As part of our circular economy month, in the lead up to the EUROCITIES Conference 2017, we put a few questions to Eveline Jonkhoff, strategic advisor for circular economy, Amsterdam. Eveline is responsible for the circular economy programme of Amsterdam and is involved in Amsterdam’s work through EUROCITIES circular economy task force.
1. How has Amsterdam been embracing circular economy models?
In 2015 the City of Amsterdam commissioned an in-depth research into the potential of the circular economy. This is the first research world wide on this scale, using the methodology of the 'City scan'. The potential is high: more jobs and added value and less CO2 emissions and material use. For Amsterdam two value chains are very important: building/construction and organic/biomass. The private sector and research institutes were involved and they fully agreed with these outcomes. Based on this research we composed two programme’s. The dedicated programme 'Learning by doing' contains 22 projects to prove in practice that circular economy is profitable in all aspects. For example, Amsterdam integrated the principles of circularity from the start in the urban planning strategy of the city’s largest transformation area ‘Harbour – City’ with 70,000 houses. In the complementary ‘Circular Innovation Programme’ the private sector as well as the research institutes combine forces to speed up the transition towards a circular economy.
2. Why are cities so important in the transition to a circular economy?
Cities are the right scale and provide the perfect environment in which to test out new models, with some becoming city labs. As the level of government closest to citizens, cities are well placed to raise awareness of sustainable consumption, engage with communities and facilitate partnerships between the private sector, consumers and research organisations at the local level, enabling new business models that will drive the transition to a circular economy. Cities have the power to influence the value chain, to lead by example and to support local stakeholders. Cities also have a strong market power: public procurement can influence the market and steer it in a circular direction.
3. If you had to prioritise one European level action on circular economy, what would it be?
We ask EU policy makers to strengthen support for mutual learning and capacity building between cities across the EU. Furthermore, to stimulate and promote sustainable business models through an EU framework that considers the whole value chain. It is important to drive investment in jobs and skills for a circular future-fit work force for Europe. More specifically, developing a level playing field across the EU in secondary raw materials, including by stimulating considerations about taxation measures and fiscal reform in member states, to facilitate the creation of a real market for reuse of treated material. We also want to strengthen the development of standards and indicators in the circular economy as well as the progress towards circular data to adequately measure the impact of a circular transition process.
4. What are Amsterdam’s future ambitions in this area?
Moving from a ‘take-make-waste’ to a circular approach is an urgent environmental necessity, to dramatically reduce the current pressure on our natural resources. We must maintain the value of products, materials and resources in the economy for as long as possible, and minimise the generation of waste. The transition towards a sustainable, low carbon and resource efficient economy is an essential part of our efforts to future-proof our city and improve quality of life for citizens. We believe it is an opportunity to transform our economy, generating new and sustainable competitive advantages for Europe, and to stimulate job creation.
5. How have Amsterdam’s ambitions been reflected in the work it has done at EUROCITIES?
The EUROCITIES task force on circular economy, which is chaired by Amsterdam, has been focusing on building cities’ capacity and mainstreaming the circular economy within our network by involving different city departments and promoting the role of cities. At the EUROCITIES Conference 2017 in November we will be sharing ideas on circular solutions in procurement, urban development, jobs and skills and community building. It will also be an opportunity to share best practice from over 140 cities across Europe.