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Urban Development

Preparing Cities for Climate Change – Initial Lessons from Sandy

Ming Zhang's picture

NYC subway station damaged by seawater flooding during Hurricane SandyNew York City has been a global leader in proactively planning and preparing for climate change under Mayor Bloomberg and the city’s civic leaders. PlanNYC sets out clear goals and plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30% and to increase the resilience of our communities, natural systems, and infrastructure to climate risks. It already started the process of adapting to climate change, including elevating infrastructure such as wastewater treatment plant, and expanding “green infrastructure” like marshes along the coast to buffer and limit flooding impacts.

But the events triggered by the unprecedented hurricane Sandy haven shown that what has been done is still not sufficient. What can we learn from the disaster? There will be a lot of valuable lessons coming out in the months ahead, as emergency responses are still ongoing and reconstruction are yet to start. Here are three early lessons:

Shades of Green Cities

Yue Li's picture

Seoul, KoreaWhen it comes to urban development, “green” has become the buzzword. Among the public, “green” is often understood to be synonymous with reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In policymaking, “green” has much broader implications. It can range from preventing, treating, and abating pollution, to preserving and restoring environmental quality. It may simply be providing basic urban services which improve the cleanliness of streets. Apparently, there are different shades of “green” — we could define interventions targeting global public goods as dark green and those focusing more on local public goods as light green. Among them, what is the right one for South Asian cities?

Practitioners and government officials from the region had intensive discussions on this question throughout a recent workshop on urbanization in Korea, organized by the World Bank in collaboration with the Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Dan Hoornweg's picture

In 1967 Montreal hosted the World Expo in a massive 100-year old birthday party for Canada. Festivities were grand and the future seemed bright, but a slow decline had already set in. The Montreal Olympics of 1976 were also not enough to offset the forces of Quebec separatism. From a full third of Canada’s population in 1951 to less than one-quarter in 2011, Quebec’s separatist aspirations have had an economic cost on the Province, especially on the city of Montreal. Montreal is certainly still a great city, but the odds of it ever again becoming Canada’s financial center or largest city are remote, especially after last month’s election victory by the Quebec Sovereigntist party.

Boys and their Toys – Building Better Cities

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Niagra Falls, North America

Caution – this blog is almost as long as the soon-to-be commissioned Niagara Tunnel.

Often I can hide it – posing maybe as an economist, risk manager, a finance-guy, public-policy wonk; I’ve even once been complimented as an urban planner. But every now and then I revert to form and it slips out that I’m an engineer. This week was a classic – a ‘boy and his toys,’ my wife warned.

I went to Niagara Falls not to see the falls, or visit the casino, but to tour Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) Niagara Tunnel and Adam Beck Hydroelectric Power Station! Well worth a ‘!’ as getting to visit these two big civil engineering works was a bit like Christmas coming early; and they provide important lessons.

A city by any other ranking

Debra Lam's picture

"Best of the Year" awardIn September, U.S. News and World Report released its annual college ranking (Princeton and Harvard share the number 1 spot) just as millions of high schools students begin the college application process. Indeed, the U.S. News rankings have become a major source for how prospective applicants and their families view colleges. In response, colleges set their policies to cater to U.S. News’ methodology. Similarly, cities, voluntarily or not, have recently gone through a slew of rankings and indices to showcase the ‘best’.

The Economist Intelligence Unit tracks 140 global cities across 30 indicators in five categories of stability; healthcare; culture and environment; education; and infrastructure1. Mercer’s Quality of Life index tracks 221 global cities, using New York City as the base city2. This is not to be confused with Moncle’s Quality of Life survey, which ranks the top 25 global cities3.

A Crystal Clear Business Case for Cities

Dan Hoornweg's picture

The new Siemens Crystal, the world’s first center dedicated to improving our knowledge of urban sustainability

The next time you’re in London be sure to visit the new Siemens Crystal. The Crystal opened to fanfare and urban guru accolades a couple weeks ago. The 30 million pound, 6000 square meters building is on the east bank of the Thames (a short walk from the Royal Victoria DLR stop). The building is divided into two parts, an exhibition and meeting place on cities and headquarters for up to 100 London-based Siemens staff working in the urban sector and external cities experts. Siemens has plans to build similar, albeit smaller, competence centers for cities in Washington, DC and Shanghai.

The End of Men: And the Rise of “Men”-tors

Artessa Saldivar-Sali's picture

Penguins in AntarcticaAs a (somewhat) young, professional woman, Dan Hoornweg’s latest blog resonated with me.  On particularly difficult days, unsure of how to find my place in the world, I have to remind myself just how lucky I am to have what I call “Men”-tors to help me navigate this maze of possibilities.  For better or for worse, I have had 2 male research advisors, and 6 male bosses — most of whom pushed me to stretch further than I ever thought I could, and who happily enable me to set my sights on the next challenge.

My personal numbers also include: 

  • one accomplished husband, who cheered me on as I spent the better part of our year-long engagement halfway around the world to work for the Philippine Government; 
  • a father (and mother!) who groomed me all of my life to take over his work — and then watched me fly away to Washington DC to pursue my own dream of working in international development; and 
  • a string of (male) mentors (guilty as charged, I was one of the 17 women on Dan’s running tally of junior staff). 

The End of Men: And the Peril of Cities

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Men at Work signThere’s been lots of talk lately on Hanna Rosin’s new book, ‘The End of Men: And the Rise of Women.” In it she outlines the long decline of ‘cardboard’ men and the steady rise of ‘plastic’ and adaptable women.

In the US, for example, for every two men who will get a bachelor’s degree this year, three women will graduate. In 1950, 1-in-20 men in their prime were not working; today it’s 1-in-5. A young black man in the US has roughly an equal chance of ending up in prison or college. In almost all countries young men are 2 to 3 times more likely to commit suicide than women, and in many countries suicide is the second leading cause of death for young men; second only to accidental deaths1.

The recent economic slow-down has been disproportionately hard on men around the world, and of the 15 job categories expected to grow fastest in the future, women mainly staff 132.

Our Cities Will Define Our Future

Dan Hoornweg's picture

After the post was vacant for more than a year, Jennifer Keesmaat started this month as the Chief Planner for the City of Toronto. One of the first things she did was write an excellent article in the local newspaper arguing ‘our cities will define our future’. She makes the case for Toronto – but the same argument can be made globally and even more strongly for cities like Jakarta, Lagos, Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Nanjing and Kunming. We are truly in the thick of the Urban Century; we are building cities at a faster rate than ever before, and increasingly these cities are defining our and our children’s future.

Cities and International Negotiations

Dan Hoornweg's picture

A few weeks ago I attended an IPCC1 Fifth Assessment Working Group expert review meeting for the upcoming Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) (WG III – Mitigation: the ‘first order draft’ is now being reviewed with the final report to be published in 2014). This meeting was a typical collection of about 100 climate researchers from around the world, this time, conveniently in Washington, DC. The overall Assessment Report process involves about 30 to 40 such meetings around the world per year. Part of their function is for the Assessment Reports to feed into the UNFCCC negotiation process.

Rio+20 MeetingDespite its challenges, complexities and occasional politicization, the IPCC is a wonderful idea. Credible researchers, no-matter where they live or work, are asked to contribute to a body of science larger than any one country, company or agency. Any city should feel proud to have an employee participating in an IPCC review.

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