Cities have the agility to lead the circular transition and are already demonstrating many good practices.
Our global economy consumes large amounts of resources every year, exceeding the planet’s safe limits and causing increasing environmental problems. The chasm between what we extract and use and what the Earth can provide is widening. Last year’s Earth Overshoot Day was July 28th. This would have consumed the Earth’s annual regenerative capacity in just over half a year, and used resources at a rate that would require nearly two planets to sustain.
Besides damaging biodiversity and threatening natural resource reserves, such massive consumption is closely linked to climate change, with approximately 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions coming from materials. related to handling and use. To ensure that both people and the planet can thrive, we need to introduce a new economic paradigm that regenerates nature, designs waste, and sustains the use of materials at the highest possible value for the long term. there is.
A big change is the move to a circular economy and we have a powerful toolbox of solutions that can meet people’s needs with just 70% of the materials we use, thereby increasing temperatures and further degrading the environment. limit the But global change requires local action. Cities are the future of the circular economy transition.
drive the transition
As centers of innovation, infrastructure, investment and culture, cities are big consumers. In many countries, urban centers account for the majority of material and carbon emissions. According to the Global Footprint Network, by 2050, up to 80 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas, with cities occupying just 3 percent of the world’s surface area yet producing 90 billion tonnes of water per year. predicted to consume matter.
Be part of our community of thought leaders
Get fresh perspectives straight to your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter to receive thought-provoking opinion pieces and expert analysis on the most pressing political, economic and social issues of our time. Join our community of avid readers and join the conversation.
Its great influence means that cities (and regions as well) boast the power to drive the transition to a circular economy. Local governments are more agile than central governments and closer to local government efforts, allowing them to influence a wide range of important sectors from construction to manufacturing.
Cities are made up of many complex systems that meet the needs of their inhabitants, ranging from housing, transportation, food and energy. Systemic change will have to happen across sectors, forcing stakeholders to rethink how they do business and how they consume resources. As with any disruptive transition, innovation must underpin this.
Defining “innovation” in the context of the circular economy can be difficult, but at its core is novelty and improvement, value creation and redistribution, and the diffusion of ideas and technology. Innovation can and should influence politics and society alike, leveraging society (including organizations) as well as technical considerations. Innovative circular practices and initiatives can range from incremental to radical and involve a wide range of stakeholders.
“Co-creation” of the scheme
From awareness raising to capacity building, local authorities can engage and mobilize citizens and groups to facilitate long-term change with the circular economy. By providing a key catalyst for shared spaces that go by different names, such as living labs, maker spaces, and fab labs, we can harness the resources to “co-create” planning within the city.
Independent initiatives and new businesses often face high costs and lack of public infrastructure and resources. Cities can acquire key assets for multiple entities to share (such as water cutting machines and 3D printing machines) that startups may not be able to purchase on their own, thus breaking barriers for startups and driving innovation. can.
Take the Circle Lab in Amsterdam Smart City, for example. It is an open innovation platform that facilitates collaboration between companies, policy makers and others. It fosters innovation by helping Amsterdam’s circular goals move from theory to practice, while mobilizing other cities, businesses and citizens to ‘learn by doing’. With over 8,000 members and organizations today, the Lab’s users can come together to learn about circular initiatives across the city, share ideas and events, and connect with other innovators.
Procurement and Pilot
As public entities, cities have enormous purchasing power that they can harness to harness innovation. Through purchasing decisions, cities can encourage businesses to rethink their products and services, while supporting local businesses and start-ups to form a thriving economic “ecosystem.” This can also increase competition among suppliers, which itself can trigger new solutions.
For example, in Toronto Circular Economy Procurement Action Plan, This is a joint cross-departmental initiative of the municipality that aims to foster innovation and create value by engaging directly with local businesses, encouraging their use of new technologies and building capacity to raise awareness. increase. Toronto’s procurement agreement now includes circular economy principles and requirements. Focusing on economic benefits, environmental standards and job creation, the plan will support Toronto’s broader goals of achieving zero waste and increasing social prosperity while promoting circular sourcing within the city. .
Support progressive ideas: Become a Social Europe member!
Support independent publishing and progressive ideas by becoming a Social Europe member for less than €5 per month. Help us create better articles, podcasts and videos that challenge conventional thinking and promote a more informed and democratic society. Join our mission – your support makes a big difference!
A pilot project is an experimental starting point for innovation. By encouraging creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, cities can reduce the risks associated with novel, small-scale ideas and test their feasibility. Importantly, pilots allow organizations to learn from experience, improve over time, and better understand the benefits and limitations of scaling innovation. It can also enhance collaboration among stakeholders, as the pre-competitive environment is often more flexible than large ventures. This facilitates quick and frequent communication between stakeholders and enables agile adjustments based on feedback. All of this creates an environment where circularity increases and ideas align with the needs of the community.
For example, the project O-House, launched in Kongsvingel, Norway, is a modular house for young people made from recycled and renewable materials. It shows how mobile sustainable housing, which can be moved around the municipality, can be an affordable option for first-time buyers struggling to enter the housing market. This project demonstrates the potential for recycling and reusing local construction materials and the power of circular building design. Public sector engagement brings together a range of actors beyond local government, fosters collaboration, and fosters relatively low-risk innovation.
Before launching pilots or embarking on innovative initiatives, cities need to know where they stand. Cities need a circular economy “report card” that shows how they are performing and where they can best focus and act.circle economy Circularity Gap Report Initiativehas been calculating circularity at the national level for many years, but with the launch of “CGR4cities” it was also introduced to cities.
The program, currently being tested in Munich, shows how resources flow through urban systems and contribute to consumption-based emissions. Based on these insights, the analysis derives a set of circular solutions that can transform a city from a straight line to a circular one and reveals the impact these solutions can have. By enabling decision makers to set goals and measure progress, CGR4cities can initiate the circular transition of cities.
of Circularity Gap Report Initiative It brings together stakeholders from business, government, academia and non-governmental organizations to evaluate findings against the latest scientific evidence and design scenarios to inform policymaking and industry strategy. Using a participatory, multi-stakeholder process ensures that plans lead to ongoing action on the ground. Participating cities can request a scan.
this is part of series About the “world city” supported by Friedrich Ebert Foundation