As countries move towards increased circularity – in which demand for natural resources reduces while reuse, repair, remanufacturing and recycling of valuable materials increases – the dynamics of material trade around the world will alter.
In the forthcoming first systematic literature review on the intersection between the circular economy and international trade, Chatham House identifies geopolitics as playing a significant role in determining the form and structure of circular economy trade and its impact on a just circular transition.
A particular threat to achieving a just circular transition is if the circular economy is used as a geopolitical tool by powerful developed nations to continue extracting valuable resources from developing countries and stockpiling these resources under the goal of building supply chain resilience and economic competitiveness. The way in which developed nations use the circular economy transition as a geopolitical tool – in terms of securing raw material supplies, resource retention, extending the lifetimes of materials and waste management – will impact the likelihood of achieving a just circular transition.
This workshop considers how the geopolitical drive to achieve competitiveness through the circular economy can be balanced with a just circular transition.