Skip to main content

Addressing Environmental Challenges and Rapid Urbanisation by Enabling Green, Circular Transitions

Arindam Jana



Wednesday, June 29, 2022


Urban Expo: Urban Library room
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
UL 17


Between 1950 and 2000, 2.1 billion inhabitants were added to urban areas globally – this is expected to more than double in the period 2000-2050, with hitherto lesser urbanised geographies experiencing a bulk of the growth. Facing such unprecedented urban growth, local and regional governments are facing a serious capacity crunch globally. From gaps in service delivery, to inadequate housing, to crumbling infrastructure, to stagnant labour markets, the challenges arising from rapid urbanisation are many. These are further complicated when exposed to the complexities of adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change, and the need to sustainably manage demand for resources. Drawing on experiences from different regions, UNEP and UN-Habitat are co-authoring a policy note on how accelerating circular transitions can address issues arising from rapid urbanisation. Using a lens of integrated multi-dimensional and trans-sectoral planning, the note unpacks problems arising from rapid urbanisation, mapping key pressure points, and identifying circular interventions that have been designed to address such instances of planning failure. During the proposed Urban Library event, the authors will present the policy note, and host a short discussion among panellists on how interventions that accelerate circular transitions in the face of negative pressures of rapid urbanisation can be incentivised for implementation by city and regional governments and scaled up globally. GEO for Cities aims to inform, engage and support dialogue among decision makers and other actors involved in urban issues. The GEO-6 report identified urbanization as one of five main drivers of environmental change and also looked at the impact on cities and city residents of related challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. The GEO for Cities looks at these issues, but also presents the types of solutions that can lead to environmentally sustainable and just cities.


1. To share recommended pathways for cities to transition from a linear to a circular economy 2. To identify incentive mechanisms for the uptake of circular strategies in the face of pressures arising from rapid urbanisation 3. To encourage the switchover from traditional urban planning interventions to more innovative and multi-dimensional planning interventions which are both future-proof and promote circular transitions 4. To highlight the centrality of circular transitions in the current debates of adaptation and resilience in the face of challenges emerging from climate change • To highlight and reinforce the key messages of the GEO for Cities. • Present the GEO for Cities as a guide/toolkit for national and urban level policy makers to take action on the environment and equity across cities. • Showcase actions cities and local government can take to make a difference on environmental and equity issues. • Discuss the potential pathways to achieve environmentally sustainable and just urban futures • Inspire citizens to take action on environmental and equity issues and face the environmental and equity challenges that have been exacerbated by COVID-19.

Session speakers

Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif
Executive Director
Ms. Sharon Gil
Moderator; Programme Management Officer and Lead of Circular Economy in Cities
Mr. Magashen Naidu
Panellist; Head of Circular Development
Mr. Mateo Ledesma
Panellist; Regions and Cities Expert
Mr. Jeb Brugmann
Panellist; GEO for Cities author
Resilient Cities Catalyst
Ms. Barbara Lipietz
Panellist; GEO for Cities author
University College London
Mr. Javier Torner
Panellist; Programme Management Officer, Planning, Finance and Economy Section
Mr. Magash Naidoo
Head, Circular Development
Mr. Jordi Pascual
Cities Lead
Circle Economy