems.

The report recognizes potential job displacement and economic disparities arising from CE adaptation, emphasizing the importance of quality ‘green jobs,’ especially in regions like the Global South. The report advocates for gender perspectives within CE policies, aiming for gender justice by closing the gap between productive and reproductive work. It underscores the need to redefine value within CE to encompass social and environmental care, aligning with a Feminist Ecological Economics perspective. This comprehensive societal approach ensures a more inclusive, socially just, and environmentally sustainable CE.

“The urgency of the climate crisis demands a radical transformation in our economic system, we all agree on that. Today, our discussion will not only unravel the challenges but also spotlight the potential it holds to drive systemic decarbonization across different sectors. This is what our Working Paper is actually about. It’s not just about understanding, of course; it’s about identifying actionable pathways toward a regenerative and decarbonized future”.

Alessandro Miraglia, Team Leader, Networking, Partnership & Communication Facility at MedWaves, during the discussion panel “Circular Thinking for Climate Action: The Synergy of Circular Economy and Climate Change Mitigation” held in Dubai on December 1st, 2023

Key Findings

  • The analysis into key domains where climate-positive business models can have a substantial impact revealed that sectors such as food, construction, energy, and mobility in the Mediterranean region should be prioritize. By adopting circular principles, these sectors could reduce their carbon footprint.
  • Circular Economy has not only a decarbonisation potential, but it can also play a regenerative role by restoring natural systems and enhancing biodiversity.
  • Circular Economy offers financial benefits such as diversification opportunities, responsible banking promotion, increased lending to circular clients, and enhanced perception of banks.
  • Circular economy strategies, shifting to use-oriented models with Extended Producer Responsibility, are impactful, but address distributional effects to avoid concentration product’s ownership. Innovation in both technology and business strategy is crucial. Legislation and funding should align.
  • The intersection between SBMs, Just Transition to Circular Economy can mitigate climate change while delivering social value and cohesion.

Key Reminder

The Circular Economy (CE) and Sustainable Business Models (SBM) are not merely theoretical constructs but SOLUTIONS that can contribute to mitigate climate change.



Download the full report here:

Review the panel discussion “Circular Thinking for Climate Action: The Synergy of Circular Economy and Climate Change Mitigation” held in Dubai on December 1st, 2023 here:


This publication has been implemented in the scope of an activity funded through a Cooperation Agreement between the Ministry of Environment and Energy Security of Italy (MASE) and the UNEP/MAP Coordinating Unit/Barcelona Convention Secretariat.