COP25: Cities demonstrate how circular development supports climate action

At the 2019 UN Climate Summit in Madrid, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability together with cities from around the world will demonstrate how circular development drives ambitious and systemic climate action at the local level. Don’t miss ICLEI’s Circular Development activities at COP25 here.

The Emissions Gap Report 2019 is clear: To close the current emissions gap of 29 GtCO2e and achieve the 1.5°C goal, countries must increase their NDC ambitions fivefold. Achieving this target will require fundamental structural change. Along with energy system transformation, the report underlines the substantial GHG mitigation opportunities offered by sustainable and efficient material use. 

In 2015, the production of materials caused GHG emissions of approximately 11.5 GtCO2e, or about a third of the current emissions gap. Yet it is estimated that only 9% of the materials flowing through the economy are revalorised. A circular approach to production and consumption must be adopted to decrease the demand for new production and reduce the single use of materials. This will ensure that mitigation opportunities are captured across value chains. 

ICLEI’s Circular Development program supports local governments in shifting away from resource-intense development models and their associated impacts by offering practical tools and guidance tailored to local needs. At COP25, ICLEI members will present practical examples of how cities and regions can consider resource consumption within their climate strategies and the co-benefits that this approach yields.

For more information on the link between circular development and local climate action, read our policy brief

Cities pushing for circular resource management

By prioritizing regenerative resources, preserving what is already made, using waste as a resource or generating new business models, the circular economy helps operationalize action on emission reduction across diverse sectors and actors.

Members of the Green Circular Cities Coalition have been developing ambitious circular development plans that connect mitigation to resource management.  These will be presented at the COP25 side-event “De-Carbonization and SDGs Localization: Challenge of Local and Regional Governments to achieve circulating and ecological economy” at the Japan Pavilion, on 10th December (17:30-19:00)

Through its Comprehensive Five-Year Plan (2018-2022), Nagano Prefecture (Japan) is focusing on resource efficiency and on promoting the regional production of food, energy, and timber. Nagano Prefecture is also planning to increase the utilisation of sludge for electricity generation and for use in cement factories. 

Recent host of the World Circular Economy Forum, Yokohama targets to reduce food waste by 20% by 2021 compared to 2015 levels and has engaged over 800 restaurants and hotels on a common action plan. The city is also collaborating with municipalities situated in nearby rural areas to increase city-region linkages.

The City of Bonn (Germany) is raising awareness on the environmental impacts of disposables through its Become a cupster campaign and clean-up events.The City also recently joined the PREVENT Waste Alliance, a joint initiative of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development and Federal Ministry for Environment. The Alliance serves as a platform for exchange and international cooperation to minimize waste worldwide, eliminate pollutants and recycle resources.

The City of Turku (Finland) is working with local actors to support new business models that prioritize resource reuse, such as the Smart Chemistry Park. Through its partnership with ICLEI, the city and regional actors are also developing a regional roadmap to achieve zero waste and zero emissions by 2040.  

Circular development enablers: From “why?” to “how?”

In cooperation with UN Environment Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, ICLEI is organizing the High-level circular economy roundtable: Cities and buildings as agents of climate action on 10th December (10 – 11:30) to explore how circular economy principles can be applied specifically to the built environment.

Throughout the COP, ICLEI members will present practical tools and policy instruments that enable circular development at the local level, such as vertical integration and public procurement.

Japanese cities including Yokohama, Toyama and Nagano will present how the Regional and Circular Ecological Sphere, introduced by the Government of Japan, provides a framework for cities and regions to plan out green, circular economies that work as efficiently as possible. 

Members of the Global Lead City Network on Sustainable Procurement will underline the key role public procurement plays in encouraging more sustainable consumption and production patterns in line with SDG12. The city of Rotterdam is committed to leveraging procurement as a tool towards zero emission and circularity of products and services by 2030. For the city of Oslo public procurement is one of four key mechanisms to achieve the circular economy with a focus on life-cycle costing, shared use and repurposing through contract management. The city of Tshwane harnesses circular procurement as a means to support local employment schemes. 

Multiple co-benefits

From creating circular jobs to increasing economic attractiveness, circular economy strategies have demonstrated their ability to yield co-benefits for local economies. In addition, practical experiences also show that circular development projects can support social equity.

At COP25, Ghent will receive the “Local action, global impact” 2019 United Nations Global Climate Action Award for its Ghent en Garde’s program. This program clearly demonstrates how a more circular approach to resource management can go hand in hand with increased public participation and social equity. Through participative governance models including a food policy council, the program focuses on short and sustainable food supply chains, food security and decreasing food waste. The GLCN City also used sustainable public procurement to establish new catering contracts that deliver on their ambitious goals. Over a two year period, Ghent en Garde’s programs provided products or food baskets to 57,000 people in need (23 percent of the population), while simultaneously saving around 2,540 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Finally, well-designed circular development projects have the potential to protect and restore ecosystems. As part of the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities (GPSC), ICLEI is organizing the peer-exchange “Circular Cities for Nature. Protecting biodiversity through local and regional circular economy strategies” on 9th December (14 – 15:30). Join us for an interactive session gathering representatives from cities and regions and renowned experts to discuss the biodiversity related challenges and opportunities of circular development projects.

Written by Marion Guenard, Circular Cities Officer at ICLEI

For more information on ICLEI’s Circular Development Program and our related engagement at COP25, please contact: