Museologia Social e Urbanismo LIV

A 9-point agenda to achieve sustainable cities

Discussion prompts:

  1. Discuss the inter-linkages between the various priorities in Jeff’s 9-point agenda.

As you’ve learned in this course around world urbanization is a fundamental mega trend and as you know, in the coming decades, there will be a massive increase of population in the world’s urban areas, the estimates from the United Nations Population division are that the urban population will rise from a current level of around 4 billion people to more than 6 billion by 2050.

So this is a monumental challenge simply to absorb this massive increase in population, but we’re looking for something much more than simply absorbing a population because the fundamental objectives of Sustainable Development is that we combine three basic purposes and that is economic progress or prosperity, social inclusion or justice and environmental Sustainable Development even though each of these three is hard enough to achieve, human well-being depends on achieving all of them together.

I’ll mention Nine key points of what I believe will be required to achieve 21st century sustainable cities especially in today’s emerging economies so-called in Asia and in Africa.

The first point obviously it’s a theme of the entire course is that cities should be goal-based. that’s not to be taken for granted the idea that our collective actions, whether in politics of or in civil society should be guided by explicitly set objectives is not only not self-evident, it’s not the practice if in general, but the whole idea of the Sustainable Development Goals is that by setting clear, specific even quantified targets and timelines that we can give a boost – a better lever to mobilizing the enormous amounts of cooperative effort that are required to achieve human well-being in this very crowded world, and a crowded world experiencing tremendous flux and tremendous technological change as well as tremendous environmental instabilities.

The second point of a 21st century sustainable city is that they must be places of high skills and of learning and of innovation. In other words, the city is a learning hub, a city is a an urban school, I don’t mean the schools within the city I mean the city as integral organism has to be a place where there’s tremendous learning, technical knowledge and therefore the ability to harness the best technologies and to create decent jobs and competitive industries in which the city and earn its way in the national economy and in the world economy.

As you look back on your SDG chart – SDGs 3 and 4 are that the children are that healthy and well educated and this is a key part of creating highly productive people within the cities and SDG4 emphasizes the basic fact that learning starts at preschool, it continues through primary and secondary education and it must continue with vibrant universities. Now the third point I want to make is that in order to accomplish this seeming near miracle of incorporating more than 2 billion additional urban denizens by 2050 and doing so in a way that offers jobs, clean environment, social fairness – it’s daunting under any circumstances but it would be I think essentially impossible if we didn’t have some of the wonderful tools that we have, the most important breakthrough of our age of course is the Information and Communications Technology revolution- the ICT revolution.

First I would say e-governance because when government itself is transparent, online, participative – this will not only provide government services far more effectively but it will enable democratic participation far more effectively as well.

The second aspect of the ICT revolution is the so-called Internet of Things and one major part of the internet of things will be energy-efficiency, I’ll come back to that in just a moment because that’s crucial for fighting the Climate Change challenge- SDG13.

The next point that I want to emphasize the fourth point is sustainable consumption and production and I think the SDG 12 sometimes called the Circular Economy goal is really key especially in urban areas sometimes when soot or pollution is put into the environment, if it’s a small amount and populations are highly dispersed or people aren’t around it’s possible that there is the natural dissipation of this pollution, but when you’re in an urban area with thousands of people packed together per square kilometer, when traffic is densely packed together, when multiple modes of transport of public transportation – rail, metro, bus, trucking are altogether, if we don’t manage the circular flow of production, the waste, the recycling, we’re going to end up, as many places have ended up, living in our own waste and living therefore very very dangerously.

So the circular economy is about cleaning up after ourselves; it’s making what is now waste into either an input into production of something else useful or into recycling or into a proper disposal that is safe for humanity and the ecosystems. And circular economy applies to air quality management, water management, treated water and waste water treatment, the recycling of physical products whether it’s recycling of paper and organics made into fertilizer and composting or recycling of plastics and other materials.

The fifth point that I would mention is the urban design. The point that I would emphasise is that every city needs that kind of a planning base for the human settlements and one of the things that’s been found as a general proposition is that densely settled mixed-use urban plans where commercial areas and residential areas are combined, where streets are not only places for traffic but for people to walk, to shop, to be with each other, to sit outside and eat – these are the kinds of high quality life that a good urban design can offer.

The sixth point that I want to emphasize is the need for a low-carbon city in a low-carbon world. This is achievable but it’s not going to be achieved unless we are absolutely looking ahead and planning ahead because achieving a low-carbon economy requires a long-term plan, not simply going day-to-day wringing our hands or saying we must do this; but a 30 or 40 or 50 years strategy.

The seventh point that I want to make is that the Information and Communications Technology is creating a new kind of business model, the so-called share economy so is people know all over the world – now we call on your mobile phone, a vehicle comes and the advent of these services will be much more efficiency and lower costs because by getting in that vehicle that shared vehicle which will be used by a different person, a different person all through the day- this is going to be much more cost-effective for us than owning our own vehicle and already we’re seeing in many places car ownership going down.

What we know that this shared economy is coming not only for vehicles, it’s coming for buildings – both residential and commercial buildings, in a way it’s coming for jobs also and the essence of this, is that it will be able to reduce resource-use, will be able to reduce congestion, will be able to save on the scarce physical capital and natural capital in order to achieve sustainability.

The eight point that I want to emphasize is that a sustainable city or sustainable metropolitan area needs a financial plan, much of what I talked about it in terms of low-carbon energy or new transport systems or high-quality health and education systems- SDG3 and SDG4. Well, cities need a financing plan to be able to mobilize this investment and provide these services, there’re very big difficult complicated questions in financing – how to finance the housing stock, how to finance the physical infrastructure of roads, power, how to finance the recycling and the waste management operations.

There’s no simple answer I could even begin to propose the useful comprehensive story in a short period of time except to say that taxes, proper public pricing, collecting land grants, using the value of public land in creative ways to create value for example, either selling the land or leasing the land or collecting taxes and improved land in order to be able to fund public services.

We need tax and financial systems that aren’t defined by our administrative units necessarily but by our broader economic units so metropolitan-area scale taxation- well this is tough, this is real political economy, this is the interest of the rich versus the poor and this is partly political struggle, it’s partly finding fairness in how rich areas can help to ensure services for poor areas even if they’re in different political jurisdictions.

The ninth and final point that I want to make is that if we do everything right and if we have long-term plans, vision, morality, a sense of inclusion, fairness, justice even if we do everything right the stresses are going to be tremendous.So we need cities that are resilient. Cities that are able to absorb shocks that regrettably are going to come and we have to have cities that are prepared for that. What are some of the shocks that are likely, well we know that we’ve already built-in some rise of sea-level.

If we have bad luck that rise could actually be several meters and that would be devastating for many coastal cities around the world and to the coastal erosion and the storm surges and the flooding that are already occurring because of that.

The ultimate purpose of sustainable development is human wellbeing. Cities will be home to the large majority of humanity in the 21st century and what I have tried to emphasize, is that we need to think ahead, plan ahead, have a goal-based development, be trained, well-educated, smart, innovative using our new technologies in order to achieve sustainable cities in the 21st century.


[2] Goal of UCLG-Increasing the role and influence of local government and its representative organisations in global governance; -Becoming the main source of support for democratic, effective, innovative local government close to the citizen; -Ensuring an effective and democratic global organisation.






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