Circular Economy as a Climate Strategy: Current Knowledge and Calls-to-Action

Ke Wang, Milo Costanza-van den Belt, Garvin Heath, Julien Walzberg, Taylor Curtis, Jack Berrie, Patrick Schroder, Leah Lazer, Juan Altamirano

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Existing pledges and NDC targets, even if fully achieved, are still not sufficient to meet the Paris climate goals. Considerable additional strategies and actions are urgently needed to close the emission gap. Built environment, transport, food system, and clean energy are the most relevant sectors for circular economy strategies to deliver climate change mitigation benefits. Circular economy strategies can complement decarbonization measures to further reduce GHG emissions from material production, help lower emissions from operational energy use in the built environment and transport, and cut emissions from waste management. The largest potential GHG emissions reductions through circularity come from consumption side measures and product design measures. Circular economy strategies can support a sustainable clean energy transition, by helping relieve the mineral supply pressure, increasing supply chain resilience, preventing new waste challenges, accelerating the adoption of clean energy technologies, as well as maximizing their climate benefits. Furthermore, circular economy strategies can help enhance adaptation to climate change. Nine calls-to-action are put forward, for government, business, and civil society leaders to accelerate circular economy strategies with the highest potential for climate benefits, and for the research community to close critical knowledge gaps.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages28
StatePublished - 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-84141


  • circular economy
  • decarbonization


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