Do you know how much resources and energy a city consumes and the emissions it generates? And why should we care?
Cities currently cover only 3% of the earth's surface, concentrate more than 50% of the population in urban areas, and, according to UN projections, 70% will live in these centers by 2050. As open and interconnected systems, they depend on and consume large flows of materials, water, and energy - as input - for different processes. They also generate waste streams and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions - as an output - as a product of their urban metabolism.
Cities demand 60% of the planet's resources, consume between 60% and 80% of energy (United Nations), and generate approximately 70% of the GHG emissions produced along the supply chains of the various sectors that comprise them, mainly through the use of fossil fuels.
Globally, the concentration of population and growth of cities leads to increased demand for goods and services, presenting significant challenges for energy and food supply chains, waste management, and building systems. The COVID-19 pandemic, which emerged in December 2019 and spread rapidly worldwide, evidenced such challenges, exacerbated underlying inequalities, and disrupted city life, compromising the social fabric, public health, and the economy, especially in the most vulnerable communities. The impact of the climate crisis and the fragility revealed by this pandemic force us to rethink how we develop and adapt.
As development spaces bring together a large part of the world's population, cities can guide and modify the current urban model, achieve sustainability, and turn city spaces into more livable and resilient areas. In this scenario, the implementation of laws and public policies with a long-term outlook, open and collaborative governance, and the development of innovative business models in conjunction with all stakeholders -public-private world, academia, NGOs, and communities- are necessary and enabling elements to move towards a new city model, a circular city.
The circular economy is increasingly gaining momentum in cities worldwide, integrating its principles and business models to move towards sustainable development.