Cities have been experiencing a moment in the cultural spotlight in the last few years. There is more discussion and even celebration of cities than ever before. Newspapers and magazines are starting websites dedicated to global urban issues, university researchers and technology companies are turning their attention to ‘smart cities’, and there are even popular documentary movies, reality shows and musicals all about city planning. India, still mostly rural, has just elected a new Prime Minister who promises urban redevelopment and ‘new-age cities’, and it is no longer shocking to hear that China's proposed urbanization budget runs in the trillions of dollars.
Why has this urban moment come about now? Several trends, some in the developing world and others in wealthier countries, seem to have converged lately. It is interesting to step back and examine these trends, before thinking about where we go from here.
While many may have heard the statistic “Cities are home to 50% of the world’s population”, few realize that it leads directly to a sobering and much less hyped conclusion: we face an urgent need to understand how our cities work.
Cities are now the defining human organizational structure on earth, but what do we know about these creations? Sadly, not enough. Which is why collecting and disseminating high-quality data about cities and how they function is of critical importance.
Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) has recently taken a giant step in this direction by making our 2013 data set on over 100 large cities, their greenhouse gas emissions, and their actions on climate change available for free download in CSV files via our website. This effort—made possible by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies and our long-term partnership with C40—brings our voluminous data into the public domain for the first time.
Up until recently, if someone asked us what the most important benefits of solid waste management were, we would have said improving public health, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or helping with drainage in cities.
When we landed in Kingston a couple months ago to prepare for the Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP), we became aware of another benefit of improving solid waste management: reducing crime. We found that uncollected bulky waste such as laundry machines, refrigerators, air conditioners, and tree stumps could be used to block roads – and that glass bottles and other waste could be used as weapons.
Management of organic waste is a major dilemma for developing countries. It generates unpleasant odors and helps rats, flies, bugs and mosquitoes multiply and spread diseases. As it decomposes, organic waste generates methane, a gas that contributes significantly to global warming. Last year Daniel Hoornweg, Perinaz Bhada-Tata and Chris Kennedy predicted in an article in the magazine Nature that the global rate of solid waste generation is expected to triple by 2100. This is bad news because if the investment for solid waste management in developing countries remains as low as it is today, the world is at risk of irreversible environmental deterioration.
I was recently invited by the International Growth Center (IGC) to participate in a two day workshop in support of Rwanda’s national forum on sustainable urbanisation (#urbanrwanda) and give a talk on urbanisation, growth and structural transformation. I had never worked in Rwanda before, but this gave me an opportunity to reflect on what it means for a small, landlocked economy, where urbanisation is at an incipient stage (18 percent urban) but picking up speed.
- Urban Development
What do the cities Bandung, Bucaramanga, Izmir, Kigali, Patna, and Agadir have in common? They are all cities that have outperformed their national economies and are growing jobs. The World Bank's urban development and private sector development departments are jointly working on a new knowledge base on Competitive Cities. The project includes in-depth case studies of economically successful cities across all continents, beginning with the six listed above. What makes these particular cities so interesting? Read the team's blog to find out. Can you help guide our work? What types of insights and guidance would be helpful to making your city more successful?
There is a positive vibe around Detroit today, as the city transforms itself under the Detroit Future City Strategic Framework, a blueprint that will guide decision making and actions to realize a shared vision. In many ways, Detroit embodies the problems of cities around the world – post-industrial decline, deterioration of services, lack of economic opportunities. What can we learn from Detroit’s experience to become more resilient? Dan Kinkead, Director of Projects for the Detroit Future City Implementation Office, shares his insights on moving a legacy city into the future.
You’ve emphasized the importance of participatory planning in developing a framework for Detroit’s future. Why?
How can green growth policy be translated into local action? The average household has an important role to play, as was demonstrated in Gwangju, a city of 1.5 million people located 270 km south of Seoul. With an ambitious goal to become carbon-neutral by 2050, the city implemented a carbon banking system which encourages households to act green – resulting in 54% of participating households reducing consumption of electricity, gas and water in four years. Dr. Kwi-gon Kim, Professor Emeritus of Urban Environmental Planning at Seoul National University and Secretary General of Urban Environmental Accords Secretariat, who played a key role in launching the program in Gwangju, explains how and what others can learn from the city’s experience to realize green economic development.
Carbon banking doesn’t sound like something families can do. Why are you targeting households?
If you go to a conference on cities and climate change, you inevitably hear the statement that “countries talk…but cities act”. This message was loud and clear at the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Summit in Johannesburg last month, where a new report released by the C40 and ARUP detailed the 8000+ initiatives that C40 member cities are undertaking to either reduce GHG emissions or increase their climate resilience. Since the first such report came out in 2011, more cities are reporting on their efforts, and those reporting are doing ever more, expanding the array of initiatives they have launched.