How UN collaboration is shaping the concept of ‘Circular Cities’

“Extending a lifespan or increasing utilization over that lifespan,” says Okan Geray, Strategic Planning Advisor for Smart Dubai. “These are the two key elements of circularity – create another life, or a life delivering more value.”
Applying this thinking to the workings of a city reveals a broad scope of opportunity to achieve ‘Circular Cities’, explains Geray.
Geray leads the Thematic Group on Circular Cities within the United for Smart Sustainable Cities Initiative (U4SSC), an initiative supported by 17 United Nations partners with the aim of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 11: ‘Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’.
“The guide is a world first. Outlining the wealth of opportunity to build circularity into cities, the guide presents a more holistic view of circularity than the now well-established idea of Circular Economy,” says Geray.
“The resulting concept of Circular Cities offers a new way of thinking about not only economic aspects of cities but also their social and environmental dimensions.”
< Download the 'Guide to Circular Cities' free of charge >
Guiding cities from evaluation to action
The Guide provides a ‘circular city implementation framework’ for cities to define the best course of action to improve circularity.
It outlines a four-step methodology for cities to assess opportunities for circularity, prioritize the opportunities capable of delivering the most value, catalyze associated circular actions, and evaluate the impacts of these actions.
“The first stage is all about baselining, almost a checklist for cities to take stock of where they stand today and where they aim to go,” explains Geray.
The Guide begins by mapping all of the ‘assets and products’ found in a city to provide a high-level categorization of opportunities for circularity.
It proceeds by highlighting the ‘circular actions’ that cities could apply to these assets and products, actions including sharing, recycling, refurbishing, re-using, replacing, and digitizing.
It highlights the ‘outputs’ resulting from circular actions, outputs such as more energy-efficient buildings, a longer lifespan for water resources, or more inclusive uses of public spaces.
The Guide also highlights the wide range of ‘enablers’ that cities can apply to catalyze these actions.
“These enablers are potential policy tools to stimulate circular actions,” says Geray. “These enablers might include, among others, Key Performance Indicators, R&D programmes, public-private partnerships, training and capacity building, and financial incentives for circular actions.”

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