Environmental planning, management and the politics of change
- What are the processes that entail environmental management?
- What are the political challenges of attaining environmental sustainability in cities?
Today’s session will cover environmental planning, management and the politics of change.
We’re going to first explain some key concepts, figures and facts and then focus on the issue of urban sprawl which is a very central element to environmental planning. And then we’re going to explain how cities can move to become more compact, more integrated and more connected, through city region planning and through planned city extensions.
First, environmental planning is a very key element and has been over the past decades, especially in 1992 with the Rio Agenda 21, the concept of Local Agenda 21 was enshrined in that document in Chapter 28 and it calls upon all municipalities to engage in local process of bringing environment closer to development. Local Agenda 21 – so that gave an enormous boost to environmental planning and management and now again with the New Urban Agenda in 2016 – it is one essentially one of the tree pillars that justify the need for a new urban agenda because the urban development over the past decades has been at the expense of the environment and that needs to be corrected.
So, first some concepts, figures and facts: one of the concepts I would like to use is – a Resource Efficient City and the issue of resource efficiency can be linked to the issue of decoupling; decoupling resource exploitations and ecological impacts from urban development.
So resource efficiency using less resources, causing less pollution in urban development. The other concept that’s important is: Ecological Footprints, it goes beyond the physical footprint of a city but also it includes all the different resources that a city is using in terms of food, water, energy and then has a way of calculating the ecological footprint as the basis of that riches and implications which shows the impact that the city has on its surroundings.
And then coming to Urban Sprawl which will be a central topic of this session, is the “physical expansion of the city’s built environment usually in surrounding rural areas and it’s generally characterised by low density settlements that are car – dependent and often lack public infrastructure and transport.
So,for instance, in developing countries, six out of seven cities are experiencing a decline in density, Density is going down whereas if we want to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, we should have increased density and this decline in density is costing for instance, the United States an estimated 400 billion per year mostly resulting from the higher infrastructure costs, transport costs and public services.
The figures are quite shocking. At present rates of density declines, the world population is expected to double in 43 years and urban land cover will double in only 19 years. So you’ll have a much faster occupation of urban land as opposed to the urban population growth.
This has been recognised in the Sustainable Development Goals. The target 11.3 is talking about the capacities for planning and is measured by the ratio of land consumption to population growth. In fact, it’s a measure of efficient Land-Use and we’re very pleased with this, with difficult indicator, it’s a new indicator, it has never been measured before at the global level but thanks to the geospatial technology and data it can be measured fairly easily without having to go to records that are only updated regularly.
So it is a very powerful measure and it will allow us to see whether any efforts that are made by governments, by private sector and others to reduce the sprawl are really giving results. Cities are some of the culprits for high Greenhouse Gas emissions.
They’re also the site of the solutions because of their agglomeration, they can speed up innovation and they can create much faster technological solutions. Because of the density and the proximity between work and living, cities can drastically reduce current patterns if there is a political will and will of the population to do so.
So, what type of city do we aim for? Our Governing Council has in 2014 developed a strategic plan that calls for ‘Compact Integrated and Connected‘ cities that are resilient to Climate Change. Is the city developing more compact spatial patterns? Are the functions and the population groups more integrated? Is there more connection between different parts of the city and between the city and the hinterland? And are cities taking measures for more resilience and for more climate protection?
Generally we believe there are two levels of intervention that are needed and are possible to curb the phenomenon of sprawl: one is at the City Region Level and one is at the City Extension Level.
The city region level: City Region Planning can help cities to find a new greener future, and this is both in terms of spatial sense but also in terms of economic sense.
Working with Nature is best planned at the city region level where you look at different parts of green and blue infrastructure that can help to nurture ecosystem services.
This is also the scale where density can be leveraged because you’re looking at different combination of transport and land use and you can focus density where it is more economically viable and more desirable, you can optimise infrastructure networks at the city region level using existing infrastructure and being very cautious and developing new infrastructure systems and you can also look at how different parts of the city and different small towns around the city can cluster and work together for greater competitiveness and more resilience in the end.
So this is at the City Region Level but also very importantly is the level of cities, we see that cities are still growing that the cities will grow very much in Africa and South and Southeast Asia. So how does this growth translate in spatial planning?
And we are advocating for planned city extensions. And this is, as opposed to the informal organic sprawl that happens on a piecemeal basis where plots are subdivided without much public space, without much rationality in terms of foresight, in terms of infrastructure and land use.
So planning in advance for the population that is going to come, planning at the scale of the expected growth, planning in phases because the ultimate infrastructure solution can in most cases not be financed in the beginning, also planning for contiguity that means planning for a continuous urban framework and not encouraging settlements that are disconnected because it’s extremely difficult to create a vibrant city or a vibrant town that is disconnected from a larger metropolis and of course applying sustainable and efficient use of resources in this whole territory as part of the design. Planned city extensions is perhaps the best investment in urban development that you can make and it’s an investment initially, it’s an investment in planning, an investment in legislation, an investment in setting up municipal finance systems that are going to finance the infrastructure.
Now I would like to turn to a case study of Kampala, it’s the capital of Uganda and a city that is inland and maybe not so well known in terms of its impact or Climate Change impact, when discussing cities and Climate Change the more spectacular cases are the coastal cities or the cities that are flooded, that are seeing sea level rise but Kampala is an inland city and there is a lot of flooding going on in the rainy season and we were able to support together with some academic institutions to support an integrated flood management system for Kampala. And this looks at specifically in informal settlements because that’s where the flooding took place and how can different decisions be made in terms of planning, in terms of infrastructure, both hard infrastructure and soft infrastructure using the green and blue infrastructure of the city to prevent floods.
Let me end with recalling some of the lessons that we have learned in conducting environmental planning and exercises across the world.
The first is that – greater authority and finances should be given to the management and enforcing of land use and environmental services by local and metropolitan authorities.
Second is that the involvement of stakeholders is critical. Private sector communities need to be consulted especially in very important decisions like densification and curbing sprawl because you’re going against the prevailing consumption and production patterns which is a very fundamental change, that is not just a technocratic exercise.
When investing in infrastructure and environmental services, we need to understand which communities are most at risk, there needs to be a very focused investment and that those ones most at risk need to the attended first.
We need to think also about integrating renewable energy generation in these plants. I think there’s a bigger role than previously assumed for local authorities in the generation of renewables.
A final lesson learned through this environmental planning and management exercise is the fact that we need to allow for variability in different infrastructure types to accommodate local ecosystems.
We don’t need to think about one solution for the entire city, different neighbourhoods have different environmental characteristics, different ecosystems and can find different solutions and different solutions are different costs and different levels of sustainability. And now a new impetus is, has been given by the 2030 agenda where there’s a very specific target- Target 11.b that focuses on increasing the number of cities and human settlement, adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to Climate Change and resilience to disaster.
So this is an explicit agreement, an explicit target that has been agreed upon by Member-States in the 2030 agenda. So much progress has been made, still much more needs to be done. This is not an easy topic, there are no easy solutions. This is really a long-haul investment in long-term Sustainable Development. Thank you.