Future-proof cities: building up circular economy

Posted on

From the importance of data to the limits of our planetary boundaries, from resilience strategies to the research on material flow. How cities in the Netherlands and Italy are responding to climate change through circular economy and resilience, in a way that keeps people, environment, and economics in balance. A European dialogue with science, institutions, and case studies from Amsterdam and Milan.

Cities occupy just 3 % of the world’s landmass, but they already host 55% of the world’s population, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68% by 2050. Urban areas consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for 75% of the global CO2 emissions. Moreover, with 90 % of the world’s urban areas situated on coastlines, cities are at high risk for some of the most devastating impacts of climate change such as rising sea levels and powerful coastal storms. 

Responding to climate change through circular economy and resilience is therefore increasingly needed. The best practices of Milan, Amsterdam and Rotterdam – which are part of the C40 cities network – were presented and analysed in a webinar co-organized by the CMCC Foundation and the Embassy and Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Italy, with the aim to explore and discuss how Italy and the Netherlands are rethinking their cities to be future-proof. 

Climate adaptation is local

Due to the interaction of climate with the built environment, heatwaves are more extreme and extreme precipitations have a higher impact in urban areas compared to rural areas. Moreover, the most vulnerable people live in cities, and infrastructure and services that are settled in cities are important not only for urban areas but also for the neighbour areas. Therefore, it is crucial that urban areas are adapted and resilient to climate change.

“We must transform the urban areas” explained Paola Mercogliano, Director of the REMHI Division at the CMCC Foundation. “This is the goal of the scientific community: we need to build instruments and tools that can be useful for people, policymakers, communities living in urban areas. We need to stress this point: adaptation is local. It needs to be built with the community and considering the specific features of the urban area. We need to have a nexus approach. We cannot adapt if we consider every part of the urban area as equal to the others.

We are now developing new climate models that can evaluate climate change at urban and suburban scales, considering the features of the built area. We can now give more information about extreme precipitations and understand which area of the city is the warmest. Nevertheless, it is still very difficult for us to prepare adaptation plans because we don’t know where the people are that need our support. We need more data about the infrastructure, about the people, about the services to decrease the risk in the urban areas”.

Amsterdam City Doughnut

Amsterdam’s vision to be “a thriving, regenerative and inclusive city for all citizens, while respecting the planetary boundaries” made the city the first to adopt the Doughnut economic model, created by the British economist Kate Raworth. The model describes how societies and businesses can contribute to economic development while still respecting the limits of the planet and our society.

“We work together with research institutions, companies and stakeholders to try to measure where we are on different social and ecological boundaries and see what the best next step in terms of policy would be to stay or to improve the situation” explained Christiaan Norde, Policy Advisor International Affairs, City of Amsterdam. 

The Milan Resilience Strategy

Ilaria Giuliani, Deputy Chief Resilience Officer of the Municipality of Milan, highlighted the process through which they realized the Resilience Strategy of the city, starting from the identification of shocks and stresses through an intense process of stakeholder engagement. “The most important thing of our approach” she affirmed “is the fact that we are not only considering climate change and the environment by themselves, but we are considering which are the impacts of these challenges on the city, and especially on the most vulnerable population. We are considering their interaction with social and economic aspects”.

Circular economy in Rotterdam

“Our future cities should function within the planetary boundaries while dividing sufficient resources in a just and equitable way amongst all inhabitants” explained Tamara Streefland, Cities Program Lead, at Metabolic. “But we aren’t there yet, because we are fuelling our cities through an extractive economy, using lots of lands, bringing resources in through complex supply chains, and manufacturing these resources into products we can hardly take apart. We need to transform our economy and we can do that by radically changing the way that we design and plan our cities and our value chains”. 

In Rotterdam, Streefland explained, the process of building a circular economy roadmap started in 2017. Thanks to material flow analyses they identified the key sectors in which intervention was needed and started acting accordingly. 


The webinar was moderated by Antonella Totaro, Journalist at Renewable Matter and introduced by Désirée Bonis, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Italy.


Watch the webinar:

Start typing and press Enter to search

Shopping Cart