Better Knowledge - Draft Action 11: Develop City Indicators for a Circular Economy

  • William (Commun... profile
    William (Commun...
    18 July 2018 - updated 8 months ago
    Total votes: 1
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What is the specific problem?

How do existing EU policies/legislations/instruments contribute?

Which action is needed?

Which partners?

Which timeline?

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The EU Commission launched in January 2018 a monitoring framework for the circular economy. The indicators proposed by the Commission will help EU Member States to develop a circular economy strategy, and to report on the progress of the work towards a circular economy for the EU area. Through the work of implementing circular economy on city level, cities have experienced the need of indicators for monitoring and to report on their work. The Partnership of Circular Economy has identified the lack of such indicators as a main bottleneck for cities in implementing a Circular Economy strategy.


What is the specific problem?

During the work with the topic of Governance and the Action “Prepare a blueprint for a Circular City Portal” [1], the need for indicators of monitoring circular economy is identified. There are several initiatives for developing indicators for use in cities. However, none are as yet fully developed and ready to be used by cities.

The Partnership notes that a strategy for a transition towards a circular economy will need a set of indicators to monitor this transition. Most cities will start a process by developing a strategy, set targets and develop measuring indicators.

In the report Circular City Governance (Jan Junker et al, Radboud University, Nijmegen April 2018) writes:

Within the better knowledge domain, it is worth noting that monitoring and evaluation systems to measure progress of circular developments are lacking. A well-functioning monitoring and evaluation system that ensures feedback to strategy and planning can be considered as a crucial support tool for circular transitions and paramount for effective learning by doing. This leads to a recommendation of an action on develop (guidance on) monitoring and evaluation frameworks for circular city transitions.

The OECD has launched a proposal for a project on The Economics and Governance of Circular Economy in Cities, where indicators for monitoring will be an essential part of the project.

The EUROCITIES Task Force on Circular Economy has identified the lack of indicators as a main challenge for cities and has also proposed to establish necessary indicators.

The Partnership repeats the old quote: What is not measured, will never be done. The need for indicators to measure progress towards a circular economy is essential for the EU, Member States and on EU level. A set of indicators are essential for implementation of Circular Economy on city level.

Similarly, the Urban Agenda Partnership on Circular Economy should take an active role in the development of city indicators for a circular economy. We propose to form a consortium to develop these indicators and ensure that this work has an impactful effect for cities transitioning towards a circular economy on the ground.

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How do existing EU policies/legislations/instruments contribute?

The Commission has launched the following initiatives:

  • Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament on a monitoring framework for the circular economy, 16.01.2018. This communication is a part of the Commission Circular Economy Strategy. The Communication proposes a set of 10 indicators for Member States to report on their progress towards a circular economy.
  • The circular economy monitoring framework draws upon and complements the existing Resource Efficiency Scoreboard and Raw Materials Scoreboard, which were developed in recent years by the Commission. The 10 indicators are developed for Member States reporting to the EU and some of them are not transferrable to a city level. As most economic activity takes place in cities, a monitoring framework with a set of indicators specific to cities is needed to fulfil the European circular economy strategy.
  • The European Green Capital Award, wherein the selection of a city awarded with the title of European Green Capital is assessed on the basis of twelve environmental indicators:
    • Climate Change: Mitigation
    • Climate Change: Adaptation
    • Sustainable Urban Mobility
    • Sustainable Land Use
    • Nature and Biodiversity
    • Air Quality
    • Noise
    • Waste
    • Water
    • Green Growth and Eco-innovation
    • Energy Performance
    • Governance


logo of the European Green Capital

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Which action is needed?

Several European cities have a dedicated strategy for a circular economy, but the management system to measure and evaluate the progress is not operational. There are several efforts made at the national level, but there is still no organised initiative to develop indicators fit for measuring the circular economic transition at a local level.

Policy makers and city managers face an array of sustainability indicator frameworks. However, it is important to also have indicators guiding circular economy decisions and strategies. The Partnership will aim to develop (guidance on) monitoring and evaluation frameworks (indicators) for circular city transitions. The guidance will be an important tool for cities in their work to establish and implement a strategy for circular economy.

It is important to stress that different cities will have different goals and ambitions. Indicators must therefore be able to take into account different geographical, cultural and institutional differences. The Partnership suggests to develop a guidance with a set of indicators suitable to measure circular performance, leaving it for the cities to decide which indicators are most relevant for them.

For the development of this action we propose the following phases:

Phase 1– Workshop and establishment of consortium

1) Initiate dialogue with stakeholders on the topic of circular city indicators

2) Organise a workshop to discuss the organization and scope of a consortium

3) Establish a consortium for the development of circular city indicators

4) Identify funding opportunities for a project on city indicators

5) Decide on scope of the project

Phase 2 – Make a guidance document with proposals for city indicators on a transition towards a Circular Economy

6) Identify and agree on a set of indicators (input indicators, process indicators, performance indicators – both qualitative and quantitative)

7) Disseminate information about the guidance document at a Partnership seminar in the spring of 2019


How to implement the action?

The development will be done in cooperation with other stakeholders already engaged in the work for this action, like the OECD, ACR+ and EUROCITIES among others. The role of the Partnership will be to seek financial support for the development and to secure that the outcome will be available and distributed to all relevant users, for instance through the Circular City Portal.

There is a risk that several sets of monitoring systems (indicators) could be developed at the same time. As the indicators will be used in different cities under different political, legal and governmental circumstances, the monitoring system will be adapted to each city’s need; hence a common and identical monitoring system will not be possible. Several monitoring systems operating at the same time is not expected to hinder cities in working towards a circular economy.

Without necessary funding, the action will be difficult for the Partnership to implement. The guidance will need to reflect ongoing processes within the Commission, seek knowledge of work initiated in cities and will need to have competence for governance at a local level, the availability of statistics and methodology for measuring flows of materials, work creation, etc. The Partnership and its partners do not have all the needed knowledge and will depend on financial funding to contract the necessary competences. Hence, ensuring both funding and the access to knowledge are the main challenges for this action.

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Which partners?

Action leader: City of Oslo

Partners: OVAM, Slovenia, EUROCITIES, ACR+, Kaunas, Greece, EIB, Finland

Relevant Partners: OECD, DG ENV

The Partnership will in addition include other stakeholders in the action as needed.

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Which timeline?


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See also

Better Regulation

Better Funding

Better Knowledge

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[1]The Action Plan – Part I can be found here: