Cities

  • English Version Cities are the first cause and at the same time victims of global warming, but can they be the first resource for fighting climate change? Stefano Boeri, President of Triennale Milano, was our guest during our Re-think Circular Economy Forum last October. He firmly believes that yes, a city could be the first resource for tackling climate change. He thinks of vegetation as an essential element of architecture and this is what makes his projects special.  He started his speech by highlighting how by 2030, 60% of the global population is projected to live in urban areas and that cities consume 75% of the world’s natural resources and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions. To avoid producing new CO2 and absorbing the emissions that already exist in the atmosphere, plants and trees are extremely efficient. His Urban Manifesto explains more about this. During our event, Stefano presented an innovative project Smart Forest City in Cancun, Mexico. He chose this city because, in this urban area, a Chinese company has already destroyed part of the mangroves forest in order to build a mall. The idea of Smart Forest City is the concept of Urban Forestry, to contrast deforestation. The main idea behind Smart Forest City is to create sustainable spaces and help the city to become self-sufficient. The city will host up to 130.000 people, it will have 5 or 6 epicenters around a series of University departments. It will be composed of more than 7 million trees and thousands of other plants. The most interesting part of the project is the buffer zone: the perimeter of this new city is composed of solar panels and a place for agricultural fields, where it will be possible to cultivate and produce part of the food for the...
  • 16 July 2021

    Circular Milan

    English Version Lucia Scopelliti, Head of Unit Economic Development at Municipality of Milan, was our guest during our Re-think Circular Economy Forum last October: She explained the actions undertaken by the city of Milan, with the aim to transform the production and consumption flows from linear to circular. Experiences on the circular economy at the city level show that cities have an active role as promoters, facilitators, and enablers of the transition. Cities can act as promoters on circular economy strategies, but they are also facilitators connecting stakeholders operating along the value chains, that are not necessarily used to collaborate with each other. Finally, cities are also key enablers since they provide the conditions for the circular economy to happen, setting up incentives, infrastructures, and mobilizing funds. As cities play a big role in public investment and procurement, subnational governments account for 60% of public investments in OECD countries. Cities can consider green infrastructures, nature-based solutions, and zero energy options. Cities are also laboratories for innovation that generate social and environmental benefits. Most importantly, they play a key role in the circular economy, given the responsibilities for local public services: transports, solid waste, water, and energy. In this sense, cities can really contribute to the circular approach, by developing a forward-looking vision and promoting synergies across all these sectors. Milan has taken a proactive approach on the circularity front, by joining several international organizations, like the Circular Economy 100 led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which also includes the cities of Toronto and London, leading Silicon Valley companies (Apple, Google), and high-profile European businesses (Ikea, Tetra Pak). Milan was welcomed to this program because of three still ongoing efforts. Firstly, the results achieved against food waste and the city’s commitment to creating shorter food chains according to the city Food Policy. Secondly,...
  • By Arianna Sica English Version The term Circular Economy appeared for the first time in Boulding’s article “The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth” in 1966, indicating a planned economic system for the reuse of materials in subsequent production cycles with the aim of reducing waste. Since then, this alternative model which aims to substitute the classic one, characterized by a linear production-consumption relation, has entered the discussions of the round tables of the Public and Private Sector, sometimes provoking forms of resistance to its implementation, fueled by individual and social cognitive biases. The footprint of Circular Economy Although the term was conceptualized only during the last century, circular practices such as Upcycling, Downcycling, and Zero Waste aimed at maximizing the value obtainable from resources can already be seen in ancient times. Through the numerous findings received in archaeological excavations, the footprints of the circular economy of the past are being outlined. The goal of these researches is to examine the know-how that cities of the past hold, so that a long-term perspective can help and inform today’s politicians and decision-makers. For example, while today we often discuss the sustainability of “Consumer Cities”, a large part of urban centers in the past was largely self-sufficient through recycling and reuse of resources. Rome In “Recycling and Reuse in the Rome Economy“, several types of materials that the Romans recycled are identified. In the building sector, there were workers involved in the demolition of buildings, and most of the recovered recycled material was presumably acquired from suppliers of building materials. Garments and other textile items that have been recovered from Roman sites feature patches, additions, and other types of repairs that involved the use of material apparently made from used fabrics/garments. Parts of used fabric were also regularly used as padding to...
  • By Simina Scripat English Version The crisis caused by COVID-19 and the effects of climate change made the transition to an economic system in which production and consumption are more sustainable increasingly urgent. This implies a total paradigm shift from the status quo. In this new perspective, the needs of the present must be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. To achieve such development, in 2015 the Member Countries of the United Nations adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030. These goals are based on the three pillars: environmental, social, and economic. Given the close interconnection of these levels, a transformation of the economic system can also bring environmental and social benefits. Generally speaking, studies have shown how the circular model can benefit the achievement of all SDGs. For example, it has a direct effect on ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all (SDG 6). In fact, several parts of the world currently experience severe water shortages at least once a year. The use of circular practices, such as the development of small-scale water purification technologies or wastewater treatment to reduce the discharge of wastewater into drinking water sources, may offer a solution to this water access issue. Circular economy (CE) can also directly benefit the achievement of SDG 7 – ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. Energy is one of the most polluting sectors, and as a study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation shows, the transition to renewable energy can address 55% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. By introducing CE in five sectors (key cement, plastics, steel, aluminum, and food), it would be possible to reduce these emissions by 9.3 billion tons, thus curbing the other...
  • English Version Johan Verboom, Consul General in Milan for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, joined us at Re-think Circular Economy Forum to discuss how the Netherlands is working to promote a transition to a Circular Economy. Johan Verboom explained how the Netherlands is consolidating its position as a pioneer in the Circular Economy, promoting initiatives and investments in incubators and innovative startups. The Circular Economy transition is assuming even more importance due to the Covid-19 situation and the inputs of the European Union, which is the most active organization supporting this transition, as evident for example by the publication of the European Action Plan for the Circular Economy. In this context, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement form an important framework that considers the Circular Economy both as a solution for environmental problems and as an important economic opportunity. The EU expects the transition to the circular economy to boost economic growth by € 550 billion and to create 2 million jobs. McKinsey expects a net economic benefit for Europe of € 1.8 trillion by 2030. The ambitions of the Netherlands Within this European framework, the Netherlands has also set ambitious goals: by 2030, the country aims to halve the consumption of raw materials and by 2050, they aim to have a fully circular society. In order to pursue these goals, the Dutch Government has prepared a program for a circular economy setting 3 main targets. Firstly, they want to produce more efficiently, decreasing the use of raw materials. Secondly, they want to use more sustainably produced renewable raw materials like biomass, making the Netherlands less dependent on fossil fuels. Thirdly, they want to implement more sustainable and circular production methods. In this perspective, the Netherlands has also established a specific agenda for 5...
  • English Version In October we had the pleasure to host at our Re-think Circular Economy Forum Oriana Romano, Head of the Water Governance and Circular Economy Unit at OECD. In this occasion, Oriano Romano shared with us the Circular Economy in Cities and Regions Synthesis Report published by the OECD. This report comes as the result of two years of work, during which the OECD carried out a survey across more than 50 cities and regions, interviewed more than 300 stakeholders, and analyzed 6 case-study from Europe. The report shows the state of the art of circular economy related initiatives in cities and regions, the obstacles that we currently face, and a series of ways forward. Oriana Romano shared with us the five key messages of the report. The Circular Economy is about economy. While the narrative that portrays the Circular Economy as an instrument to tackle climate change has been predominant, there is a strong socio-economic argument in favor of moving towards a more circular system. By 2050, the global population will reach 9 billion people, 55% of which will be urban, global material use will double, compared to 2011, with consequences on GHG emissions. The Circular Economy can bring benefits in terms of production savings (estimated at EUR 600 billion in the EU-27 by 2030). There is a possibility of creating job opportunities, as activities like repairing, upgrading, and remanufacturing are more labor intensive than mining and manufacturing. The Circular Economy can also have a positive impact on economic growth and material saving. This is what cities are considering when embarking in this transition. Secondly, the Circular Economy is not a new concept, but it is incipient for several cities. While the economic literature first developed the concept of Circular Economy in the seventies, its application on the...
  • By Francesco Chesi English version Asia hosts 60% of the world’s population (4.65bn out of 7.8bn) and this number is set to increase by 12% before 2040. In 2010, the Asian Development Bank, the organ in charge of addressing poverty and inducing sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific, stated that seven economies (China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, and Thailand) had a combined total population of 3.1 billion (78 per cent of Asia) and a GDP of $14.2 trillion (87 per cent of Asia).  The report ‘Asia 2050: Realizing the Asian Century’ states that these seven economies alone will account for 45 per cent of global GDP and adds: ‘Long before 2050, Asia will surpass North America and Europe as the largest energy-consuming block therefore Asian countries’ economic growth will heavily depend on improving the efficiency of natural resource use and winning the global race to a low carbon future.” Now that we have defined the numbers and the sense of urgency for the adoption of the circular economy, Ms Adrienna Zsakay (CEO at Circular Economy Asia) asks THE question: ‘’Is the circular economy achievable in Asia?’’ Planet earth’s fulcrum Her article for The Economist Sustainability Summit that took place on the 15th of November 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, questions the implications that the circular economy could have on society, employment, international trade, and SMEs. The foundation of the circular economy is based on the concept that having products last longer will be good for us as it not only saves us money, but it also may create jobs in the future. Yet, the statistics in Asia do not bear this out. In a comparison between the UK and India for the Household Appliance Repair industry, the UK sees a growth whilst India sees a decline. This may...
  • 9 September 2019

    Built environment

    English Version This article is based on Guglielmo Carra’s speech during “Re-Think Forum”. Guglielmo Carra’s speech opened with the comparison of two pictures that portray the city of Shangai, one of them was taken in the mid-1990s and the other one only a few years ago. The difference is clear: the development of the city in the past 20 years was impressive and this trend is common in all urban contexts in Asia, Africa, South, Centre America and also in Europe. It is estimated that by 2050, about 70% of the global population will live inside these cities. It means that every week, a city of 1,6 million people is built. Cities are a place for people, but also a place where resources, coming from outside, are transported to be consumed with a linear approach. This change will impact the construction sector – that, at the current state, consumes 60% of resources and emit 40% of CO2. Improvements are possible since the constructions sector is the least automated ever, so it is also the least efficient, whose productivity of one hour is still equivalent to the one in 1946. Circular Economy can be the solution, in order to enhance the processes and the resources used, not only in the design of the utilization of the building but also by defining what will happen in the future to those materials and resources used for the construction. The 4 areas by Arup Carra presents some projects by Arup that revolve around 4 thematic areas: The regeneration of natural capital, which consists of transforming the city from a place that consumes resources, to a place where resources are produced and regenerated; The creation of open and shared processes by developing and implementing collaborative processes in addition to the promotion of actions and production...
  • 4 February 2019

    Circular Cities

    English Version 3 models for a sustainable city: the Circular Economy applied to the urban context A story of two cities. The first is the city as we have known it so far. The air made unbearable by pollution. It is very difficult to dispose of waste properly. Resources are widely wasted or underused. The other is a sustainable and circular city. Here the waste does not exist, the resources are used to the best according to the rules of the sharing economy and the energy required is completely produced from renewable sources. In the middle, there are the real cities, which are more or less similar to one or the other model. Cities are the first context in which it is essential to apply Circular Economy. They represent an area in which it is perhaps easier to agree on its founding principles. Also because, above all, they are the place par excellence where humans live and will live. Why the cities? According to a World Bank report, 54% of the global population lives in urban areas and in cities, 85% of world GDP is produced (data: 2017). 75% of the natural resources are consumed here, 50% of the waste produced and greenhouse gas emissions equal to 60-80% of the total, according to different estimates. It is therefore clear that we need to start from the cities if we want to influence the way in which human beings live together and exploit resources. Also because the trend is destined to increase; by 2050, 75% of the population will be living in cities. This means that even more funds will be invested in cities: infrastructures will be at the center of the growth strategies for the cities. Increasingly, natural resources, capitals, talents, and data will be concentrated in urban contexts. Moreover, given their...
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