As Metabolic launches three services aimed at helping cities and regions to transition to the circular economy, here we look at the economic and environmental challenges faced by urban and regional governments (as well as by some larger regional businesses), and how transitioning to a circular economy can not only ensure long term success, but can also create the framework for accelerating wider, positive economic change.
Cities represent just 3% of the Earth’s surface but house more than half of the world’s population, consume over 75% of the global resources, and emit 60-80% of greenhouse gas emissions. This is only expected to grow, with 70% of the global population moving to cities by 2050. There is both a responsibility and an opportunity for cities and regions to lead in the transition to a sustainable economy.
Every city and region faces unique challenges, yet most are working to achieve similar goals, such as providing high quality public services despite limited resources, wanting to attract talent and human capital, facilitating a successful, forward-thinking economy, and ensuring sustainable management of the environment and natural capital.
The circular economy can address these challenges by building a model that combines thriving economic development with ambitious sustainability goals. Taking advantage of the opportunities of the circular economy early can help regions create new industry, transform existing sectors, implement valuable new production chains, and offer significant benefits to regional and international marketing goals. By doing this, they allow the circular economy to take root and thrive, and ensure a host of local changemakers, collaborators and entrepreneurs can help accelerate the rewards this brings.
But it can be tricky for cities and regions to know where to start. To make use of this opportunity, they need support, namely help identifying the unique potential locally and the size of these opportunities, knowing where to focus efforts, understanding which coalitions to establish or foster, knowing how to attract others to take part, and providing the leadership to encourage entrepreneurs and investors.
Fortunately, in the Netherlands and throughout the EU, an increasing amount of subsidies, media attention, and industry interests are available to cities and regions that take a pioneering role in transitioning their economy and taking stronger leadership on sustainability goals. And to help ensure the transition is most efficient and effective, Metabolic has launched a suite of three services designed to help governments or organizations cut through the complexity. These services are: ‘Scan’, ‘Roadmap’, and ‘Interventions’, offering increasing and tailored levels of application and assistance.
These services are built on Metabolic’s extensive working knowledge of strategy and implementation of the circular economy across cities and regions throughout the Netherlands, including working with Friesland, Delfland, Groningen, Gelderland, Groene Hart, Nijmegen, and the city of Amsterdam. Metabolic takes an integrated approach that uses systems thinking to identify the most effective leverage points for change, and that combines data-driven approaches with capacity building.
From robust analysis of the opportunities, we can not only take immediate actions, but we can also create the framework within which subsequent innovation and action can thrive. In Buiksloterham in Amsterdam, for example, a range of new projects – from large scale construction to changes in waste management – are starting up using the circular framework we developed. And in Groene Hart, the region’s commitment to the circular economy has allowed us to work with our partners to establish a cluster of entrepreneurs who can help lead the transition. In Nijmegen, we are also mobilising local networks to form knowledge and action hubs that can take forward the ideas of circularity. The actions on a regional level cascade down and benefit or empower the smallest of organizations, as well as individuals.
Beyond cities, similar economic challenges and circular opportunities apply to larger organizations that are tied to the local regional economy – these include airports, business and industrial parks, water boards and educational campuses. Each can not only adopt their own circular principles but they are also in a position to facilitate change in others. We have recently started working with Schiphol Airport to map the material flows going in and out of the airport and to quantify the gains that could be made by incorporating circular economy principles into its processes.
A circular economy is designed to address human needs and fairly distribute resources without undermining the functioning of the biosphere or crossing any planetary boundaries. Between resource scarcity and climate pressure, there is simply no way our current linear economic model can continue. The shift towards a circular economy is both inevitable and necessary. We hope you’ll join us in making the transition.
For more information on Metabolic’s Urban and Regional Metabolism Services, and for details on how this has worked for other areas and organizations, take a look at the services brochure.