Circular Economy Solutions: A Key Strategy for Climate Resilience 

Circular Economy Solutions: A Key Strategy for Climate Resilience


From wood and steel to water and electricity, the construction of our homes, offices, and infrastructure consumes an immense number of resources. The construction industry is responsible for extracting 30% of natural resources and generating 25% of the world’s solid waste. Furthermore, a staggering 38% of global emissions stem from the materials used in construction, the construction process itself, and the resulting structures. 

To achieve sustainability in construction, a fundamental shift from the linear “take, make, waste” model, prevalent for decades, to a circular “take, make, retake, remake, and restore” model is essential. Embracing this circular approach holds the key to addressing climate change, reducing waste and pollution, and propelling industry towards a low-carbon future. 

What is Circular Economy? 

The circular economy is a holistic approach to economic development aimed at minimizing waste and making the most of resources. Unlike the traditional linear economy, which follows a “take, make, dispose” model, the circular economy seeks to create a closed-loop system where materials are reused, recycled, and regenerated rather than being discarded after a single use. 

How Can a Circular Economy Enhance Climate Change Adaptation? 

  • Circular economy strategies could slow down nature degradation by reducing the demand for virgin materials, decreasing pressure on ecosystems that improve climate adaptation.  
  • Regenerative agriculture can improve soil health and food production while improved waste management can help increase flood resilience.  
  • A circular economy can also help to build resilience to climate shocks and stresses.  
  • Increasing reuse, repair, refurbishment and using local materials and regenerative practices, could improve a country’s resilience to global supply chain shocks induced by increasingly volatile climate events. 

Benefits of Circular Economy: 

The circular economy can contribute to climate change management through three major mechanisms: 

  • Reduce Greenhouse gas emissions: Circular economy strategies can lessen demand for (virgin) raw materials and new products, and consequently reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the production phase. 
  • Support a sustainable clean energy transition: Circular economy strategies can help relieve the material management pressure on both the input (e.g. critical mineral supply) and output ends (e.g. waste streams from decommissioned equipment), hence making the clean energy transition more feasible and sustainable. 
  • Enhance adaptation to climate change: circular economy strategies helps to enhance adaptation by slowing down nature degradation, improving soil health, increasing flood resilience and many more. 

Action Needed for A Circular Economy to Aid in Climate Action 

The following actions will have a key impact on the circular economy design of the built environment. 

Identify Alternative Materials: 

  • Identify sustainable alternative materials suitable for construction. 
  • Scale the supply of these materials consistently across core construction growth markets. 

Increase Cost Competitiveness: 

  • Support new forms of low-carbon building materials through incentives and regulations. 
  • Ensure these materials can compete financially with standard virgin materials. 

Maximize Re-use: 

  • Reform management of construction and demolition waste globally. 
  • Maximize re-use and salvage of existing components and materials. 

Standards and Codes: 

  • Collaborate with private sector and researchers to accelerate adoption and approval of standards and codes. 
  • Ensure these standards and codes support the use of alternative materials in built environment assets. 


In conclusion, the circular economy offers a pathway to decouple economic growth from the unsustainable extraction and use of natural resources, presenting a myriad of benefits for people, the economy, and the environment. Through its principles, such as reducing emissions, minimizing harmful resource extraction, and curbing pollution and waste, the circular economy fosters the creation of new markets, job opportunities, and economic prosperity. However, as we embrace these advantages, it’s crucial to ensure that the transition is just and inclusive.  

By striving to leave no one behind, upskilling the workforce to adapt to the evolving nature of work in a circular economy, and guaranteeing safe and decent new job opportunities, we can navigate towards a sustainable and equitable future. 

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