Interview with Charlotte Breen, from C40’s Business & Innovation Team

The EIT Climate-KIC community comprises a rich diversity of expertise, skills and perspectives across our alumni, start-ups, innovation partners, advisors and associates, all of whom contribute to our innovation capacity. 

This week, we speak to Charlotte Breen, from C40’s Business & Innovation Team. Charlotte spoke to us about her work and the recently launched Municipality-led circular economy case studies report

What’s your role?

At C40 Cities I lead a forum of city economists and do-ers who support their Mayors to transition cities to low-carbon economies, to promote honest and insightful sharing of their strategies. There is a focus on private sector engagement, enabling the creation of new jobs and measuring the quality of life in cities.

The ‘circular economy’ is one of these key strategies that I have researched on behalf of EIT Climate-KIC’s Circular Cities project, which promises to create jobs and lower waste, such as through the re-manufacturing, repairing and resale of goods that otherwise may end up in landfill. Companies and city municipalities also can find operational savings through reduced spend on new materials, with a different mindset of renting instead of buying goods for example.

C40 is a network of over 90 Mayors and their city officials from around the world that are committed to climate mitigation and adaptation. I see C40’s work as being very much complementary to EIT Climate-KIC’s objectives and we’re grateful for the funding they provide.

What or who gives you hope or inspiration in the fight against climate change?

When preparing to present the circular case studies, I zoomed in on one of the world’s largest landfills; located in the Nevada desert outside Las Vegas, it’s overwhelming in size at almost 10km2, equivalent to about 1,300 football pitches. What gives me hope is Elon Musk’s Gigafactory just nearby, manufacturing electric cars and batteries, demonstrating rapid scaling of climate innovation is possible.

Furthermore, it’s inspiring to see other influential individuals, like Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates, who themselves have led significant change and innovation, getting so personally involved in the climate agenda.

What needs to happen to achieve the thing you’re working for?

A key challenge facing city policy-makers is jargon, which can be helpful for communicating with the people in the sustainability sector, but it risks misunderstandings. I hope many are inspired and motivated to find out what the ‘circular economy’ means in practice and take a look at this catalogue of case studies that seeks to lay out, for what we believe to be the first time, a range of 40 tangible examples in-depth, to enable city officials around the world to replicate.

There are significant carbon emissions in the goods consumed and imported, whether discarded in building demolition waste or single-use consumer items originating from a polluting factory abroad. In an age of increasing mass consumption, it’s crucial these are recognised and tackled as part of climate action. Taking a circular economy approach reduces this ‘hidden’ carbon footprint of cities.

What is next in the project pipeline?

In this Circular Cities Project, coordinated by Peter Vangsbo, EIT Climate-KIC Nordic, and project managed by Åsa Hellström, Malmö Municipality, Sweden, there are multiple workplans following C40’s, which are increasing in momentum. This includes an event in Sofia, Bulgaria, led by Veolia, 5-6 February 2019 (event invite here). The program partners are preparing further masterclasses, white papers, research and testing new practices in ‘Living labs’ (live building development projects in cities). We’re aiming to support cities internationally, particularly through C40’s networks and this project’s ‘follower’ cities engaged from Eastern Europe and other emerging markets, such as through webinars and via an exchange program between the City of Malmö the City of Swakopmund, Namibia.

 

The Municipality-led circular economy case studies report is available to download here.

 
Location
Related Focus Area
Urban Transitions
Related Goal
Goal 2: Create green, resilient cities
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