Building the global circular economy: Opportunities for Canada-EU leadership and cooperation

Building a more circular economy is key to sustainable growth and addressing challenges like climate change. The uptake of the circular economy is increasing worldwide, and cooperation on an international level is key to unlocking the benefits of scale tied to a global circular economy.

A recent event co-hosted by IEEP, the Mission of Canada to the EU and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra discussed efforts being made by Canada and the EU to foster circular economy approaches and opportunities to further build global leadership and collaboration.

In March 2020, the EU took a substantial step forward towards the transition to a European circular economy by adopting a new EU Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP). The CEAP recognises the need to scale up towards a global circular economy, notably proposing the establishment of global cooperation initiatives such as the Global Circular Economy Alliance (GACERE) and advancing circular economy objectives through free trade agreements (FTAs).

Canada is also expanding and supporting efforts towards a more circular economy, including active engagement at the international level. Canada is a member, and strong supporter, of GACERE and hosted the World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF), co-organised together with Sitra in 2021. Canada is also a reliable and sustainable source of critical raw materials and innovative clean technologies and has taken a leadership role globally in addressing issues such as ocean plastic pollution.

Canada and the EU benefit from a strong partnership on environmental cooperation enhanced through the Canada-EU Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) and the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). This relationship along with Canada and the EU’s shared commitment to the ambitious environment and climate action provides an opportunity for closer cooperation on the implementation of circular economy policies and practices. Canada and the EU are also active in advancing circular economy objectives in international standards bodies and at the WTO.

The main findings of IEEP’s Canada-EU Trade in support of circular economy case study were presented. You can rewatch the entire event below and read the case study, available here.

Insights from the speakers

“Canadian-EU leadership is what we are here to discuss, both leadership that is already taking place and how this could be ramped up. One example on the international level is the World Circular Economy Forum which the Canadian government organised and hosted together with Sitra last fall. […] Trade was one of the topics at the forum, and that was an opportunity for companies to hear how they could speed up their own internal transition towards circularity.”

Malena Sell, Senior Specialist on Circular Economy at the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra

“Canada is a key partner for the EU as the European Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan or ‘CEAP’ are implemented […] CETA, and the strong Canada-EU trade relationship, contribute to meeting our mutual circular economy and broader sustainable development and climate goals.”

Judith Gelbman, Counsellor and Head of Section, Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment, Mission of Canada to the EU

“Canada was very supportive on the launch of the Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency. [Canada was] one of ten countries who came on board from the beginning. […] And earlier this month, for the launch of negotiations for a global plastics agreement – the EU and Canada stood side by side, as two parties of size that can make a difference and help to move this initiative along.”

Andrew Murphy, Senior Expert, Regional and Bilateral Environmental Cooperation Unit, DG Environment, European Commission

“We need regulations that are flexible to new circular products and technologies and allowing innovative use of secondary materials while adhering to the intention of international standards for things like trade in hazardous waste under [the] Basel [Convention].”

“I also want to make sure we take a broader view of the relationship between Canada and the EU than just of Canada as a resource extracting economy. [There are] a range of companies [in Canada] that are producing circular economy technologies and services, […] as well as high-tech solutions begin developed by Canadian companies for material sorting for recycling, and applications of AI for circular economy solutions.”

Geoffrey McCarney, Professor, Environment & Development, University of Ottawa & Senior Researcher Director, Smart Prosperity Institute

“Understanding what circular economy is as a transformation of production and consumption models is both political and technical in that it needs a definition. A lot of the solutions put together at the moment are not called circular economy but yet they are conducive to it so maybe putting the right term on the right solution would help consider that we don’t overlook progress being made simply because it is not called circular economy.

“If we take a global perspective, if everyone needs to be on board it’s important to be realistic and to help the transition of countries that rely heavily on providing virgin raw materials. There have been really interesting ideas like the notion of exporting countries becoming managers of resources as opposed to sellers of resources”

— Jocelyn Blériot, Executive Lead, International Institutions & Governments, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

This event and report are part of a project funded by Sitra on international trade and the uptake of circular economy cooperation. In that context, IEEP also developed a case study on EU-Nigeria relations and is currently working on one focusing on EU-MERCOSUR. This last case study will be available by end of April.


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