‘City authorities are at the forefront of societal change addressing both new challenges and new opportunities. Cities can boost innovation, embrace people from different backgrounds or with different lifestyles, and reduce our impact on the planet. To maximise this potential, however, policies at all levels of government need to consider the unique role of cities’ (European Union and UN-Habitat 2016).
Cities are increasingly recognized as the places where both problems and solutions to the grand challenges of the 21st century can be found. Two thirds of the European population live in urban areas, where major problems such as pollution and environmental deprivation, unemployment, poverty, segregation and exclusion are concentrated. And yet, as dense relational networks and complex systems of interaction, connection and transaction, cities are also major sources of innovation and growth, catalysing knowledge, energies and creativity from all walks of society and economy (Batty 2013; European Commission 2016; United Nations 2016).
This section provides an overview of EU policy-making in the field of sustainable urban development, and digs deeper into its relation to circular economy and the transition to circular cities.