Introduction to The Circular Economy

There is today a wide scientific consensus on the existence of global warming, driven by the increased Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions (due to historic human activities) and concentration in the atmosphere. The latest IPCC 1.5 oC Special report, released a couple of weeks ago in October 2018, made a clear statement that the world need to cut carbons emission as fast as possible and on the largest possible scale in the next 12 years before the global limit of 1.5°C is reached and climate change irreversible. Indeed, reaching the 1.5°C will significantly worsen the risks of sea level rise, drought, floods, change rainfall patterns, extreme heat and displacement (it is estimated that up to 700 million will move due to climate change worldwide) and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. There is a need for a concerted effort by all actors, public and private, to reduce emissions and increase climate change adaptation action. As much as the public sector can act to help fight climate change via various policies, legislations and incentives for business to be more green and less polluting, there is still a need for a bigger and effective engagement of the private sector into mitigation and adaptation actions. This might stem from a certain lack of focus and understanding on how climate change will affect existing businesses and the opportunities for new profits that exist for the sector if they choose to adopt a more green and less carbon intensive business model1 (development of new services, technology, research and innovation etc.). Furthermore, in the current years, the observed depletion of natural resources and increase of natural disasters (especially in countries such as Bangladesh, that are highly vulnerable to climate change), are posing a real threat for a firm viability and increased competitiveness for primary resources. Additionally, regulatory changes and cost from reducing the GHGs will impact the private sector and thus mitigation and adaptation actions constitute already central questions for the entrepreneurs. It is therefore important to think how the private sector can get ready and contribute to drive the necessary changes in the current economic models to help achieve the Paris Agreement goals of keeping the global warming under 1.5°C.
The question of what the private sector can do to change is still under debate and various institutions are already exploring different ideas and models. However, it is agreed that the engagement of the private sector will required a combined effort for adaptation and mitigation (through increasing energy efficiency, decarbonization of the energy systems, and changing the use of natural resources and land management). As such, the circular economy concept, by combining actions for adaptation and mitigation, has gained attention in the climate change negotiations (the circular economy was the focus of discussion at the UN Climate Change Intersession Conference in Bonn in May 2018), as a path to explore for an effective private sector engagement in the fight against climate change.

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Contributors :

Anne-Laure Pilat is a Visiting Researcher at the International Centre for Climate Change (ICCCAD).Email:
Dr. Samiya Ahmed Selim is the Director of Centre for Sustainable Development. Email:


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