How can urban utilities be provided sufficiently, efficiently, economically and equitably to all in a city?
Urban infrastructure and services are an important differentiator between cities and rural areas. A range of universal services that we now take for granted in large and wealthy cities like piped water, sewage, underground drainage, electric power supply, public transportation, telecommunications and more recently the Internet; were only available to the elites, merely a century ago. In many cities of the global South, the daily struggle for a large proportion of citizens, is about access to basic services.
Universal basic urban services, are critical drivers of increased productivity, quality of life and access to education and healthcare that permit people to live in cities at much higher densities, than in most villages. All of these factors, enable cities to become vibrant and productive places with high volumes of economic output, social interaction, innovation and learning.
The counterfactual is that many cities that do not have universal access to these basic services experience, not only lower productivity, incomes and job opportunities; but poor health and sometimes lower life expectancy; poorer education levels and hence weaker economic and social opportunities. In fact, dense concentrations of people, in slums and informal settlements who are poorly served by water, sanitation, drainage and solid waste services are often at higher risk of infectious diseases and natural hazards because of the locations and conditions in which they live.
In effect, urban infrastructure like many of the key systems in the human body, enables the metabolism of cities to function effectively, efficiently and sometimes sustainably.
What do we mean by urban infrastructure?
Today we will look at water supply, sanitation, drainage and solid waste management or what we call urban environmental services; also the energy infrastructure, mobility and transport systems, and information and communications systems.
Let us start with our first cluster of critical environmental services (water supply, sanitation,drainage and solid waste management) that manage flows of potable water, waste water and storm run-off.
They also manage the flow of different types of solid waste that all of our cities create (for example, organic compostables through bone, paper, glass, metals and plastics, toxic chemicals and bio hazards). Environmental services are primarily provided by natural ecosystems (for example rivers and groundwater aquifers, forests and wetlands) and by constructed systems like water filtration and treatment plants and sewage and septage treatment facilities.
Water supply systems are a good example of the full cycle of these iervices, as shown in this diagram: they begin with withdrawal from surface and groundwater sources, moving to treatment to appropriate standards in filtration plants, transmission and distribution through large pressurised water networks, use, recycling, reuse and finally waste water treatment before returning that water to the environment from which it came from.
In the past, such environmental services, like water supply were conceived as linear source to sink systems where unlimited withdrawal of the natural resource was common, as was untreated discharge back into the environment. As cities have grown, pollution loads exceed the Carrying capacity of the surrounding ecosystems to absorb them. This is what we saw happen to the Thames in London in the 19th century and what is currently happening to rivers in China and India like the Yangtze and the Ganga.Learning from this experience, planners are now visualising urban systems as closed-loop systems where we try to conserve the use of a precious resource like freshwater, recycling and reusing it is many times as possible, as Singapore and Beijing do, so effectively, and then treat it to return it into the environment at the same level of quality at which it was withdrawn.
Only 1% of global water resources are available as freshwater for human use. Irrigated agriculture consumes the bulk of this freshwater while urban and industrial use is less than 10 to 15% of the total demand in a typical region. Urban water can come from different sources depending on the location of the city: from glacial melt, lakes, tanks, rivers, and groundwater.
Its quality varies considerably depending on the quality of the source, and the amount of pollution (such as faeces, solid waste, chemicals and even antibiotics) that cities and citizens unthinkingly release into the water. In most locations, source water needs to be filtered, treated for pathogens and then distributed through pipes and sometimes tankers and informal water vendors.
Only the more affluent cities and households in much of the world have the luxury of access to 24×7 piped water. Increasingly, groundwater is being used in many parts of the world, either because surface water is becoming less available or is polluted or because citywide piped water infrastructure is not in place, especially as cities grow in unplanned ways. In its absence, it’s easier to drill a bore well within one’s property than wait endlessly for water to come from a partially-functioning water system.
As water scarcity rises, some cities like Singapore have taken the lead in recycling and reuse. Others, like New York, have set aside large catchment areas in the Catskill mountains to protect natural aquifers and provide water security to the city. In others, such as Perth which faces severe drought due to Climate Change, wind turbines power desalination plants that augment the city’s water systems.
On top of the challenge of water supply, comes the global crisis of sanitation as human populations in poorly-served cities and neighbourhoods now crosses into the billions. Dealing with human faeces has been a perennial public health challenge ever since cities were first created.
Indus Valley civilisation towns were planned over 5,000 years ago, with toilets and cesspools just outside houses, separated from underground storm water drainage and water harvesting and storage structures, creating barriers to the spread of waterborne diseases. Many cities and towns, even today do not have the levels of services that we see in these ancient settlements.
One of the great public health innovations of the 19th century, was the Victorian popularisation of the water closet and the water carriage flush systems. This was a significant public health innovation that over the course of a few decades, reduced the incidence of waterborne epidemics like cholera and typhoid in cities like London, Calcutta and Bombay.Such systems have become the aspirational norm for cities across the world, but require over 100 litres per capita per day, and because of the significant cost are becoming increasingly impractical in a world of water scarcity. In reality, large numbers of slum dwellers are forced to practice open defecation, that puts them and their communities at considerable risk, especially in countries like India. In India, over 50 million people defecate in the open in urban areas each day.
Contrary to popular perception, the most common form of urban sanitation in the world is not sewerage but on-site sanitation, such as pit latrines and septic tanks that require an elaborate human and service infrastructure to safely remove human waste from them. Improving these iystems, especially in areas that still exploit people who handle human waste are a critical frontier of urban innovation.
Drainage is an often-neglected infrastructure with dire consequences, including flooding and the widespread incidence of vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue, in areas and cities that are poorly drained. Underground drainage is often expensive to provide and difficult to retrofit into unplanned areas. Hence, in many parts of the world, storm water (often mixed with household waste and sewage) drains off to roads and channels. Drainage systems are often clogged with silt and solid waste if they are not managed adequately and regularly.
Adequate planning, design and the maintenance of drainage infrastructure, is critical, especially in low-lying, coastal and riverine areas and this makes a difference between healthy and liveable neighbourhoods and those at risk. Mumbai went through a horrific flood in 2005 , that shut down the metropolis for more than a week because of poor drainage planning and management.
Solid waste management has become the bane of many cities, because of growing populations, rising consumerism and the associated increase in industrial packaging materials which are difficult to recycle and segregate. The long-term solution is to consume less, recycle more, shift to biodegradable packaging materials and segregate it at source so that downstream recycling is more efficient and less damaging to the environment.
For a long period, landfills were seen to be the modern solution to the problem of the mountains of waste that were produced by large metropolitan cities. Landfills don’t work as well, in low and middle-income countries as they do in high income countries because land is scarce, and municipalities are unable to invest in safe, sanitary facilities. As a consequence, landfills tend to leach into groundwater and soil, give out methane; incineration at landfills releases noxious gases and communities protest and reject plans to locate landfills near where they live.
The collection, transport, treatment and storage of solid waste, has become a serious challenge in most countries. Some types of waste contain toxic chemicals and bio-hazards that need to be treated specially by using incineration to be able to render them safe which are often too expensive in low and middle-income countries. The solid waste disposal chain employs a large numbers of waste pickers and recyclers in cities of the global south, where they provide a critical service to the city’s residents, but are often excluded and discriminated against.
All aspects of sustainability, economic, social and environmental need to be addressed in dealing with the waste economy, as urban’s forward looking waste management systems seek to demonstrate.
The metabolism of the modern city is effectively driven by its energy infrastructure. Most preindustrial towns and many contemporary cities are still driven by the biomass economy, using materials like wood and agricultural residues, to enable cooking and artisanal production. During the Industrial Revolution, the primary energy source for cities and industrial production shifted first from wood to coal and later to oil and gas and nuclear energy. Urban energy services, especially in advanced economies are slowly shifting from the use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and even gas to renewable sources such as wind energy, solar photovoltaics and in some locations, biofuels.
Highly energy efficient devices like LED lighting are dramatically reducing energy demand. Smart grids and dynamic tariff systems are encouraging energy efficiency in cities. Yet, large population of households in cities of the global South do not have access to reliable, affordable and uninterrupted power that will permit their children to study at night or even refrigerate food.
This is clearly a priority for the SDGs. But exciting innovations are afoot, for example, to reduce energy uses in building and house construction, technologies to decarbonise the production and transportation systems of our cities. Taking these innovations to scale in our cities are essential, if we are to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Accord and restrain global mean temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.
While the energy infrastructure can help move the wheels of industry, commerce and household energy use, it is the mobility and transport systems that enable the city and its citizens to move people and their things from one location to the other, whether it’s from home to work, school to market or to gardens and recreational spaces.
Dramatic technological changes have taken place in transportation systems over the last century, but the apparent contradiction is that the faster and more sophisticated that our vehicles become, the slower transportation speeds become, because of congestion and poor planning. In many cities, the mean velocity of vehicular traffic is often not faster than a bicycle, accompanied by an epidemic of traffic accidents and severe air pollution.
A distinguishing feature of the modern city is urban sprawl, driven by the expansion of transport networks, starting with trams and rail and now taken over by the motor car, in most parts of the world to create massive it.urbs and growth corridors. This is a serious challenge not only to sustainability, but to the livelihoods and economic security of the working poor, who either choose to live in poor conditions close to work in the decaying heart of many cities or are pushed to the periphery.
The most appropriate mix of mobility modes (walking, cycling, driving motorcycles, cars, buses and trains) and the role of active and public transport have been a deeply contested set of questions over the last few decades. It is now largely agreed that denser, more walkable cities are not only more secure but also more efficient, productive and make for more liveable spaces.
Cities like Vancouver, Perth and Copenhagen have demonstrated to the world that moving to more active and public transport linked to sustainable land use and mixed land use can improve the liveability and attractiveness of a city. Commuter rail, mass transit and metro systems have become an important symbol of million plus city life even though they are considerably more expensive than other options, and their environmental and climate impacts are relatively low.
Finally, the movement of goods and materials in cities, is probably as important as that of citizens. The effective functioning of cities depends on the flux of materials, fuels, finished goods and products through it and its linkage with regional and long distance transportation networks like shipping, air-freight and rail.
The most recent but almost ubiquitous urban service, is the telecommunications and information infrastructure that we built over the last century or so, that started with the telegraph and fixed wire telephone lines, but now is rapidly graduating to wireless voice, data and Internet connectivity.
Even in some of the poorest parts of the world, the expansion of optical and wireless communication systems across cities and urban areas has marked a most remarkable innovation over the last two decades dramatically increasing the importance and value of community and economic interaction and networks. The conception of basic services has now been extended in some cities to include universal free Wi-Fi , such as Helsinki which provides free municipal wifi zones throughout the city.
Irrespective of of the mix of the service providers that challenges of integrated planning of universal urban services; their effective development, operations and maintenance; and their apparition and replacement at the right point of time are all processes that need to be regulated appropriately and governed effectively, if we want our cities to be safe, productive, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.
What have we learnt today?
Infrastructure and services are a key differentiator between urban and rural areas and help create the economies of scale that draw people and enterprises to urban areas.
There are large differences in access to basic services like water supply, sanitation and solid waste management in and between cities, leading to risks of disease, disasters and inefficiencies. Environmental services like water supply, sanitation, drainage and solid waste management are critical to the effective functioning of the city but are linked to the ecosystem services of the region.
Most cities struggle with water scarcity and pollution, sanitation access and affordability, leading to health risks and lower quality of life for their residents. Urban energy infrastructure, based largely on fossil power is critical to maintain the metabolism of industry, commerce and household activities in the city. Universal access to quality modern energy sources, a renewables and energy efficiency transition across buildings, transportation, production and household energy needs to be effected very rapidly.
The city’s mobility and transport infrastructure helps determine its spatial form, expansion and the economic and livelihood opportunities that it offers to its citizens.
Active and public transport systems in cities that are compact and walkable are possible, effective, cheap and dramatically improve liveability and city attractiveness.
ICT infrastructure has revolutionised the interaction between people, enterprises and public institutions in the city. Nevertheless, a digital divide does exist that needs to be closed, through universal access to these services.
This will help in the integration and improvement in service delivery, cost effectiveness and the resilience of other urban services.
Lecturer: Rafael Tuts, Director of Programme Division of UN-Habitat
What role does land as a limited resource play for cities?
How can planning play an important role in managing this limited resource, in a way that is equitable? Chapter 3. Urban Infrastructure and Services.
My name is Raf Tuts. I’m the Coordinator of Urban Planning and Design at United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitats, based in Nairobi.
Today’s lecture will be about Land Management and Planning, and we are going to follow the following concepts. There will be first, an explanation about key concepts about planning and land management with some facts and figures. Then we will zoom in on the challenge of slums in the context of planning and land management. Then a bit of more explanation on two important topics, namely: a. Public Space and b. Mixed Use. And then we will end with talking about the International Guidelines on Urban and Territorial Planning before making some concluding remarks.
In the early parts of this century, there was signs of resurgence of urban planning. In Vancouver in 2006, there was a congressional reinventing in planning which sets the scene for much more interest on the power and possible transformation of Urban and Territorial Planning. And this has continued to go up during the last ten years and will now, in the New Urban Agenda (NUA) will certainly get a very important recognisance, as it is one of the key elements of the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.
Now, in terms of concepts, Urban and Territorial Planning is a decision making process to realise sustainable development through visions, strategies and plans and policies and tools that are participatory and regulatory.
Planning can happen at very different scales from the neighbourhood level where planning is very closely linked with design; to the absolute macro level and where we deal with planning of entire countries or even transnational planning and everything in between; all the different territorial scales in between, that is district planning, city planning, city-region planning, metropolitan planning, regional planning and national-spatial planning.
Very important concept related to planning is inclusion, and inclusion in two senses: inclusion in terms of the outcome of planning to make sure that all groups of society have access to the benefits that cities or human settlements have to give, but also inclusion in the process of planning, which is very key. And both elements have been stressed and I think are indispensable to get good results, in terms of planning.
Cities are very important for the economy. We know that. In some cases, they generate up to 80% of the GDP but if planning fails and infrastructure fails as a result of poor planning, up to 40% of the gains can be lost. So planning is very critical, if it is taken seriously and if it is anchored in legislation and in financing.
The profession of urban planning is unevenly represented across the world. The figures are quite astounding. In Africa, there is an average one planner per 100,000 population. In India it’s even more thinly spread, with one planner for every 400,000 people. But this compares to the 37 planners in the UK for 100,000 population and 12 planners in the United States.
So we can see the extreme uneven spread of the profession of planners across the world. Another important dimension of planning is the fact that planning has now been recognised by the World Economic Forum in their Global Risk Landscape as a Risk Factor.
That the failure of planning is actually a risk to economic, social and environmental prosperity and this significance is on the lines by the fact that more than 60% of the projected urban footprint in 2030, is yet to be built. So it’s an opportunity and a challenge but definitely a risk factor that’s recognised.
Let’s now move to the second part: Land Management, which is a different field. It is a field that deals with the rules, processes and structures to make decisions about the use, access and control over land in which these decisions are implemented and enforced, and how competing interests are managed.
It is very closely linked to planning but it’s a different set of institutions and rules altogether. It includes state structures like land agencies, like courts, ministries but also non-statutory actors like traditional bodies and informal agents. Very important here is to stress the Continuum of Land Rights.
As you can see in the picture, there is a whole linear extreme between Informal Land Rights and Formal Land Rights with lots of different statuses in between. The perceived security of tenure is very different in this Continuum of Land Rights, and often policy makers only tend to look at the Formal Land Rights and forget that there’s a whole set of nuances between the Informal Land Rights and the Formal Land Rights which is important to recognise and to value.
One other concept that is extremely important is the concept of Land-value sharing because decisions about land and investments are creating value. Creating value for the private sector that should partly flow back to the public sector for public investments, and this concept is not equally applied in all countries. It is an indispensable concept for having well-functioning cities and societies.
That, public investment is also partly going back to public infrastructure. If this doesn’t work, if only a small fraction of people will benefit from increased Land-values, then it’s very difficult to build sustainable cities.
Some of the figures related to land are quite shocking. Only about 30% of the plots in developing countries are covered by formal land registration. It is estimated that worldwide there are about 6 billion parcels of land and of those ones, only 1.5 billion parcels are formally registered and have security of tenure in the formal sense. So, with the balance of 4.5 billion parcels, 1.1 billion people live in slums. So this informal land reality is huge, part of it is slums but part of it are other types of informal settlements or informal land parcels.
Also agricultural land. This insufficient provision of land or formalised land has led to the proliferation of informal settlements and slums, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa with 61% of urban dwellers living in informal settlements, which is a huge number and a huge challenge moving forward. And one of the responses to this of governments, is to try to move towards Land Titling, which is indeed of a formal response, which is quite difficult to achieve and many other intermediate measures need to be considered – other different Communal Land Titling and other informal measures to get more secure tenure without going straight into a formal land system.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are taking into account both Land and Planning as an important driver for Sustainable Development. Actually, SDG 1.4 aims at increasing the proportion of the total adult population with secure tenure rights to land with legally recognised documentation, and who perceive their rights to land as secure by sex and by type of tenure.
So you can see clearly that in the definition that has been used to measure, make the progress in terms of land, these nuances are being built-in, which I think is a major achievement for the Sustainable Development Goals. But other parts of the discussion are also well-covered. The issue of slums and the need for upgrading slums and adequate access to housing is very well-covered in SDG 11.1. As well as planning is very well-covered under 11.3, which deals with Participatory Planning and which is also measured in terms of the efficient Land-use in urban and peri-urban areas.
Now I’d like to focus a little bit on two important topics related to Planning and Land-use. One is Public Space, which people take for granted.
But in reality, in some cities, there is as little as 10% or 12% of the area of the city is public space area, which is totally insufficient. We reckon that you need to have between 30 – 45% of the land area in the city as public space area. And this will be including roads, including parks and including other types of public spaces.
If you don’t have that, it is very difficult to plan and to plan for long-term, and to plan for infrastructure. And also if you aim at densifying cities, which is a trend because of the challenges of Climate Change, and if you want more compact cities, you need to compensate with more public space; because compact living needs public space. But if you do not have it, it is extremely expensive to acquire it.
So the emphasis of newly developing cities to provide sufficient percentage of land for public space and be well-designed and well-located, is absolutely critical.
The other point I would like to stress is the importance of Mixed Use. In fact, Zoning which has been part and parcel of the urban planning tools, is perhaps, was never a very good idea because zoning emphasises the specialisation of land-use, the kind of exclusion of only one possible land-use in one location. Whereas we would like to favor a much more mixed use approach, where you would not specify one possible use but you would specify multiple uses that are possible in a certain area up to the level where maybe the nuisance level would be reached. And this allows for a number of things. This allows for much more interaction, possibility to work closer to home and to reduce travel distances.
It will also help planners because it makes the planning profession less demanding, and you do not need the same level of capacity of planners, if you have a mixed use type of arrangement. It allows for much more flexibility as cities are adapting and growing very quickly.
I think a good example is the difference between zoning systems in Japan and in United States, with the United States having a fairly exclusive more functioning zoning systems and in Japan, a much more flexible, multipurpose zoning system.
One of the tools to make change in planning comes from the top. We, at (UN)Habitat, together with member states, have adopted a set of International Guidelines on Urban and Territorial Planning. They were adopted in 2015, and they provide an inspiration for planners and a composite direction on how planning can be reformed.
Because to fulfill these high expectations on planning you need very strong frameworks of planning, and these frameworks need to be designed so that the social, economic and the environmental mission of planning can be realised.
It also needs to take into account of the different roles of the different levels of governments. The governance system of planning is extremely important, and the techniques of planning need to be well-calibrated and well-described. We find that these International Guidelines, when they are applied at a local level, can give good inspiration to review planning legislation.
To conclude this session, I would like to make a few points that provide some challenges for the way forward. What is preventing planning to take a more prominent and influential role, is the lack of understanding of the integrated importance of integration — integration across sectors, integration across spheres of government, across different scales, and across generations. So, this integrated function of planning is often not sufficiently understood.
The second challenge is the growing fuzziness between different territories and different planning authorities that are responsible for these different territories, whereby administrative boundaries are often not equal to natural boundaries or more functional boundaries. And this is something that has plagued the planning profession for years and there needs to be more flexibility, collaboration to be able to overcome this challenge.
And finally, we should say also, that there is still insufficient political will to develop the adequate frameworks and capacities to make planning flourish. But we believe that with the New Urban Agenda and a very strong emphasis on Planning as an Implementation Tool, there is hope for the future.
AAfter understanding how cities as a system, this Lecture will take the learners through some of the parts of this system that make it function. We will elaborate how governance functions at various scales, taking the cases of London and Mumbai. We will then bring our attention to land as a limited urban resource, and how management and planning are critical for the city’s functioning. We will talk about the various sources and uses of funds at the city level, and get us to think about new and innovative forms of financing the new goals of sustainable development. We will then close this week with why a city needs laws and order to prevent conflict and provide its citizens a safe environment to function and flourish.
I look at how trade enables movement of food and feed anywhere on our planet. And I’m also the Director of Studies, so I like to teach about all the things that we do here, in an inspiring way hopefully.
More than half of the population today lives in cities. And although we are no longer an agrarian societies we are still utterly dependent on agriculture for our food. And those of us who live in cities I think are disconnected from where our food comes from and how it’s made. I think we’re actually disconnected from the entire process of agriculture.
And part of this is because of global trade. Global trade lets us urban citizens consume foods from anywhere on the globe, produced far outside the city borders. And it also enables us to never actually see what’s going on in agriculture production.
So urban consumers are different. Right now we need to deal with this balancing act too when it comes to feeding cities and feeding us to potentially feed the future estimated 9 billion people. We need to have more food, we need to maintain livelihoods of farmers, and we need to remain within the Earth’s capacity.
So we need to produce maybe 60% more calories of food. And we need to at the same time safeguard the livelihoods of the poorest 900 million people, 70% of which are very closely tied to livestock production.
We already see a 20% decline in the number of farmers on this planet in the last 50 years. Somebody’s got to grow our food. And we can’t continue doing farming and fishing in a way that degrades the natural basis for production.
So there’s some unique challenges in the nexus of cities and food and sustainability. Urban dwellers do not understand agriculture production.That’s the first main challenge.
Second is that urban populations are wealthier. We consume more – because I’m an urban person too – and mostly though we consume differently. That 60% of new calories that we need to get, it’s not just because there’s going be 2 billion more people on the planet, it’s because we want to eat things like meat. We eat things – we eat fruit, we eat vegetables in city. That’s different than the traditional more grains-based diet.
The third kind of unique challenge is that there’s no longer going be just local production feeding the local population.The vast majority of food production is coming from far outside the city areas.
Fourth, we see changing values, cultural values, in the urban areas. With this highly networked kind of place that we live in in cities, this globalized world, has become more westernized. And these type of western diets are very different and they’re resource-demanding too.
And last, fifth, is that urban cities, urban areas, are engine rooms of people that drive the free market system. So when we change our diets, when we urban dwellers choose different diets, we transfer that into the market system, we’re demanding different things. And that’s a challenge.
So I looked with my colleagues at three different food systems, and I mapped these developing country kind of capital regions in Australia, in Denmark and in Japan, and to see how they had different approaches to achieving their own food security systems.
So Canberra in Australia, Canberra can provide more food for itself, but it’s chosen – since 1965 it produces less food in its own areas. And that’s because, partially because, urban dwellers in the Canberra area, they prefer – and they’re the ones with the political power – they are the ones that prefer smaller, more pristine ecosystem-like areas, and they’re pushing actually for less agriculture production inside the Canberra area. And that means that they’re – the Canberra is having to import more food.
In Copenhagen, Copenhagen could be self-sufficient but they’ve chosen instead to not be, they’ve chosen instead to import feed inputs, to value add it, and export pork.
Japan, Tokyo, can not provide for the whole 40 million people in the city. They have really high yields, they have a very productive production system, but they can’t provide for 40 million people in the land area. But you can see that because they place a very high cultural value on the food that you can see that they actually manage to maintain very high production levels of the traditional types of pork, rice, and cabbage.
So these are three different approaches that these cities have taken, and you can see that this is how they’ve solved their food systems. So this kind of study is useful I think because cities are going to need to manage food security by learning where in the world – what agricultural ecosystems they need to support their consumption.
And I think Japan is a good example, the example of how many cities are going to feed themselves now. They’re going to depend on very large area outside of the city limits for their food provision. But there’s another reason that you want to make sure that you know where your food is coming from. And for example in 2010 when there was a large drought you could see that the willingness of certain countries to export food, for example Australia was not as willing, and partly because they didn’t have the amount of production of milk and butter, Japan had to look elsewhere to find these sources.
In 2010 during the droughts Russia decided not to export grains to the EU and the big cities in the EU. So you need to know where your food is coming from if you’re going to manage your food security.
And thinking about planetary boundaries, food actually is affecting every single one, it plays a role in all of the nine planetary boundaries. And people talk about deforestation, tropical deforestation, and land use change, but there’s another kind of deforestation that I haven’t heard as much about, which I’ve looked at, and that is related to aquaculture. And it’s related to mangrove deforestation. For example, more than half of the mangrove areas along Thailand’s coasts have been deforested to produce jumbo shrimp aquaculture. And that consumption is driven by rich consumers in the United States and Europe.
Another specific example, which is actually maybe a good success story, where we’re seeing the ozone depletion reduced is the fact that the CFCs, the chlorofluorocarbons, were originally used for refrigeration, for food. So we were able to ship and store food, and that’s why we were using so much chlorofluorocarbons. So these are, yeah, two just specific examples of how food is tied. And there’s many examples of how food is tied to all the planetary boundaries.
I’d like to finish talking with you today and leave you on a good note. There are many good examples of some fun innovations that come from cities. Urban gardening, even though it may not be able to feed the vast majority of us, but there are some really good examples. For example is Dar es Salaam it’s estimated that maybe 90% of the vegetables are actually produced in the urban area. And that in Hanoi they’ve maybe managed to produce up to 60% of their rice, right there in the urban area. So there are some places where they are managing to produce quite a bit of food right in the urban areas.
But I’d like to finish with my own close to home example where I have a Masters student who has started a company, Bee Urban, in Stockholm, and she and her friends are putting beehives out on urban roofs all over Stockholm, and by increasing the habitat for the bees we now have pollination services throughout Stockholm, and we can maybe even say that this is improving our capability here to do urban gardening in Stockholm.
So these are just a few examples of some really exciting and fun things that are happening in cities when it comes to food production and food innovations. There are many, many different fun things going on, there are many different ideas, many different things that should be happening. We shouldn’t have one solution. There are many different ways, and many different things that we should be doing. I encourage you to find out what’s important for you, and think about what you ate for lunch, and where it came from. Thank you.
What’s actually happening in the city ? When talking about the Anthropocene and about the future challenges, there are so many challenges and negative things we have to deal with. But I discovered when actually coming to the urban and the city there are also fantastic opportunities to solve these problems, and that is what really excites me.
We’re going to go through both some of the challenges because they are there, but also we’re going to particularly look at what are the opportunities here to solve some of these big problems we have had?
So talking about the challenges of course. Urban areas are expanding; more people live in cities than in rural areas in the world. And we also know that urban areas are expanding actually much faster than the urban population, and this is called urban sprawl. So we’re consuming a lot of land. And this is particularly worrisome because we’re also consuming a lot of prime agricultural land, which would then would have knockout effects on forests and savannahs and biodiversity in other areas.
So this is something we need to deal with. But urbanization is diverse. So we have on the one hand megacities we have by now around 30 megacities in the world with a population of more than 10 million. By 2030 we will have maybe fifty. So there is a huge expansion of these really large cities. But there is also another pattern that we need to think of, and that is the most of population growth in the world the next 20 years will happen in small and medium size cities. And there’s a lot of land that’s going to be consumed when these cities expand and grow. And that we should also not forget that in this diversity of urbanization we also have shrinking cities, and particularly in eastern Europe, parts of Japan, eastern North America, we can cities that actually are shrinking, they are losing population, and we have a city-to-city migration, which also opens up opportunities when it comes to biodiversity, ecosystem services and managing land.
So some of the key challenges are looking ahead with organization is that we will need more resources for a growing population, and also that when people move into cities they become more affluent, and they will increase their consumption of red meat, for example. So the dependence on land is going to increase. And just as an example, London today is requiring an area a 125 times the size of the city. And that’s the size of the UK’s entire productive land surface. And this dependence on land is going to increase and that’s why we need to understand and manage this is a way that we could actually have a sustainable production.
So the first point I want to make is that local governments need to address this land consumption and land management in a very active way in the future. And that’s one of the keys for sustainable development. And examples of what will happen when land is consumed is that urban areas will infringe into biodiversity hotspot areas, for example.
And just to take an example, 25% of the world’s protected area today are within 17 kilometers of a city. In 10 years it will be less than 15 kilometers. Data around this [has] been developed in a large global study called the Cities of Biodiversity Outlook, which was requested by the UN and looking at the challenges but also the opportunities. And Ban Ki-Moon writes in the preface of this study that as he viewed it the principal message is that urban areas must offer better stewardship of the ecosystems on which they rely.
And this is actually what we’re going to explore for the rest of this lecture on what are these opportunities and what does this stewardship actually mean? Because there are opportunities. Looking ahead until 2030 we could see that all the urban land we expect to have in 2030, 60% has yet to be built. There’s an enormous investment ahead of us for the next two decades in all types of infrastructure. And we need to get that investment right to get on a sustainable pathway for the planet.
And I would argue that this is the key for a sustainable planet, that we actually get urban development into a greening path. These investments are going to be made anyway. If we turn them into a green, more sustainable direction that’s the key. And we will show you some examples.
Humans living in urban areas are dependent on clean air, on clean water, food, and many resources. And urban ecosystems, the living world of urban area could actually promote and provide some of these benefits. These are called ecosystem services that could clean the air, help clean the water, and integrating living systems with a built environment in these ways I think open up fantastic opportunities to create urban areas that are livable, healthy, and prosperous, and would actually – are providing an environment for people that they enjoy and create a rich life, but also in a sustainable way.
So giving an example. One of the challenges we have ahead of us is of course climate change. And one of the most likely effects of climate change that would affect people is urban heat waves. We’re going to see a lot of these examples in the future where very hot temperature will prevail in cities. And just as an example the consequences of these are immense. In Europe we had a huge heat wave in 2003 and it’s estimated we had 70,000 excess deaths.
So how are we going to deal with urban heat waves? One way of doing it is actually to start planting trees in the city, because there is a very clear effect – cooling effect of trees. If you increase the canopy cover from 10 to 20% you would decrease the ambient temperature with anything between 3 and 8 degrees C, which is substantial.
And while you’re planting a tree in the city, you’re planting many, you would also get a lot of other benefits that are related to culture, to air cleaning, to reducing peak and precipitation, all other benefits. Which we just started to value and started to understand.
So here are lots of opportunities that combining the built environment with a living environment to actually address and solve a lot of these challenges we have ahead.
And just as an example where this is actually taking into action and implementation, Mexico City has launched a huge program where they will build 10 000 square meters of green roof to provide cooling, and regulate humidity, and also provide sites for biodiversity in Mexico City. And they also have a program for conserving land with the similar purpose of contribute to cooling the city and contribute to maintaining some of the very rich biodiversity in the city area.
And another important challenge when we look ahead is that we will have a growth of cities and a growth of population, but the average age, or the age of this growing urban population will be there will be young people. So the majority of people living in the world and in the cities in the future will be below the age of 20.
And there is a huge educational challenge here, but also opportunities. If we could find ways of engaging young people in managing, and restoring, and enjoying the living world in the urban area I think that’s one of the most fundamental keys for a sustainable pathway.
So just as an example of hundreds and hundreds of exciting projects going on around the world in cities, here’s one from New York City, in [the] Bronx where a group call themselves Rocking the Boat have engaged with disadvantaged kids in [the] Bronx and engaged them in restoring oyster banks and learning about the river, and how to clean up the river, how to create an environment in [the] Bronx that is actually beautiful which people would enjoy, and also learning about how nature actually could be an asset and something you could actually use in a very constructive, positive way to create a livable environment.
So my final message here is that cities have the unique potential to generate the innovation and governance tools that we need, and can and must take the lead in sustainable development.Most action in the world happens at the local scale. So if we could bring citizen NGOs, local governments together, with support from national governments, with support from regional government structures, like the European Union and others, and with support from the UN, I think there is so many things, so many exciting things, we could do at the local scale, where we could bring in already knowledge we have, and bring in new creativity and new thinking, new ideas to solve these problems. And I think it’s absolutely possible. It’s just that we have to come together, sit down and say we’ve got to do it. Thank you.
This book reveals in a pluralistic way how European cities are generating new approaches to their sustainable development, and the special contribution of culture to these processes. It addresses both a deficit of attention to small and medium-sized cities in the framework of European sustainable development, and an underestimation of the role of culture, artistic expression and creativity for integrated development of the city as a prerequisite to urban sustainability. On the basis of a broad collection of case studies throughout Europe, representing a variety of regionally specific cultural models of sustainable development, the book investigates how participative culture, community arts, and more generally, creativity of civic imagination are conducive to the goal of a sustainable future of small and medium-sized cities.
This is an essential volume for researchers and postgraduate students in urban studies, cultural studies, cultural geography and urban sociology as well as for policymakers and practitioners wanting to understand the specificity of European cities as hubs of innovation, creativity and artistic industriousness.
Sustainable cities are green and resilient. They’re green in that they have a low ecological impact, low greenhouse gas admissions per capita a pleasantnenvironment for people to live and to work, safe, clean air,parks ways for people to remain active and healthy. They’re also resilient in that they know that increased shocks are on the way. That in the age of the anthropocene, storm surges, heat waves, massive floods, droughts, food insecurity, unfortunately will be real and growing threats in the future that must be anticipated. Smart cities plan in smart ways with transport infrastructure, power systems, water and sewerage, in smart grids, in smart zoning that enables them to be green and resilient. And
I’d like to just speak for a few minutes about one example of such planning in my own city, in New York City, because I think that New York has been doing a good job of planning for sustainable development, thinking ahead understanding the risks and the challenges. Now, it got a major kick in the pants with, and worse than that with the super storm, super storm Sandy, in November 2012. The massive flooding that ensued, the power blackouts, loss of life and property were shocking the estimates are perhaps $50 billion or $60 billion lost as a result of that super storm at the same time in looking at what might be done to reduce the risks of flooding. It’s clearer that the costs are also going to be high. So choosing properly new infrastructure zoning, location, policies preparedness is absolutely crucial and core to a city that, that looks ahead.
The price tags look to be Even tens of billions of dollars of preparation against future floods. So what can we learn from New York City’s planning and what does it imply for how other cities around the world can take up the challenge of sustainable development. As you see here a, timeline of cities that are adopting sustainability plans. New York was not the first in the United States. A pride of, of, of being first goes to our two cities in the north west of the United States. Two very green cities, Portland and Seattle, with a wonderful and rightly deserved reputation for great environmental sensitivity. Back in 1994, already they looked to sustainability, how they could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and how they could be resilient to climate change.
Other cities began this kind of serious planning and New York City was relatively early in adopting what is called Plan YC in 2007. Many, many cities around the world are now doing this kind of planning, Copenhagen with a major program in 2009, Rotterdam in 2010. And cities around the world now adopting sustainable development plans. As the UN itself adopts sustainable development goals, this I hope and anticipate will be a major spur to hundreds more cities around the world, thousands more cities that should be taking on this challenge of looking ahead to how best to be green and resilient. What does plan YC call for? It has ten goals that are important to note. First is housing and neighborhoods. Anticipating changes of population New York anticipates a continuing rise of population. Perhaps another million people within the next couple of decades. And making sure that housing is affordable and sustainable is part of any forward looking plan.
Parks and public spaces, vital for quality of life and for public health. Cleaning up polluted areas, so-called brown fields, is a third goal. Waste fills dumping sites that are dangerous for local communities, for the water supply and that deprive New York of valuable land that could best be used for other purposes. Improving the quality of water ways for transport, for recreation, for safety, for coastal ecosystems is a fourth goal. Ensuring the safety and adequacy of New York City’s water supply is obviously an absolutely central objective for sustainability. Sixth is transportation. A robust, resilient, efficient, low-cost Ecologically sound public transportation system for, used for the community and for the enormous business sector of the New York City region. Energy, energy efficiency, energy reliability, avoiding the kinds of massive blackouts and shutdowns that occurred during Super Storm Sandy. Being much more energy efficient as part of the overall Greenhouse gas mitigation strategy. Improved air quality, to keep particulate pollution low, to keep air quality as high as possible. Solid waste management, to get away from the traditional landfill model with all its high costs and loss opportunities, and to look for new strategies, for instance, waste to energy, and much more recycling. And finally, mitigation of climate change. New York already has a per capita CO2 emission that is less than a third of the national average. But at six tons per capita that’s still going to be far higher than what the worlds standards will need to be. Something closer to between one and two tons per capita, as of mid century. So New York, like the rest of the United States, is going to have to become a lot more efficient and a lot less carbon intensive in its energy system to reduce sharply the green house gas emissions.
These are 10 major goals of Plan YC. They have been, been scrutinized by experts both outside city government itself and by the city government and by various regional bodies to determine best approaches. As we’ve seen, cities need to innovate, they need to be clever to secure their water supplies, to secure their safety from coastal storm surges. They need to be specific. There is nothing that can be taken straight off the shelf when it comes to a city because of the unique conditions geographic conditions, risk conditions, cultural conditions, economic conditions that have to help shape a sustainable development plan.Let’s look at a few of the kinds of innovations that New York City is adapting.First, our smart roofs and local adaptations in the thousands and thousands of buildings across the city.To reduce the urban heat island. To help keep New York cooler in the summers. To be more efficient in the management of of water to stop Over flows of sewerage and storm surges. And one way to do that is smart roofs including green roofs. This is a picture of farming taking place on one of New York’s roof tops. Which allows for better water management. Less water run off and sewerage problems and of course a commercial farming activity that successfully is developed from this. This is a picture of another step of New York City transport. Public transportation dominates the New York scene. Personal automobile ownership per household is among the lowest in the United States for an urban area. In one important way that New Yorkers and the large numbers of tourists get around of course is through the taxi fleet. And New York is moving now towards electrification of the taxi fleet. This is an experimental vehicle starting with a few electric vehicles to adapt and fine tune a, an electric fleet for the city. On top of New York’s buildings also when it isn’t growing food it can be solar powered. There is a huge expansion of using solar arrays in open spaces in New York. As the grid becomes smarter these solar arrays will not only feed the local structures on which they’re located, but can become part of a smart grid feeding power to the overall, to the overall grid. A lot of buildings are converting from dirtier energy sources to cleaner energy sources. This is one of the keys to avoid that kind of massive smog that hit Beijing in January 2013, and used to hit cities like New York and London. New York and London moved away from coal burning within the city many years ago, cleaned up smoke sca, smoke stacks with smoke stack scrubbers. Try that one on for size. And reduce particulates. Now there is a strong move on to reduce particulates further by moving away from heating oil, for example used in furnaces and boilers in many parts of the city moving towards electrification of heating or to cleaner energy sources, such as, natural gas. The line shown here is showing the number of buildings that have already converted from heavy fuel use and there’s already been a significant decline of particulate emissions in New York City as a result of this conscious policy.
As part of Plan YC, New York has adopted a goal of reducing New York’s carbon dioxide emissions by 30% by the year 2030. This is quite notable for a lot of reasons. One is that the federal government has no such policy. What’s happening in the United States is that while the federal government is gridlocked, many cities and states are taking actions on their own, because they know that that gridlock has to be broken sooner or later. And that all over the world we’re going to need to de-carbonize energy systems. And it makes no sense, even if it’s not required right now, simply to put ones head in the sand and say, I’m not going to worry about carbon emissions until it is required. Because no city wants to wake up with a high carbon intensity energy system that then requires very high cost retrofitting. So, New York is rightly thinking ahead even if the U.S. Federal Government is not yet thinking ahead. And from the business as usual scenario to reduce by roughly 30% will require action in several areas. First is efficient buildings. Buildings that use their energy far more effectively that depend on natural heating and cooling by internal ventilation systems that are greener and less energy intensive than in the past. By cogeneration systems and recycling systems within buildings. By better insulation and materials that are chosen to allow for a much lower use of power for heating and cooling. Second is a cleaner energy supply. One that moves away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, like the solar arrays on New York’s roofs or by bringing in renewable energy from a greater distance. New York has plans to bring in more hydroelectric power, from Canada, through long distance transmission lines as part of it’s strategy for reducing CO2 emissions. Moving to sustainable transportation is obviously a third component reducing the emissions from internal combustion engines. Moving the fleets to electrification, moving to more mass transit, to more walking, to more bicycling is part of an overall strategy for reducing CO2 emissions. And then finally a fourth category is managing solid wastes.
We know that waste fills are a loss in two ways. They’re a loss directly in the methane that they emit from the from the landfills a major greenhouse gas. And they’re also a loss in the lost opportunity. The opportunity cost that comes when that methane just goes into the air rather than being collected. In bio-digesters, digesting the cities organic wastes, converting it to electricity and the co-generation. If Ankara, Turkey can do it, other cities around the world can and should do it, as well. Take an example. If Denmark and, other places in Scandinavia are using waste gas for electricity generation and for co-generation of heat, then certainly New York city and other cities can do the same. So, this is what planning ahead means. Very detailed. In this case there is engineering insight, there is public policy insight, and there are economic incentives or disincentives put on in the form of taxes, regulation, penalties, and so forth, in order to encourage all aspects, of, energy and transport systems to move in the desired direction. One of the final aspects of Plan YC that is extremely important is its set of metrics. Here, you see a dashboard. The dashboard describes for each category of goal, specific quantification of what the goals are supposed to accomplish, the most recent figures, and then in the right-hand column an arrow up or an arrow down. Is the city making progress, or is it falling further behind the goals? The fact that you see a lot of progress a lot of greens in the dashboard is a good sign. The fact that there are problems areas still is an indication of where increase public policy focus is needed. This kind of metric based on quantified goals, real time or fairly continuous and updated monitoring, a dashboard of progress or regress, and then a feedback loop to change and improve public policies lies at the essence of successful implementation of a sustainable development plan. It is at the core of what all countries will need to do when sustainable development goals are the worlds shared objectives. For the post 2015 development agenda. And when all governments will need to construct dashboards like this on water supplies, on transport, on CO2 emissions, on energy, on the other dimensions of sustainable development. To track progress, to monitor, to hold governments and ourselves accountable. And to help create the feedbacks of information so that we can accelerate progress and succeed in shifting the world economy and our cities onto a path of sustainable development.
Cities can choose to be efficient and to have a low carbon emissions per capita as well as other low ecological impacts by choosing the right kind of infrastructure.
Cities also have to plan for the future, a future of rising ecological shocks. Coming from human induced climate change and other trends that are underway. We have to be aware, it’s straightforward, but bears emphasizing that even if humanity does everything it ought to do to head off the worst of climate change. We are still going to be living through decades where average temperatures will be rising and where the number of extreme climate-related events, whether it’s storms, or floods, or droughts, or heatwaves, is going to increase in frequency. This is partly simply a result of inertia of the earth’s climate system. Temperatures have increased on average, worldwide, by about 0.8 of one degree centigrade on the planet since the start of the industrial revolution until today, because of human induced climate change. But even if there were no more increase of the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The planet would continue to warm, just based on what’s happened til now. And that’s because while land has warmed up in response to the greenhouse gas effect, the oceans are still adjusting. The oceans, they’re big bath tubs that take a long time to warm up. So, they have, what the scientists call, thermal inertia. They have not yet caught up with the warming potential coming from the higher greenhouse gas concentrations. As the oceans continue to warm, average temperatures on Earth will continue to rise, even at today’s greenhouse gas concentrations. We could have another 0.6 degrees Centigrade, for example, simply through this catching up effect, as the oceans continue their rise. Of course, we are nowhere near stopping the rise of greenhouse gas concentrations as well, so we’re going to have continuing impacts through more human induced climate change, even as we struggle now to slow down the human impacts and eventually curb them all together. The point is that climate change is with us. It’s going to get worse in the future. And cities have to raise their resiliency in the face of a higher frequency of shocks on the way. What are some of those shocks? Well, heat waves, of course, will be among them. We know that the frequency of intense heat waves is on the rise, and it’s going to get worse.
This is life threatening, especially for elderly people. It needs to be planned for. Water supplies will be under threat in many places in the world. As climate change means changing patterns of precipitation, lower river flow, receding and eventually disappearing glaciers, meaning that what are now a city’s water supply sources could come under serious threat. The rise of ocean levels is another concern of profound significance since the world’s major urban agglomerations are at the coast and as the sea level rises, the kind of devastation that New York City experienced in Hurricane Sandy will become more commons. Major storm surges, major flooding will hit urban areas. Droughts will become more frequent in certain parts of the world, such as the Mediterranean Basin. We know that human induced climate change will cause some places to dry, other places to become wetter. The general principle is, dry places will tend to become drier, wetter places today will tend to become wetter. There are a lot of exceptions to that. More instability and unpredictability ahead, but there certainly are some relatively dry regions, such as southern Europe and north Africa, that are going to become drier and the major cities along the Mediterranean Basin. Some of the world’s great, most historic cities will be under threat of more prolonged droughts. This will contribute, as well, to food insecurity in many cities. And we know that political upheaval often follows food insecurity. Whether it was the high food prices that were one of the triggers of the French Revolution, or whether it was the rising food prices in 2008 and 2009 that were one of the instigators of the massive unrest across North Africa and the Middle East. Food insecurity is part of the scene that cities have to plan for. The reliability of infrastructure is crucial, because infrastructure will come under greater stress. When New Orleans levees broke in 2005, flooding parts of new Orleans and causing massive loss of life and horrendous damage. This was a failure of infrastructure. The engineers, by the way, had warned for years and years that New Orleans’ levees were under threat. They needed to be reinforced. But because of budget constraints, because of putting off for the future what should be done today, one of humanity’s most consistent traits, this wasn’t done. The flev, the levees burst, New Orleans flooded, disaster ensued. Many cities around the world face this kind of risk. They’re being warned of it. They’re not yet taking the risks seriously or adequately seriously. Pollution is likely to worsen as well through combinations of changing weather patterns and in many places, higher proportions of automobiles per household, and other smog-related sources. And so, there are many areas where we know that climate change and other trends that are underway, interacting with rising populations, a more, crowded cities, larger agglomerations, are likely to create, tremendous, tremendous risks. It’s important, of course, for every city to assess those risks in a detailed way. There is no one blueprint, this is for sure. And each city, because of its distinctive topography, location, these would be the ocean location, these would be cyclonic activity, whether it’s the so-called typhoons as the name is given in uhh, in Asia or the hurricanes in the Caribbean and the Southern and East coasts of the United States. Cities need to know, in particular, what the challenges are for them. The United Nations Population Division has done an important classification of the major hazards faced by major cities, identifying cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, floods, landslides, and volcanoes as major hazards that need to be modeled, understood, and to the extent possible, anticipated by the major cities. Many cities along the coast are threatened by cyclones, some of the larger agglomerations threatened by massive cyclones include Tokyo, Shanghai, Manila, Osaka, Guangzhou, China, Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, Seoul and so forth. So many of Asia’s largest cities, many cities are in dry land areas threatened by extreme droughts. Calcutta, Karachi, Pakistan, Los Angeles with its water supply problems, even crisis, one could say. Chennai or Madras in Tamil Nadu state on the east, southeast coast of, of India.Lahore, Pakistan, Ahmad, Ahmadabad, India. Santiago de Chile.
All cities that have a major challenge of water supply and a major risk of drought. Earthquakes, we know. Our cities that sit along the seismic zones, especially, where the tectonic plates meet. And as you can see in this map of seismicity places, where earthquakes have hit, between 1977 and 1992, shown on this map, the heavy concentrations are along the tectonic plates. And many, many cities sit along these areas, of course, California with Los Angeles and San Francisco. the, East Asia, with the, the cities of Japan, of the Philippines, of Indonesia, vulnerable to earthquakes. The cities in the Andean region. The cities in Turkey in the Anatolian Peninsula. Are all highly vulnerable to earthquake, and in the U.N. population division ranking of major cities at top risks of, of earthquakes in the eighth, ninth and tenth, deciles, the highest risks are Los Angeles, Manila, Istanbul, Lima,Tehran, Santiago de Chile, San Francisco, Kunming, China, Nagoya, Japan and Izmir, Turkey. Floods, of course, affect cities along the coasts, that is, most of our large cities, Tokyo, Delhi along the Jamuna River, Mexico City New York, Shanghai, Sao Paulo, Dhaka, in the delta, that is Bangladesh, Calcutta, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro. All cities because of their topography often mountains and hills around them, risks of flash flooding, coastal proximity in, in most cases are highly vulnerable to massive floods as my own city New York experienced in November 2012. Cities in mountain areas of course, highly vulnerable to landslides. And a few cities are vulnerable to volcano, volcanic action such as Akito, Equador. We know that these hazards are on the rise. The frequency of cities being hit by these hazards, the amount of payouts from insurance are all showing a sharp increase, consistent with the idea that we have entered a new era on the planet. The age of the Anthropocene is an era of hydrometeorological threat. As you see in these images of cities in massive flooding in Szechuan Province. New York City in super storm Sandy. In Beijing inundated by massive floods in the middle of 2012.
In Bangkok, a devastation of flood so severe it closed down the economy for weeks. And, because Bangkok is so essential to the global supply chain in industry, closed down a lot of the electronics and automobile sector or at least limited the production seriously for many months after the Bangkok disasters. Cities are not necessarily very well prepared for that, even very sophisticated cities. Here you’re looking at downtown Manhattan. The base of Manhattan in New York City. One of the richest places on the planet. It prides itself in its complete sophistication.It’s all dark. Why? Of course, because the power went out. The grid was not resilient to the flooding in lower Manhattan, many backup generators, even in the hospitals, were in the wrong place, where were they? Unbelievably, they were in the basements, the first places to be flooded and so, major hospitals had to be evacuated as well, all of this is a sign of the lack of forward thinking. Many scientists and urban engineers had been more or less saying for years, New York will be flooded. Of course, the storm that ensued in November 2012 truly was a mega storm, but the warnings had been there about the risks and very, very little preparation had been made. We’re also seeing, because of the confluence of changing weather patterns, often heatwaves. More automobiles more urban pollution because of the lack of clean energy systems, the advent of mega smog episodes and massively dangerous air. China, unfortunately, is now heading the list. China was shocked in early 2013 when a major smog descended on Beijing. That was so heavy, it exceeded by 20 or 30 times the guidelines for particulate pollution in the urban air. It caused the city to come to a screeching halt. It was a terrible shocking wake up call for China in its need to take on the challenge of its massive air pollution. The good news is, it’s possible to do it. Other cities had been there. Other cities that, like China, rely heavily on coal, or relied heavily on coal, and without the precautions of smokestack scrubbers, and other, alternatives to keep the air clean. New York City had its own smog attack, but it was quite a long time ago, more than 40 years ago and since then pollution regulations and especially a shift from coal and a, a move to much cleaner energy sources has enabled the air to be cleaned. London, it’s, as well, was a coal burning city. Like so many of China’s cities are today, that moved away from coal to lower particulate energy sources. Not only does that lower the CO2 emissions, but it cleans the air as well. We know that we have to move also to reduce CO2 emissions, even with clean air We need to move away from fossils fuels to head off the the climate change. But the kind of massive air pollution that is being experienced in China’s cities today is remediable and it’s increasingly urgent, of course, that it is remediated. Cities that are in earthquake zones, we now know, can take preparations. Buildings can be reinforced at very, very low cost. When this is not done, the tragedies that hit Haiti, for example, in January 2010 ensue. In Haiti, hundreds of thousands of people died suddenly in a terrible earthquake. Whose epicenter was just at the city of Port Au Prince. When a similar magnitude earthquake had hit Kobe, Japan a few years earlier, the death toll was high at about 5,000 but nothing like the devastation in Haiti. Haiti is a poor country, had not taken precautions. The buildings were rock or brick buildings without being fortified against earthquake risk. This kind of devastation also can be predicted, can be modeled, and can be avoided through safer zoning, fortified structures, preparation for this kind of, this kind of risk. Finally, with sea levels rising around the world. Cities are finding that they have to think the unthinkable to protect themselves from a sea level that they thought was securely behind ocean walls or fortifications or dykes in the past. But now are surging past these protections and threatening the cities with inundation. The Netherlands is probably the world’s most experienced place in the whole planet of battling the sea level. It is a country that is substantially below sea level, so throughout its history it’s had to create special fortifications, the dykes and other barriers, to protect the Netherlands from sea level flooding. As the seas continue to rise, as Netherlands experienced the horrible episodes of flooding and loss of life in the 1950s. The Netherlands engineers had become world leaders in creative solutions. What to do to protect its great heritage, culture, and major cities from a rising sea level. What you’re looking at here is one of the great acts of foresight and engineering creativity on the planet. What the Netherlands sought to do was to raise the barriers to a rising ocean and to major storms on the ocean that threaten the coasts of the Netherlands and the interior of the country because of its eh, oh, eh, it’s low elevations. And as they thought about this protection, they realized the cost that would attend to a standard engineering design simply to block the ocean from the coastal areas. In estuary areas, where the flow of tides is essential for a healthy ecology. For the shellfish that are among the Dutch pride and joy of their cuisine. And of course, of the more general protection of these ecosystems. The engineers sought solutions that would allow for normal ecosystem functioning, but a preparation in the case of major storms or major storm surges. And what you see here is called the Eastern Shelt Barrier, an ingenious multi-billion dollar creation of Dutch engineering that allows for a protection against sea level through gates that close off during storm surges and during threats of major flooding. But that in normal times remain open to allow for the normal ecology of ocean flow and tidal fluctuations to hold. And this is an example of thinking ahead, of problem solving. Of combining engineering, ecology, and public policy in an absolutely splendid and dazzling way. The Dutch thought ahead. It took more than a decade of planning and thinking to bring this into realization. It has required billions of dollars to do so. But it offers an ecologically smart way for the Netherlands to continue its age old vocation of protecting itself against the sea, but at the same time, loving the coastal ecology and the ecosystems that support the Netherlands and by extension, support all of us around the world. We need that kind of smart engineering, in order to ensure resilience, we need forward looking behavior. We need to combine ecology, engineering, and public policy to keep our cities resilient and desirable places to live. In the 21st Century.
Cities need to make choices about infrastructure. How energy, transport, water, sewerage, waste will be handled. Cities are complex organisms, often with millions of people interacting with industrial processes and the complex, transportation and communications needs as well.
How to make the best of this type, densely settled region. How to get the most productivity and the highest quality of life, is a matter of choice. And cities that plan well, design infrastructure well, are able to maximize economic opportunities, improve quality of life, promote public health, and minimize the impact of the population on the natural environment. Including, a relatively low carbon economy. Some aspects of that core infrastructure include transportation. In densely settled areas, relying on the automobile is a recipe for massive congestion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. And there are much better options of public transport and when properly designed, walking and, and bicycling for a large number of one’s needs in urban areas. Water management, a huge challenge. Water has to be provided safely. Sewerage has to be handled safely every day, day in and day out. And with rising populations, cities of course have to anticipate their growing water needs. This requires foresight, and I’ll explain how New York City has faced this challenge. Cities generate massive amounts of waste. Organic waste from food that is disposed of, sewerage industrial waste, packaging materials, newspaper and other paper to be recycled. And how those millions and millions of tons of waste handled each year are disposed of or recycled is a major factor in the city’s impact on the environment, and on its own quality of life and, and the, the greening of its own environment. How the building codes determine the kinds of buildings that are built, where they’re built, what their zoning is, is another aspect of the choices and I will give some indication about that as well. Well some cities had managed their transport well, and in other places it’s chaotic beyond imagining. Look at the commuters in Indonesia. Packed to a life-threatening extent. Compare that with one of the world’s most sparkling, efficient, dynamic metro systems in Seoul, South Korea, which is a huge system of hundreds of kilometers of line. Beijing and countless Chinese cities the large ones, have all been building metro systems in recent years as well. Serving them very well and wisely making the investments in mass public transportation, because the alternative for China will be, and is threatened to be, a massive explosion of automobile use with all of the ecological and economic ills that could attend to that. Bogota became famous as the exemplar of another kind of public transportation. That’s bus rapid transit. It followed another city, Curitiba, Brazil, which pioneered bus rapid transit in the 1970s. The idea was to encourage people to move away from automobiles to buses, by giving buses favorable conditions of access on dedicated lanes, very frequent service, and comfortable ways for people to get in and out of buses waiting in stations, and with stations located in convenient areas. Here you see, in Bogota, the famous red bus of their bus rapid transit system, entering one of the covered stations, a comfortable and safe area, for people to get on and off of the buses. And Bogota gets rave reviews from its own citizens and from around the world it gets people trying to learn the lessons of Bogota’s rapid transit system. And it therefore has won many, many, emulators around the world. Recently, cities have started to make a full arc to their earlier traditions. And that is also to make sure that there are safe, open areas for bicycling. Europe has taken the lead in this with the bus with the bicycle lanes in many of Europe’s wonderful cities. And with innovative ways now with smart cards of, and with the shared bicycles system such as this one in Paris that are leading to a renewal of what was once discarded in favor of the car. But because of congestion, because of the expenses of managing automobiles, because of the difficulties of parking, of traffic jams, because of individuals’ concerns with their own C O2 emissions and contributions to climate change. People and, I should add, with the people seeking a healthier way to get to work and to spend their days, there’s been a return to bike lanes and bicycle use. And I’m happy to say, in New York City this is also taking hold with great popularity. And it, it is an important step forward, not only for all of the ecological reasons, but for the public health reasons as well. Urbanites have come to understand in the last 20 years, the hard way. That if they take sedentarism to the extreme, they’re not out working the fields. They’re in office jobs in the service economy. The risks to their own health showing up in obesity, in heart disease, in other costs of sedentarism are very, very high. So people are eager to find ways to get back out onto the streets. Pedestrian areas in city centers encouraging people to walk. Often the streets are being closed to cars. The congestion has just gotten out of hand. Quality of life has diminished. And people by the thousands and by the millions added up over a year, are encouraged to get out and walk as they are in the Ramblas in the center of Barcelona. And this too is becoming a strategy of choice of urban zoning, especially for the core urban areas. And it is being supported, not only by access to pedestrian walkways, to bicycle lanes, to improved mass transit. But also through policies such as congestion taxation, in which people are charged a steep price for entering the center of cities in their automobiles, giving a strong economic push to get out of the car, leave the car behind. For moving between cities, there are also big choices. In the United States in the 1950s, a breakthrough was made to connect America’s cities by the interstate highway system. It had a very large economic impact, of course. It was an efficiency enhancer from the point of view of moving goods and moving people. It also facilitated the spread of suburbanization in the United States because highways linked suburbs with center cities. Having people move farther out from the densely populated center cities, and also, thereby contributing to America’s remarkably high ecological footprint. Its extraordinarily high level of CO2 emissions per capita. China, fortunately, has gone in a different direction rather than encouraging people to move between China’s cities. And China has the world’s largest network of large cities of more than a million people. It has built and continues to build tens of thousands of kilometers of fast rail to connect China’s cities. This electrified transport, if the electricity grid turns green very important step that China will need to take in future years, will enable a low emission transport system. And also one that will allow people to move very quickly with much less congestion, and with the much less investment in automobiles than was true in the United States. In the U.S., there are roughly 250 million personal vehicles for a 310 million population. Roughly five personal vehicles for every six people in, in the population. In China, the equivalent would be more than 1 billion cars. China currently has on the order of probably 120 million vehicles or so. The number’s rising now quite quickly. Because China’s become the world’s largest automobile market. But if China were to go all the way to the U.S. automobile density, not only would it become the world’s largest traffic jam, but China’s energy needs and its carbon emissions would be completely out of sight. So China needs to continue to take smart choices like an electrified, intercity fast rail system. Let me turn to another aspect of infrastructure, water supply. Every big city has to provision for drinking water for its population. As well as water for other uses for that part of urban agriculture, and for industrial uses of water. And how to do that effectively is a major challenge. In New York City, this has been addressed for more than a century by tapping into water reservoirs outside of the city, and carried to the city by huge pipes that bring water from two big watersheds. One you see on the map called the Catskills in the, in in hill and mountain area near the Hudson River. And another in what’s called the Croton watershed. Both of which are connected by huge, underground pipes to provision New York. The reason that this is quite interesting is that, about 15 years ago, New York faced the problem that the water coming from both of these areas was becoming more turbid more polluted, more containing chemical products and, and the outflow of industrial and farm activities in the areas nearby these two watersheds. And the proposal at the time was to build multi-billion dollar water treatment sites to keep New York City water safe, and that would be the intuitive step. The water’s getting dirtier, you have to treat the water and giant waste treatment sites for a city of eight million plus people seemed to be inevitable. But the city planners at the time, had a clever realization. And that is that it would be safer and smarter to encourage these out of state or, or out of city areas, I should say, near the watersheds, to engage in fewer activities that endangered the water supply. To keep the water clean and safe, so that these multi-billion dollar investments of water treatment would not have to be made. Of course, those areas had their own economic interests. And so New York City realized that it would have to provide a financial incentive.
To both the Catskills and the Croton watershed areas to desist from the kinds of farm activities, use of fertilizers, pesticides and so forth, that would endanger New York City’s drinking water. And sure enough the city arranged for a financial transfer to these outlying areas, to compensate for cutting back on some of the more dangerous processes. It’s a rather ingenious idea, not easily organized by a market, but by a political agreement that satisfied the interests of both the New York City residents who thereby avoided billions and billions of dollars of water treatment. And the residents of these outlying areas who did desist from certain profitable economic activities, but where their cities received compensating benefits. Now it’s still true 15 years later that there’s going to have to be a bit more waste and water treatment to keep the water standards at the high quality levels. But still this idea even taking into account the further needs for water treatment has made it possible for New York City to find a lower cost safer, and ultimately high quality way to preserve its water supply.
That’s very specific for New York. Every city, every major urban agglomeration has to solve a problem like this. I think that not only is New York’s solution a very interesting one. Because it’s a very unusual one and it had to be put together with a lot of creativity, insight and good political management. But it also highlights something that’s very important, in my view. And that is sustainable development is inherently an exercise in problem solving. Thinking out of the box, thinking out of the watershed, thinking out of the city, finding better ways to do things that can’t be found necessarily in the textbooks alone. It’s being creative, and creating new models. Yet another aspect of urban infrastructure, absolutely essential, and that is what to do with all of that waste. Some of it, paper and plastics, may be recyclable. Other parts of the waste, maybe some of the scrap metal, can also be reprocessed. A lot of the waste is organic waste. Food, into the garbage bags for example. Rotted food, or food that’s thrown out from the restaurants, and, and and homes. How to handle, all of this waste. Again, the usual way in the past was truly to regard it as waste and stick it some place, especially in landfills. And many large cities around the world built massive, massive human waste dumps that were fetid eye sores, nose sores. Actually carriers of pollution and sites of massive greenhouse gas emissions because these landfills admit methane among other gases and methane is one of the most potent of the greenhouse gases. Engineers came to understand much better that simply filling the land with this kind of waste was terribly unwise. Dangerous for the land, dangerous for the water supply, dangerous for the air around it, dangerous for the residents living nearby, dangerous for greenhouse gas emissions. And a huge waste, because a lot of what was going into the landfills could be inputs for recycling, for industrial processes, even for the generation of energy. So, in the last 20 years, cities have experimented with many different kinds of recycling programs and with various kinds of innovative waste to energy facilities. In Western Europe, Denmark among other places, has been a leader, also in waste energy, in using various kinds of waste gas for power generation. And not only for power but for this idea that the electricity goes out into the grid and the heat exhaust from combustion, rather than simply going into the atmosphere is itself collected. And in the case of Denmark pumped to urban settlement areas to heat water for homes as well as to heat the homes themselves during the winter time. In general we’re going to see a lot of smartening up of structures, buildings, recycling, and of the power grid itself.
The concept that many cities around the world are now adopting, in a general term that will be gaining more and more specificity, and examples in the coming years, is an urban smart grid. That urban smart grid may mean a smart interconnection of mobility, of public transportation, individual electric vehicles, the power grid, the household electricity use, the interconnections with the waste processing of the cities through cogeneration or use of waste gas for electricity generation. One of the characteristics of the smart grid is the use of information technologies as a breakthrough in a way to be far more efficient, also in the energy use. Sensors, microsensors in housing, in appliances, in automobiles, will allow an interconnected power grid directly communicating with households and with businesses to economize on energy use. To send signals of when an extra power load is going to be needed. And to allow off-grid decentralized power sources to smartly connect with the grid. Whether it’s solar panels or other kinds of distributed power generation that right now stands alone. But it will be connected in a smart way through a metered system to an integrated smart grid for the city. Finally, let me mention, that as part of this smart infrastructure, is smarter and smarter building codes. Buildings can be built to be efficient. If they are properly engineered for proper insulation, proper location with regard to sunshine, with natural ventilation rather than rather than ventilation driven by heating and air conditioning. With recycling of water within the facilities themselves. Even with cogeneration facilities dedicated to a smart building like the Bank of America tower in my own city of New York.
A skyscraper that meets the ultimate platinum LEED standard which is the standard for evaluating the ecological impact of buildings. One of these smart things that this very smart Bank of America tower does, is that it has a cogeneration facility for its own power needs and using the heat from that for the hot water and for the ventilation in the building itself. All of this shows technological innovation at play. Information systems, smarter transport, smarter ways to recycle materials to close the loop, so that cities can achieve what is within their potential. Very high quality of life. An interconnected grid for transport, for power, for water, for sewerage. And in a way with a very low and falling ecological footprint.
If most of us are going to live in cities, then we better ask the question, what is it that makes a city sustainable? And the answer that I want to give is two-fold. One is that it is a green city.
Green in the literal sense that there are parks and places of people and open areas combined. But also green in the sense that its economic impact on the environment, the ecological footprint of the city, is also limited. The other dimension of a sustainable city is that it is resilient. Why resilient? Because we, in the age of the Anthropocene, in the era of planetary boundaries, in a period where, whether we like it or not, we are going to be experiencing more jolts of human-induced climate change. Know that the cities are going to be buffeted. If the cities are on the coasts, and sea levels are rising, what that means in terms of vulnerability to storm surges, more intense cyclones, and other storms, other dislocations, is very great. And so cities need to prepare for those shocks. Not as disasters that seemingly come out of the blue, but rather as known, even if unpredictable specific events that need to be prepared for with care. So what is it that makes a city sustainable? Let me mention a few of the crucial points that we need to explore.
One is the energy system. Is the city a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions? Especially through its energy use, but also through land fills that may emit methane, or through problematic industrial processes that are emitting nitrous oxide. Or, is the city efficient both energy efficient, and based on a low carbon, clean energy system. What about transport? Cities can be places of incredible congestion, smog, huge waiting times, traffic jams, and of course, large amounts of CO2 emissions coming from all those internal combustion engines burning all of that petroleum and diesel. Or cities can be places of highly efficient transport through very clever integration of walking areas, bicycling areas, as well various kinds of public transportation, taking the pressure and the demand off of the automobile. And so the nature of the city’s transport is a crucial determinant of its sustainability. A city’s infrastructure, its water, its sanitation, its waste management, its ability to recycle industrial waste, and to control industrial pollution, are clearly fundamental determinants of a city’s sustainability. How effectively the city plans and prepares for the future is obviously decisive. Not one of these issues, energy systems, transport systems, waste management, recycling, open green areas, resiliency to shock, is something that takes care of itself or something that is solved by a market economy. Certainly not a market economy, just left to run on its own. Urban resilience and urban efficiency and low ecological footprint, low impact on the natural environment are aspects of city life that must be planned. What does it mean for a city to be unsustainable? Well first, it means that the city is highly vulnerable to shocks. Shocks again may seem like they’re coming out of the blue, but they can be predicted if not in exact timing, at least with the probabilities of their visitations. Cyclones, droughts, earthquakes in many places, floods, and storm surges, landslides, in a few cities volcanoes are threats to lives, to livelihoods, to the economy. And mitigating those threats, anticipating the risks, making cities resilient, able to withstand shocks such as hese, is absolutely a fundamental part of sustainability and a fundamental signal of unsustainability when those preparations are not made. Pollution of the air and the water, the kind that afflicts unfortunately dozens and dozens of China’s cities today after 30 years of rapid industrial growth, but insufficient attention to the pollution consequences, cause many cities to be hazards for their populations.
The air that people breathe, the water they drink, can take years of life away. Cities are unsustainable when they haven’t prepared properly for their water supplies. Just about every city in the world has a huge job to do in anticipating water needs, and insuring that water and sewerage, or waste treatment are properly managed. And there are many, many choices as to how to do that, and I will want to show you a bit about that in New York City, because New York has managed very cleverly to provide a city of more than 8 million people, and a urban agglomeration far larger than that, with safe water at relatively low cost, by thinking ahead. Cities are unsustainable when they are unproductive because people are sitting in traffic jams for hours every day, breathing polluted air, losing productivity. Poor health. Social inequalities that make it impossible for large parts of the population to participate in a productive way in the economy of the city. And cities are unsustainable when populations are suffering from massive and growing disabilities of health. When an obesity epidemic coming from unsafe food combined with sedentary behavior of city life, with an absence of places for walking, bicycling, exercise, for a healthy lifestyle, mean that people are ill. They are often disabled. Absent from work, and, of course, suffering a serious setback in their sense of well being. So these are choices that cities have to make, and a lot is known about what it is that determines whether the ecological impact is high or low. Whether the city has a large greenhouse gas emission factor per person or a low one. Whether the city is functioning in a way that is providing for the productivity of the population. Let me focus for a few minutes on one key determinant of this and that’s density. Highly dense cities, if properly prepared for, tend to be both highly productive and lower emitting of greenhouse gases, than lower density settlements.
This may seem surprising. High density seems a lot of people are jammed together, but in high density it’s also possible to have more efficient transportation, to have more opportunities to walk, to reach places close by. And so places of high population density tend to be places with lower ecological impacts, notably lower carbon emissions per person of the population. Let me give an example of my own city, New York City. It is when you look at the overall urban area, the urban agglomeration, the highest density in the United States of any urban area, with the a, urban density of about 33,000 people per square mile. Compare that with Los Angeles, for example, at about 12,000 people per square mile. So obviously of big difference, a factor of roughly three. And it’s not surprising that Los Angeles is an automobile city whereas New York is not. Density makes a huge difference. Other cities in the United States, Atlanta for example, a real automobile city, is just one fifteenth of the density of New York, at about 2,000 people per square mile. Of course, where one draws the circles around these urban agglomerations makes a difference in these comparisons. I wouldn’t want to overstate the precision of the comparison, but I would emphasize that differences of density make enormous differences in how people move about the urban area, and therefore, how they also affect the environment. If you look at New York, at the number of commutes between two points by walking for example. It’s estimated that in New York, about 36% of all commutes or transit are by public transit or by walking. People either are taking buses, the metro service or walking. Compare that with an automobile-type city, say Atlanta or L.A.. In L.A., instead of it being 36%, the estimate is just 8%. People are going by by car to most places. In Atlanta, about 5% are by public transit and by walking. When you look specifically, as this pie chart shows, how New Yorkers get to work. Quite interesting. More than 40% are getting to work by subway, or by rail. Another 12% by bus. Only 28% of the population is getting to work by automobile. 23% driving alone, and another 5% by carpool. This is quite extraordinary, in fact, one could say that it is unique or nearly the case in among American cities. It’s a joy for me living in Manhattan in this highly dense area. I, I have the great pleasure of being able to walk to work, walk to the United Nations, walk to the university. And to satisfy amenities of all the shops right in the area never having to get in a car. And my great joy is not owning a car. When I lived in suburban Boston we would get in a car everywhere. In New York City because of the much higher density, it’s a great pleasure, believe me, being able to, to walk. Not everybody has that particular pleasure. But not having a car is an experience of higher proportion of New Yorkers than any other urbanites in the United States. And the result of all of this is that New York is exceedingly favorable compared to the rest of the United States in carbon emissions. In other words, New York’s impact on human induced climate change is something that New York can be proud of in relative terms. In the United States, on average Americans are emitting about 20 tons of CO2 per person, per year. But in New York City it’s roughly about a third of that, roughly six tons of CO2 per capita. You see on this chart that of America’s cities, New York City is at the very low end of CO2 emissions. People are taking energy efficient subway, or the energy efficient buses, or are walking. These days, increasingly also cycling. And as a result of this, the emissions in the transport sector are very, very low. Because of high density, emissions in the building sector are also rather low. With houses packed one next to the other in row houses or townhouses as, as they’re called in New York, as opposed to self-standing houses. There’s less surface area for heat to dissipate. It’s easier to keep the housing warm in the winter time. And better insulated, just by virtue of the tight packing of the of the townhouses and row houses that characterize New York City. Another reason for the very, very low emissions per capita. Why urbanization, as it’s taking place right now, gives us the possibility, if cities are smart in the kinds of energy systems and transport systems that they build. And in the kinds of zoning that encourages high-density settlements, with proximity of people to the shops and to the amenities that they’re looking for in the urban areas, offers a real chance for a lower ecological footprint, and for carbon emission levels per capita that are far more consistent fith the global needs, if we are to head off the worst of climate change. To get the best of what cities can offer in terms of low ecological footprint combined with high productivity with an ease of movement with low congestion. With the low level of time wasted in traffic jams and other disamenities, we have to look at how cities invest in the infrastructure and the choices they make. That is our next topic.
The inclusion of community knowdlege on territorial development