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The circular economy is about preventing wasted resources through reusing materials, improving design to increase the durability of goods and products, and transforming waste.

Population growth, climate change and urbanisation are likely to increase the pressure on natural resources, as well as the demand for new infrastructure, services and housing. By 2050, the global population will reach 9 billion people, 70% of which will be living in cities. Cities represent almost two-thirds of global energy demand, produce up to 80% of greenhouse gas emissions and 50% of global waste.

Cities and regions play a fundamental role in shifting from a linear to a circular economy, as they are responsible for key decisions in local public services such as transport, solid waste, water and energy that affect citizens’ well-being, economic growth and environmental quality. In cities and regions, the circular economy should ensure that:

  • services (e.g. from water to waste and energy) are provided while preventing waste generation, making efficient use of natural resources as primary materials, optimising their reuse and allowing synergies across sectors;

  • economic activities are planned and executed in a way to close, slow and narrow loops across value chains, and;

  • infrastructure is designed and built to avoid linear locks-in, which use resources intensively and inefficiently.

The OECD Programme on the Circular Economy in Cities and Regions was designed to support national and subnational governments in their transition towards the circular economy through evidence-based analysis, multi-stakeholder dialogues, tailored recommendations and customised action plans. The Programme relies on a consortium of cities and countries engaged in peer-to-peer dialogues and knowledge sharing activities, including Glasgow (United Kingdom), Granada (Spain), Groningen (Netherlands), Umeå (Sweden), Valladolid (Spain) and Ireland.

This report argues that a circular economy strategy in Umeå could help enhance coherence across existing strategies targeted to transform it into a green, sustainable and sharing city. It summarises the findings from an 18-month policy dialogue to develop a vision for the circular economy transition and learn from existing best practices. The circular economy is a mean to achieve Umeå’s goal to be fossil-free by 2040, while enhancing innovation and creating the enabling environment for new business models. Transitioning towards a circular economy has been a political priority for the city since the Strategic Plan 2016-28. It set the objective for the city of Umeå to become a circular economy leader. Being one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe, Umeå is preparing for the future in terms of housing, infrastructure and use of natural resources. Umeå’s local leadership and drive is also timely for the National Delegation for the Circular Economy created by the Swedish government in 2018 to strengthen society’s transition to a resource-efficient, circular and bio-based economy.

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