We share lessons from our latest environment forum in Ljubljana, focusing on the circular economy.
Over 100 participants from 41 cities attended our environment forum entitled ‘Towards circular and resilient cities’, held in Ljubljana on 19-21 October. Our four working groups, on air quality climate change and energy efficiency, waste, water and green areas and biodiversity also met.
During the debates and work sessions we learned that:
Greener cities need long-term vision and citizen engagement
For Tjaša Ficko, deputy mayor of Ljubljana, the transition towards a more sustainable city can only be achieved with a long-term vision based on a strong political support. Cities also need to raise awareness among citizens and other stakeholders about environmental issues, engaging them in a collaborative process towards the transition.
Cities are important players in the circular economy
Cities can play a major role in speeding up the transition towards a circular economy. Analysing the local context and identifying opportunities and challenges presented by the circular economy are the first steps towards understanding the role of cities in this transition.
While they may lack some legislative powers, cities can still influence citizens’ behaviour through awareness-raising campaigns and influence the market using their own public procurement practices. Acting as facilitators, involving the industry sector and supporting business of all sizes aiming to become more circular is key for closing the loop. Public engagement, working collaboratively with different stakeholders, and stimulating behavioral change are crucial elements to help cities achieve a circular economy.
Integrated and bottom-up approaches are essential
The circular economy goes far beyond waste management to include all aspects of the current value chain. It can be considered as a sustainability agenda. To succeed, cities must adopt a holistic and bottom-up approach that demonstrates the benefits of a new circular model to different stakeholders, and brings about positive environmental and economic outcomes.
The circular economy is about facilitating a transition from a linear consumption model of buying-using-disposing to a circular one of sharing and reusing. It is necessary to simultaneously support those cities that are just beginning this transition and motivate frontrunners to go further.
Cities should cooperate and share knowledge
The twining programme organised under the Mayors Adapt initiative has highlighted the positive impact of cooperation between cities on knowledge sharing and policy learning, while still respecting the diversity of cities. For example, collaboration between Stockholm, Edinburgh and Glasgow prompted the Scottish government to include adaptation objectives in its strategy.
Responsibilities should be clearly defined
The lack of clear and ambitious regulations on adaptation leads to difficulties in taking decisions, undermining the role of the cities in this important field. The relationship between the national, regional and local level is an important issue that needs to be dealt with to provide clarity on who is responsible for what, enabling actors to implement strategies and plans at their respective governance levels.
Abdelubed Choho, deputy mayor of Amsterdam, was elected as the new chair of the environment forum. He will be supported by Filipe Araujo, Porto city councillor.
The next environment forum takes place in Antwerp on 15-17 March 2017.