Photo by UNEP
04 Jun 2021 Story Green economy

European Commission and UNEP will foster the circular economy globally

Photo by UNEP

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have agreed to jointly boost the role of the circular economy towards achieving sustainable consumption and production (SDG 12), in the green recovery and transition, through a set of common policy and political actions. This was confirmed during the EC-UNEP Policy Dialogue on Circular Economy on 25-26 May 2021, organized under the new Annex to the EC-UNEP Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation in 2021-2025. Other EC services, the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, and other UN agencies were invited to this Dialogue as well.

Joint circular economy efforts will seek to spark groundbreaking approaches to design out waste and pollution, extend the use of products and materials in the economy, place sustainable products in the market, make value chains more sustainable, and thus lead the shift towards a greener future in Europe and the world.

“The planetary crises of pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss are caused by unsustainable consumption and production. Scaling up circularity and sustainable consumption and production is key to address these three crises and ensure planetary sustainability for people, prosperity and equity”, said Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, Director of Economy Division at UNEP.

“Transition to a circular economy is crucial to move towards sustainable economic models and sustainable consumption and production. This change is of massive proportions, overhauling the entire economic system. Working together is key. This Dialogue advances our substantive relationship in view of our common agenda on the circular economy”, said Astrid Schomaker, Director of Global Sustainable Development at the Directorate-General for Environment.

The synergies between both partners will focus on transforming key value chains like food, textiles, electronics, construction and plastics, as well as on pushing forward sustainable products and innovative tools such as a digital product passport to foster consumer participation and inform on the origin, composition, repairability and recyclability of products.

Likewise, they will join forces to scale up the uptake of circularity worldwide, including efforts to spark political momentum in global fora such as the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2021.

These lines of action represent further steps into the implementation of both the European Green Deal’s Circular Economy Action Plan and the cooperation framework between the EU Commission and UNEP building notably on the achievements of the existing EC-UNEP Framework Agreements. Cooperation between both institutions already enabled the creation of the Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency (GACERE) to promote the global role of the circular economy for achieving sustainability.

The planetary crises of pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss are caused by unsustainable consumption and production. Scaling up circularity and sustainable consumption and production is key to address these three crises and ensure planetary sustainability for people, prosperity and equity.

Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, Director of Economy Division at UNEP

About circular economy

The UN Environment Assembly has tabled the importance of sustainable consumption and production and circularity, including in its 4th session where circular economy was recognized as «one of the current sustainable economic models, in which products and materials are designed in such a way that they can be reused, remanufactured recycled or recovered and thus maintained in the economy for as long as possible, along with the resources of which they are made.

About the cooperation framework

In 2014, the EC and UNEP renewed their memorandum of understanding, which includes an Annex that outlines the areas of joint global and regional cooperation. The revised Annex outlines the common areas for further cooperation in 2021-2025, with a view to supporting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), promote the alignment of initiatives with relevant multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), including the Paris Agreement, ensure the follow-up and implementation of relevant resolutions and decisions of the United Nations Environment Assembly, and promote the global environmental agenda through the EC-UNEP strategic Framework Agreements and programmatic cooperation. It also aims at scaling up cooperation between the Partners in the identified areas, in view of the green and inclusive recovery efforts to address the global crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the growing and increasingly acute planetary emergencies.


For more information please contact Alexa Froger, UNEP Brussels,