Addressing climate change by improving resource efficiency is an imperative. Emissions embodied in international trade represent over 30 per cent of the greenhouse gas footprint of countries. 

Yet, in practice, they are often separate objectives. Consequently, approaches under the Paris Agreement to shift our world economy to a 2⁰C, or even 1.5⁰C pathway, risk overlooking the major mitigation potential of reducing our resource and waste footprint.

The predominantly demand-side focus of resource efficiency also risks overlooking the mitigation impact of domestic action in the countries from which carbon intensive materials and products originate.

Circular economy strategies can help make the low-carbon and resource efficient development perspective concrete.  

The aim of the Circular Economy Strategy Study for Lao PDR is to map the flows, conversions and stocks of materials and energy which constitute the metabolism of Lao PDR. The goal was to develop a vision of a circular future, in which economic activities and resource use are regenerative by design and safeguard the natural and cultural beauty which are unique to the country. 

metabolic analysis assesses the economy-wide resource stocks and flows in Lao PDR and points to the most promising opportunities, or pressing challenges. Based on this economy-wide analysis, and a workshop with government representatives, the following development priorities were identified:

  • rural development; 
  • tourism; 
  • circular construction; 
  • circular manufacturing; and 
  • improvements in water quality  

These circular economy strategies have been selected for their positive impact on resource efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions, cross-sectoral impact and ability to inspire circular innovations across the Laotian economy. 


Alexandra Soezer
UNDP New York

Margaret Jones Williams