Circular Economy

Introduction

Governments around the world are facing the challenge of addressing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. Despite limited improvements in energy efficiency and resource productivity in recent years, overall resource consumption and waste has continued to increase. Within this context, the Chinese government is aiming to maintain rapid economic growth over the coming decades while simultaneously improving environmental quality and maintaining social progress. It is widely recognised that these ambitious objectives cannot be met without employing innovative development pathways rather than conventional approaches taken in many developed countries. The Chinese 'Circular Economy' initiative is a Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) program that strives to meet these challenges through cleaner production, industrial ecology and life-cycle management.

Recognising the significance of rapidly developing countries in Asia and other regions, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) began pilot work in 2003 to assist Guiyang with assessing alternatives for sustainable economic development, demonstrating the use of cleaner production to improve resource use efficiency, and raise public awareness of the benefits of SCP approaches. A preliminary UNEP assessment of the situation in Guiyang indicated a need for supporting systems for government policy, finance and private sector development, technology transfer, and infrastructure development, with policy support considered as most important.

Guiyang, a city of over three million inhabitants, located in the southwest part of China, an underdeveloped region with an urgent need for development, has great potential for exploring alternative development models. Guiyang was chosen by the Government as a pilot city for evolving an implementation methodology for the Circular Economy.

With financial support from the European Commission, Asia Pro Eco Programme, detailed follow-up work began in 2005 under a project to support Policy Reinforcement fOr Environmentally Sound and Socially Responsible Economic DEVelopment - PRODEV.