The Amsterdam City Doughnut: Kate Raworth's model of a circular, carbon-neutral economy applied to the 'Dam

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Always good to see cities and city-regions take global leadership on planet-saving ideas (we’ve covered this extensively here). This time it’s Amsterdam, embracing wholeheartedly the framework of “Doughnut Economics” from Kate Raworth (again, well covered here). This is the now-famous image of the “doughnut” zone - which exists between the satisfaction of basic human and social needs, and the various ecosystem boundaries that we must stay within to live sustainably on the planet.

What does this zone help us focus on in our economic and social priorities? The idea of a “circular economy” is what seems to have attracted the Amsterdam authorities to Kate’s vision.

As outlined in this Medium blog, the “City Doughnut” focuses the Amsterdammers on these factors:

For Amsterdam, or any other city, an environment that respects both local and global ecological boundaries can only be achieved through a circular economy. This entails new possibilities to create local value and sustainable jobs, for example in ‘closing the loop’ to harvest, recycle and re-use natural resources. At the same time, it is crucial to ensure that circular economy policies work for all citizens.

The City Doughnut has given city officials an analytical compass to navigate circular initiatives that contribute positively to both the social and ecological prosperity of the city. Focused on three priority value chains — Biomass and Food, Construction, Consumer Goods — the collaborative process developed 17 circular policy initiatives for Amsterdam. These span the diversity of the city ecosystem:

  • Circular food production in urban and peri-urban areas: Local initiatives in regenerative food production, such as Pluk!, foster local nutrient cycles while creating business opportunities for local communities.

  • Prevent over-consumption and minimise use of fast-moving consumer goods: Innovative businesses, such as Bundles’ household appliances-as-a-service model, promote access over ownership. By extending the life of materials, city residents gain access to a range of quality products, while reducing overall resource consumption.

  • Circular building development through flexible zoning and regenerative design: to promote sustainable and healthy lifestyles for all, urban districts should adapt to evolving area-specific demands in the provision of regenerative energy, water and waste systems, such as Buiksloterham in Amsterdam Noord.

There’s a fulsome report available to download as well - the outcome of “a pioneering and deeply collaborative process involving more than 100 officials and businesses from the city”. From the report, on its ambition:

Amsterdam wants to be, and continue to be, a thriving and equitable city; to ensure a good life for everyone - for all citizens and visitors - without compromising the natural boundaries of the Earth. In the pursuit of equality, the cityhas set a specific focus on wellbeing, next to welfare.

A finite Earth does not have an infinite supply of resources.This is why it is crucial to work towards creating a more circular economy. The city of Amsterdam is aware of the impacts that its modes of consumption and production generate, both within and far beyond the boundaries of the city.

Ultimately, Amsterdam recognises the potential of circular measures towards realising its climate goals. To this end, the city of Amsterdam is challenging all citizens and visitors to be aware of their personal impact and to actively work on decreasing this cumulative impact.

To realise its ambition, the municipality focuses on becoming a circular and climate-neutral city.

The circular city: The city of Amsterdam wants to become a circular city, and aims to use 50% fewer primary raw materials by 2030 and become 100% circular by 2050 at the latest.

The climate-neutral city: The city of Amsterdam has adopted the objective of the Paris Agreement and strives to cut its CO2 emissions by 55% by 2030. Before 2050, CO2emissions should be decreased by 95% in comparison with 1990 levels. The city wants to be natural gas-free by 2040.

Amsterdam’s motto is, and remains, “learning by doing”. This encapsulates the innovative character of the city and its citizens, companies and knowledge institutions.

More here.