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Discussion Papers (series)

The integration of climate change and circular economy in foreign policies


Nadia Ashraf, Hanne Knaepen, Jeske van Seters and James Mackie, ECDPM paper, June 2020

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Tackling climate change and transitioning to a circular economy is not something a single country can do on its own. It is therefore key to integrate climate change and circular economy considerations in foreign policies. This paper provides insights into how Finland, France, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland go about that. It also covers the EU, with a focus on trade policies and aid for trade. The paper identifies lessons and promising approaches which can serve actors in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Climate is high on the agenda of foreign policies of all case study countries and at the EU level, although the depth varies. Circular economy is also moving up the agenda. While most attention goes to recycling and/or waste management, there are some signs of increasing attention also for other parts of the life-cycle of goods and services. The paper covers background factors, policies, their operationalisation as well as institutional mechanisms to support the integration of climate and circular economy in foreign policies. It highlights a wide range of initiatives, such as amongst others:

  • tools to assess the impact of new development cooperation and trade initiatives on climate change and a transition to a circular economy;
  • relevant financial instruments, including measures to integrate circular economy dimensions in existing instruments;
  • efforts to build capacity of foreign policy staff through for instance climate attachés in embassies, external helpdesks, as well as online and face-to-face training sessions.

In short, the paper presents a wealth of experiences – their strengths and weaknesses – to learn from and adapt to particular contexts at hand.

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Photo courtesy of Dayanara Nacion via Unsplash.

More on climate change

To see all ECDPM work on climate change, have a look at our dossier.

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Private sector engagementDiscussion Papers (series)Circular economyClimate changeEuropean Union (EU)FinlandFranceGermanySwedenSwitzerlandThe Netherlands