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Urban Circular Economies [Future
Posted on November 30, 2015 @ 05:44:00 AM by Paul Meagher

This week we will be hearing alot about the Paris climate talks and various solutions.

I'll add to the cacaphony by adding my own two suggestions for where the solution might lie.

One idea that I think should be considered is that the main locus for solutions is not at the country, state/province, or individual level but at the urban region level. Mayors will have more impact on climate change than other bureaucrats. Why? Cities, and more generally, urban regions (which includes agricultural areas on the fringes) are growing in importance and they have the local means to address climate change issues at a significant enough scale to make a difference. So maybe we should have sent the mayors of our major cities over to Paris rather than other bureaucrats or groups because I think it will be the urban region level that we can take our most significant steps to addressing the causes of climate change. Mayors will need to work to improve our urban ecologies. Individuals can also feel empowered to address climate change at the urban region level and can track their progress using emerging smart city technologies. The urban region level is not too big and not too small to make a difference. The main control knob for adjusting climate is to be found at the urban region level of operations.

The second idea that should be considered is to replace our current make-use-discrard linear economy with a circular economics model. The level of change we need to make as a society needs to be commensurate with the size of the problem we are trying to address. While setting targets for green house gases is an important component of the solution, the actual solution may involve a new model for economics. Circular economics might be that model. I'm impressed with the progress the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has made on defining the field of circular economics and in educating decision makes about it - mostly in Europe so far. Here is a talk by Ellen MacAthur that might whet your appetite to learn more about circular economics. In my opinion circular economics is still a work in progress with very promising idea integration work done so far.

We can combine these two ideas and the suggestion would be that the main way we might address climate change is if urban regions, acting under the direction of Mayors, should move towards managing their regions using a circular economics approach as much as possible. If we can optimize the efficiency of cities in consuming resources via circular economics ideas and techniques then we might have a chance at addressing our green house gas targets.

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