Europe urgently needs a circular single market to safeguard economic security

Policy makers are convening at the European Council on Wednesday to find ways to strengthen the competitiveness and strategic autonomy of the EU. European leaders received an urgent demand from the World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) 2024.

The clear message from nearly 10,000 circular economy experts from around the world was that implementing circularity is crucial for securing economic prosperity and unlocking well-being by reducing the overuse of non-renewable natural resources. The forum, which took place in Brussels 15-18 April 2024, highlighted the importance of the EU’s role in accelerating the transition to a circular economy globally.

“Developing the EU’s single market to support circularity would create new business opportunities, jobs, and security for all Europeans. This would strengthen the EU’s strategic autonomy and competitiveness. It would also send a powerful signal of a predictable investment environment,” says Atte Jääskeläinen, President of the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, the initiator of the WCEF.

“The solutions pathway to maintain quality of life and economic competitiveness is getting narrower and steeper, and there are less and more urgent options on our policy menu than decades ago. But with decisive action and political courage, a sustainable future is still possible for all by decoupling growth of resource use from human well-being,” says Janez Potočnik, Co-Chair of the International Resource Panel (IRP).

“Continuing to benchmark circularity and measure progress, setting new ‘rules of the game’ through policy will be crucial next steps for Europe. Moreover, radical collaboration across the globe will be fundamental in driving the transition at the speed and scale necessary,” says Ivonne Bojoh, CEO of Circle Economy Foundation.

The circular economy offers major economic opportunities for Europe. Across the continent, companies from startups to large enterprises are developing innovative solutions that create new businesses and combat biodiversity loss. This trend is exemplified by a list of Europe’s 30 leading circular solutions for nature, published by Sitra on 15 April. However, appropriate regulation is essential for companies to scale their operations across Europe.

“You need funding to do right investments and innovation, you also need policies and frameworks that give us security about what is going to happen,” stated Veerle Slenders at the event. She is Executive Vice-President for Recycling at Umicore, a global materials technology and recycling enterprise.

The WCEF2024 brought more than 1,500 frontrunners of circularity to Brussels, Belgium. In addition, the event has been followed online by almost 8,000 people around the world. The number of countries represented at this year’s forum was 158.

EU announced new initiatives to accelerate global transition towards circularity

The European Commission aims to support the global transformation by establishing a new Circular Economy Resource Centre which will be operational by the end of 2024. The centre will facilitate peer-to-peer exchanges and partnerships between the EU and third-country stakeholders to promote the uptake of sound circular economy policies and business models worldwide.

The European Commission has been designing this initiative working with partners including the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Belgian Development Agency ENABEL. The centre will be supported by the European Commission with a one-off commitment of €15 million. Alongside the centre, the EU also announced a five-year initiative “SWITCH to Circular Economy in East and Southern Africa”. With funding of €40 million euros, it will focus on promoting the transition to circular economies in the regions.

“It is possible to make circularity the next megatrend. The vision behind the Circular Economy Resource Centre is to share policy and business know-how and best practices with partner countries,” states Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships.

WCEF2025 to be held in Brazil

The World Circular Economy Forum 2025 will be held in São Paulo, Brazil, from 13 to 14 May 2025. It will be the first time the forum enters Latin America, where the climate and biodiversity negotiations between 2024 and 2025 will also take place, offering an opportunity to strengthen global collaboration and get businesses onboard to build a circular economy future.

The WCEF2025 will be hosted jointly by the Federation of the Industries of the state of São Paulo (FIESP), the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil), the Brazilian National Confederation of Industry (CNI) and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, the initiator of the forum.


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