A few weeks ago, John O’Brien, the chief strategist for Ireland’s Industrial Development Agency, was at The World Bank, Washington DC to address an event on the role of cultural heritage and historic cities in Local Economic Development. The theme of the event was creating jobs by supporting historic cities and cultural heritage. Urban Sector Manager Abha Joshi-Ghani began the day’s session by underlining the significance of cultural heritage in city development: “We have started to look at cities as drivers of entrepreneurship and innovation. It is important to understand how cities attract skilled people and industries to create jobs and what role they play in economic growth. Therefore it is very helpful to find linkages between cultural heritage assets and job creation.”
Happy Earth Month from the Sustainable Cities team! While Earth Day isn’t until April 22nd, we must spend some time this month to think about what this celebration of the natural environment means for us, staunch urbanites.
Like many environmental initiatives, Earth Day was actually proclaimed by a city – San Francisco, California - and the occasion was celebrated with other US cities in 1970. Earth Day went international in 1990, and now it’s celebrated in more than 175 countries every year.
With about 185,000 people a day moving into cities – some 2 billion more people by 2035 – cities are where the action is and jobs are available. Following is a top ten urban report for tomorrow’s job seekers.
1. Construction Workers. Someone’s got to build all those new cities with their infrastructure, buildings, transportation systems, waste management, and power supply. And then there’s the retrofitting of existing cities. How are we going to pay for all this construction? Over the next 30 years the world will see an unprecedented increase in wealth as the land being taken over by cities grows in value. Let’s just hope we build ‘sustainable cities’ or the true costs will far outweigh the benefits.
2. Civil Engineers and City Planners. Used to be you could graduate as a civil engineer and start building roads, buildings, railways, ports and wastewater treatment facilities. The ‘civil’ part just distinguished it from military engineering, the world’s first engineers. Now the ‘civil’ in civil engineering can just as easily refer to civility and civilization. Today, civil engineers, the builders of cities, need to help develop and nurture a social contract that is always stronger than concrete and steel. Also, an encouraging trend in many countries – more than half of the freshmen civil and environmental engineering students are female.
We’ve seen cafes, car sharing, cell phones, and social networking products like iPads, proliferate from the world’s rush to urbanize. So what’s next? Following is a list of top ten urban businesses that are likely to flourish over the next few years.
- Take Two – Tablets. Just as every television now comes with a remote control, so too will every house and apartment come with a ‘control tablet’. We’ve seen the introduction of tablets as cheap as $40 in rural India. The next push will be a clever city that provides every household with a tablet to check on municipal services, emergency announcements, entertainment, and much more. Once every household has its own tablet, the impact will be enormous. The only question now is which city and companies will take a lead. Best guesses: Kitchener, Canada; Gwangju, South Korea; Bangalore, India; Kunming, China; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Thomson Reuters; RIM; Samsung; DataWind.
Earlier this month, the World Bank hosted a Smart Cities for All workshop in Washington, DC which convened experts from the United Nations, academia, government agencies, non-profits and industry. The purpose of the workshop was to share insights and experiences of equipping cities with the tools for intelligent growth. Additionally, the forum established a public-private partnership for collaboration in pursuit of shared goals for global sustainability. But what does it mean to be a “smart city”? Is this distinction only reserved for cities starting from scratch? Can an established city boost its IQ?
First, we must take a step back to reflect upon what it means to be a “smart city.” While there is no official definition, many have contributed to this debate. Industry leaders, such as Seimens and IBM, believe that stronger use of technology and data will enable government leaders to make better informed decisions. Whereas others, including the Sustainable Cities Blog’s very own Dan Hoornweg, consider the social aspects as a component of what it means to be a smart city. In his blog, “Smart Cities for Dummies,” published last November, Dan contends: “At its core a smart city is a welcoming, inclusive city, an open city. By being forthright with citizens, with clear accountability, integrity, and fair and honest measures of progress, cities get smarter.” Though I agree with both the data-driven and socially-conscious approaches, I’d like to propose my own definition of a smart city.
This month marks an important milestone – an agreed to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions protocol for cities was announced jointly by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, C40, the big-cities climate change club, and the World Resources Institute (WRI). The protocol builds on early work by ICLEI, WRI and WBCSD’s corporate scopes model, a research paper presented by Professor Chris Kennedy et al at the June 2009 Marseille Urban Research Symposium, and a joint UNEP, UN-Habitat, World Bank guideline, supported by Cities Alliance, launched June 2010 at the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro.
Up to now there were many different types of ways that cities were measuring their GHG emissions. A few cities were leading. Rio’s one of the first cities to complete the new inventory. New York City, Amman, Cape Town, Tokyo and Mexico City are front-runners as well. Xiaolan and Kunming are lined up to be the first cities in China to use the new protocol. Soon, most cities that complete a GHG inventory will follow a common ISO standardized approach. This will make analysis and learning across cities much easier. A common and verifiable metric is also one of the best ways to attract additional finance for cities.
One of the best things about living in Washington DC is riding your bike to work, early in the morning, past the blossoming cherry trees along the tidal basin. Sometimes you have to actually stop for a moment, the trees are so beautiful. Thank you, Governor (Mayor) Ozaki Yukio: He gave the trees to the up and coming Washington DC in 1912.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the City of Tokyo’s original gift of 3020 cherry trees. You would be hard pressed to find a more perfect gift, or a more perfect example of how the cities we live in, and the globally-minded ones overseas, improve our day-to-day quality of life.
After Newsweek’s third annual Women in the World summit two weeks ago, I started to wonder about where women stand in the massive wave of urbanization our world is facing. The UN study, The World’s Women 2010, tells us:
- Only 14 women in the world were either Head of State or Head of Government in 2010.
- In only 23 countries do women comprise over 30 percent in the lower house of their national parliament.
- On average, only 1 in 6 cabinet ministers in the world is a woman.
- Only 13 of the 500 largest corporations in the world have a female Chief Executive Officer.
But what about female Mayors? As the most visible face of local politics and the closest link to their constituents, do women occupy more positions in the city leadership? The global breakdown is below:
But why, one may ask, is the leadership of women particularly relevant to sustainable cities? The National Democratic Institute gives a number of reasons:
In response to the global need for consistency when measuring and reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a group of organizations have partnered to develop a Global Protocol for Community-scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions (community protocol). Beginning today and for the next month, the draft edition of the GPC is open for public comment, marking a landmark effort which seeks to harmonize the emissions measurement and reporting process for cities of all sizes and geographies.
“C40 operates under the premise that cities must measure emissions in order to manage them; with this unprecedented and collaborative initiative, we are empowering all cities to do both,” says Jay Carson, CEO of C40.
This year marks the 200th birthday for Charles Dickens who is likely the best-known social commentator who documented the more troublesome aspects of the Industrial Revolution and the start of the world’s headlong rush to urbanize. Dickens’ writings give a ringside seat to the turmoil London, and Paris, faced over two hundred years ago. That Dickens’ vantage point was London only made sense; it had just surpassed Beijing as the world’s largest city, and arguably is the birthplace of capitalism and industrialization.
The big question now is, where in the world would today’s most important social commentator choose to live? We obviously know it would be a big city as cities are the most powerful determinants of our futures. But what city best captures today’s and tomorrow’s social milieu?