Advancing Human Security and Community Resilience

Focus Area: Climate Action & Sustainable Communities

Accelerating Circular and Resilient Cities

15 November 2021

Mindset Shift: Replacing the Cradle to Grave Economy with a Circular Approach

At present, cities produce enormous amount of waste and greenhouse gas emissions in the process of growing and functioning. The World Bank estimates that waste generation will increase by 70% from two billion tonnes in 2016 to 3.4 billion tonnes in 2050, driven by rapid urbanisation and rising income levels. In the food sector alone, one-third of all food is wasted and contributes to 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Hence there is a unique opportunity to lead cities towards a circular and resilient economy which can help improve health and well-being.

Approaching Every City with a Resilience Framework

Resilient Cities Network will identify and work with nine member cities that demonstrate a strong commitment to circular economy and resilience action over the next 24 months. It will prepare 20 projects for investments in the areas of circular food system, circularity in the built environment, and circular plastics. There will also be capacity building for cities to continue developing projects independently. Three champion cities including Singapore and Milan with experience in transformative circularity and resilience action will be mobilised to mentor and collaborate across these projects. Potential areas include sanitation and waste management. This has potential to unlock 25 million jobs, US$2.9 trillion in savings and 39% greenhouse gas emissions cuts.

Closing Resource Loops

There are ready examples of cities that have successfully integrated circularity as part of their national sustainability agenda to ensure liveability and resilience. Singapore for example has committed to capping CO2 emissions at 65 million tonnes by 2030 and halving this by 2050. Singapore’s Tuas Nexus plant will be the world’s first integrated waste and water treatment facility and is expected to yield 200,000 tonnes of CO2 cuts annually. Circularity can be increased further by using the resultant ash from incineration as a new construction material and a replacement for sand in construction. Another example is Malacca which has set itself a circularity milestone of 40% reduction in waste being sent to its only landfill in Sungai Udang.

Investable Opportunity to Close Financing Gaps

There is also an opportunity to support the Call to Action through a blended finance approach for circularity under the Resilient Community Investment Fund and offer a pay-for-success capital to cities. Past results have demonstrated a 10 times growth in private market funds and 26 times growth in public equity funds with US$8 billion assets under management for circular economy around the world. This will help close funding gaps as 73% of cities in the network still have insufficient financial resources which prevents them from transitioning completely to a circular economy.