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Special Issue "Sustainable Urban Transitions: Towards Low-Carbon, Circular Cities"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2020) | Viewed by 5597

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Teresa Domenech
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Institute for Sustainable Resources, University College London, Gower St, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 6BT, UK
Interests: circular economy; industrial ecology; circular cities; sustainable manufacturing; indicators and metrics for the circular economy
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Aiduan Borrion
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, Department of Civil, University College London, London WC1E 6DE, UK
Interests: circular economy; life cycle assessment; bioeconomy; closed loop systems; low carbon technologies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Cities concentrate most of the world’s population and are the largest consumers of resources and energy. The transition towards more sustainable futures thus fundamentally depend on the transformation of city systems from linear to circular and from carbon intensive to carbon neutral or positive. Urban transitions need to draw from the technical, technological and social innovation capabilities of cities and from opportunities derived from the spatial concentration of activities and scale, which create adequate conditions to explore new low carbon and circular business and socio-economic models to organize production and consumption activities in order to reduce the pressures on the environment. Urban transitions need to be negotiated among city stakeholders through new forms of governance which understand the dynamics of the transformation and create inclusive spaces for experimentation. The purpose of this Special Issue is to better understand the role of cities as an agent of transformation in the transition towards the circular economy.

This Special Issue invites original research papers, reviews and case studies on the topic of urban circular transitions with a focus on: (i) the role of new circular business models in increasing circularity in cities; (ii) closing the loop of food, nutrients, waste and water in cities; (iii) circular urban models for such as textiles, furniture, plastics and electronics; (iv) circular and green urban infrastructures; (v) indicators, metrics and assessment methods for circular cities; (vi) new governance systems for cities in transition towards circularity; (vii) resource nexus in cities; (viii) Policy mixes for circular urban transitions and other related topics.

Dr. Teresa Domenech
Dr. Aiduan Borrion
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

Article
Embedding Circular Economy Principles into Urban Regeneration and Waste Management: Framework and Metrics
Sustainability 2022, 14(3), 1293; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14031293 - 24 Jan 2022
Viewed by 845
Abstract
In a highly urbanised world, cities have become main centers of resource consumption and generation of waste. The notion of the circular economy (CE) identifies strategies for slowing and narrowing resource use through the prevention of waste, improvement of resource use, and substitution [...] Read more.
In a highly urbanised world, cities have become main centers of resource consumption and generation of waste. The notion of the circular economy (CE) identifies strategies for slowing and narrowing resource use through the prevention of waste, improvement of resource use, and substitution of the use of primary resources with recovered materials (and energy). The literature has recently started to explore the concept of circular cities, and a number of cities around the globe have adopted circular economy strategies. Urban regeneration can play a critical role in enabling more circular loops of resources and contribute to more sustainable urban environments; however, there is a lack of contributions in the literature that explore the circularity of urban regeneration projects. The aim of this research is to address this gap by providing a framework and metrics to embed circular economy principles into urban regeneration. The proposed framework and set of metrics are then applied to a case study in West London to quantitatively assess CE implications and point to opportunities to increase circularity. Three main scenarios are developed to assess resource impacts of different waste strategies. The maximizing recycling scenario suggests that over 65% recycling and just under 35% energy recovery could be achieved for the area. However, findings suggest potential trade-offs between strategies centered around energy recovery from waste and strategies that prioritise recycling of recyclable fractions from waste. The three scenarios are then assessed against the CE metrics proposed. Again, here, ‘maximising recycling’ better aligns with the proposed CE metrics and contributes to cutting around 50% of GHG emissions associated with management/disposal of residual waste while increasing opportunities for resource recovery. Finally, some conclusions are drawn pointing to pathways to maximise optimal resource use and infrastructural provision in urban regeneration. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Urban Transitions: Towards Low-Carbon, Circular Cities)
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Article
A Future Outlook of Narratives for the Built Environment in Japan
Sustainability 2021, 13(4), 1653; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13041653 - 04 Feb 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1179
Abstract
The evolution of long-term sustainable societies is closely connected to the transformation of the physical built environment in which those societies operate. In this paper, we present a comprehensive set of narratives for the built environment in Japan, consistent with the shared socio-economic [...] Read more.
The evolution of long-term sustainable societies is closely connected to the transformation of the physical built environment in which those societies operate. In this paper, we present a comprehensive set of narratives for the built environment in Japan, consistent with the shared socio-economic pathways (SSPs) framework, to assess the future evolution of the adaptation and mitigation challenges. We focus on the linkage between sustainability factors and human living environments including urban form, buildings, and basic infrastructures. We introduce a new, sixth narrative to the SSPs, an alternative interpretation of SSP1. Whereas the original SSP1 assumes high societal and environmental sustainability combined with relatively high economic growth, the SSP1 variant does not highly rely on economic growth and is oriented towards a lower and more locally oriented consumption lifestyle. Nature-based solutions are integrated and examined in the new SSP1 narrative, which is aligned with the adaptation to the digital era with freedom of location. Recent global crises such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic may accelerate the transformation of societies. Therefore, this study attempts to imply the benefits and trade-offs of alternative pathways for the built environment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Urban Transitions: Towards Low-Carbon, Circular Cities)
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Article
Questioning Low-Carbon Transition Governance: A Comparative Analysis of European Case Studies
Sustainability 2020, 12(24), 10460; https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410460 - 14 Dec 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 880
Abstract
To achieve the international emission reduction targets, current researches underline the need to overcome the dominant techno-centric approaches to energy transition, in favor of analyses that explore in more detail those practices and organizational assets that play a role in favoring a transition [...] Read more.
To achieve the international emission reduction targets, current researches underline the need to overcome the dominant techno-centric approaches to energy transition, in favor of analyses that explore in more detail those practices and organizational assets that play a role in favoring a transition towards a low-carbon society. In this light, the article focuses on governance practices and, in particular, on the different tools and actors involved across variable scales and temporalities. Drawing on the activities of the ERASMUS+ Strategic Partnership for Higher Education LOTUS (Locally Organized Transition of Urban Sustainable Spaces), a selection of European case studies is explored and compared in light of (i) the implemented actions in terms of energy production and efficiency measures, (ii) the legal framework and the origin of the funding and (iii) the number and type of involved actors and their partnerships. On this basis, the analysis outlines, from both a theoretical and a practical stand, a number of critical issues that characterize these episodes of energy transition governance. In particular, the authors reflect upon the interaction between energy measures and urban contexts, the need for synergies among government level and the emergence of new forms of partnership among public, private and third parties’ actors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Urban Transitions: Towards Low-Carbon, Circular Cities)
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Article
A Materials Bank for Circular Leuven: How to Monitor ‘Messy’ Circular City Transition Projects
Sustainability 2020, 12(24), 10351; https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410351 - 11 Dec 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1074
Abstract
In recent years, cities have revealed themselves as being prominent actors in the circular economy transition. Besides supporting and initiating urban projects catalyzing circularity, cities are looking for monitoring tools that can make their progress towards circularity visible. Adopting Leuven’s pilot project for [...] Read more.
In recent years, cities have revealed themselves as being prominent actors in the circular economy transition. Besides supporting and initiating urban projects catalyzing circularity, cities are looking for monitoring tools that can make their progress towards circularity visible. Adopting Leuven’s pilot project for a building materials bank as a case study, this paper notes the particular challenges and opportunities in the pilot project to assess its progress and impact, in combination with gathering data for overall circular city monitoring purposes. Firstly, the paper names tensions between the “messy” transition process from policy ambitions to implementation and the question of data and monitoring. Secondly, the paper identifies relevant dimensions and scales to evaluate progress and impacts of a building materials bank, drawing from its development process. Thirdly, it proposes guidelines to monitor and evaluate circular city projects from the bottom up, combining quantitative indicators with guiding questions in a developmental evaluation. The analysis serves a critical reflection, distills lessons learned for projects contributing to circular cities and feeds a few concluding policy recommendations. The case study serves as an example that, in order to move beyond the tensions between circularity monitoring and actual circular city project development, monitoring instruments should simultaneously interact with and feed the circularity transition process. Therefore, dedicated data governance driven by enhanced stakeholder interactions should be inscribed in transition process guidance. Bottom-up projects such as a building materials bank provide opportunities to do this. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Urban Transitions: Towards Low-Carbon, Circular Cities)
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Article
Study on Dynamic Total Factor Carbon Emission Efficiency in China’s Urban Agglomerations
Sustainability 2020, 12(7), 2675; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12072675 - 28 Mar 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1224
Abstract
The scale effect of urbanization on improving carbon emission efficiency and achieving low-carbon targets is an important topic in urban research. Using dynamic panel data from 64 prefecture-level cities in four typical urban agglomerations in China from 2006 to 2016, this paper constructed [...] Read more.
The scale effect of urbanization on improving carbon emission efficiency and achieving low-carbon targets is an important topic in urban research. Using dynamic panel data from 64 prefecture-level cities in four typical urban agglomerations in China from 2006 to 2016, this paper constructed a stochastic frontier analysis model to empirically measure the city-level total-factor carbon emission efficiency index (TCEI) at different stages of urbanization and to identify rules governing its spatiotemporal evolution. We quantitatively analyzed the influences and functional characteristics of TCEI in the four urban agglomerations of Pearl River Delta, Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, the Yangtze River Delta, and Chengdu-Chongqing. Results show that the TCEI at different stages of urbanization in these urban agglomerations is increasing year by year. The overall city-level TCEI was ranked as follows: Pearl River Delta > Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei > Yangtze River Delta > Chengdu-Chongqing. Improvements in the level of economic development and urbanization will help achieve low-carbon development in a given urban agglomeration. The optimization of industrial structure and improvement of ecological environment will help curb carbon emissions. This paper provides decision-making references for regional carbon emission reduction from optimizing industrial and energy consumption structures and improving energy efficiency. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Urban Transitions: Towards Low-Carbon, Circular Cities)
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