International Urban Cooperation (IUC) Asia enacts city-to-city cooperation as one of its main components. This is based on the realisation that in achieving solutions to complex global challenges such as climate change, it requires cooperation from all parts of the world and for leaders from all levels to be ambitious. Thus, multi-stakeholder partnership is crucial, especially in distributing essential resources globally and to ensure that all development actors, from state to non-state actors, are collaborating together in pursuing the international development agenda, such as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA), within local level.
Based on the initiative above, IUC Asia HelpDesk facilitates the cooperation between Malaysian cities (Petaling Jaya and Penang) with the European cities and development partners to implement the circular economy agenda. The cooperation is also expected to contribute to Circular Economy Roadmap (CER) for plastics, a national level initiative that is planned to be introduced by the end of 2020. Heading towards the goal, the first step took form on IUC Asia Stakeholder Consultation Webinars taking the theme “Designing Circular Cities” conducted consecutively on 29 June and 2 July 2020 with Petaling Jaya City Council and Penang Island City Council.
Circular economy is a new way of creating value, and ultimately prosperity, through extending product lifespan and relocating waste from the end of the supply chain to the beginning – in effect, using resources more efficiently by using them more than once. Circular economy has gained increasing tractions as a tool that presents solutions to some of the world’s most pressing crosscutting sustainable development challenges. As it addresses root causes, the concept of a circular economy presents opportunities to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
The stakeholder consultations aim at supporting stakeholders, including state governments and private sector, in taking a unified and collective approach towards a sustainable, circular economic system and an inclusive approach that involves both the informal sector and vulnerable groups. The new EU Circular Economy Action Plan serves as a basis for actions in Malaysia, where the IUC Asia project brings best practices from the European pilot cities to achieve circular product design through, e.g. improved durability, reusability, upgradability, and reparability of products; increased recycled content in products; restricting single-use and countering premature obsolescence of products.
Both webinars were enriched by more than 150 experts from Malaysia and Europe representing various institutions and governmental bodies. They explored options on how cooperation with cities in Europe would support the transition of Petaling Jaya and Penang into circular cities. Among many interesting initiatives presented were Circle Economy organisation that introduced Circle City Scan Tool, which enables cities to align sectoral strategies towards a circular economy development; CITERA at Sapienza University (Rome) that introduced CINDERELA, a new business model for more sustainable urban construction; and Greater Manchester Combined Authority that explained how they work closely with local authorities to increase recycling, re-use and waste prevention with their residents – to name a few. There were also representatives from other Malaysian cities, namely Seberang Perai and Iskandar, participating in the consultations and sharing their best practices.
Discussion in both webinars managed to incorporate rich insights in addressing the top five common challenges of Malaysian cities in their transition to the circular economy: (1) food, organic waste and water security; (2) plastic pollution and packaging (in particular single-use plastics); (3) construction material flow and design (including demolition waste); (4) household e-waste and hazardous waste; and (5) lack of digital sharing tools and platforms as an enabler for circular cities.
In essence, the cooperation would be focused on these three key areas: (1) research and innovation; (2) knowledge transfer of best practices; and (3) exploring investments and business opportunities. In the long run, this cooperation is expected to foster multi-stakeholder cooperation resulting in these several outcomes: (1) concept notes for pilot projects, involving European cities working in the circular economy clusters, based on EU experience while taking into consideration the interests and external conditions of stakeholders in the public and private sector; and (2) a blueprint for the transition towards the circular economy in Malaysian cities that includes the lessons learned from the above-mentioned stakeholders’ consultations, the tools and recommendations to engage the private sector into the entire cities, and a proposal of a 10-year plan to mainstream circular economy principles into the cities’ economic and urban development plans.
Ultimately, the deliverables are planned to be presented to the Federal Government of Malaysia at a national stakeholder consultation involving all states as a recommendation for the creation of the national initiative. IUC Asia is committed to assist cities of Petaling Jaya and Penang throughout the process to ensure the progress of this promising cooperation.