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Tuesday, 11 October 2011 12:28

UN's New Sustainable City Effort Starts With Asia

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We all need to reinvent urban planning for the 21stcentury.

Never has the need been greater for integration across urban management, systems, experts, policies and technologies.The world is rapidly becoming more urban,especially in Asia, where hundreds of millions have begun moving to cities.This massive migration, largest in human history, will produce colossal impacts--including innovation--in energy use, transportation, housing, water and resource use. Economies will be impacted at every scale, especially beyond burgeoning metro areas in national and global markets.

IMG_4972-thumb-350x262Add climate change and adaptation issues to the development of Asian cities, where more than 50 percent of global greenhouse gas emission increases are expected to occur over the next 15 years,and we are faced with the urgency--and opportunity--to reinvent urban planning. Planning for the future of cities needs to now embody a process combining sustainability strategies with information and communications technologies (ICT), supported by the sciences (natural + social) in concert with engaged participation: from the slum to the boardroom to the ivory tower.

Considering such needs, the United Nations is announcing capacity building for sustainable urbanization, with an initial focus on Asia. At the end of this month, the UN will release its "Shanghai Manual for Sustainable Urbanization" (where else but in China's largest city, Shanghai?). The Shanghai Manual, developed in conjunction with the Shanghai Expo 2010 (photo above), represents not only the knowledge legacy of dozens of symposia held throughout the Expo, but also new research, case studies and policy recommendations targeted for mayors and other urban executive leaders.

The Shanghai Manual and its subsequent planned UN sustainability capacity building for mayors represents a thematic lead-in to the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, which will be held June 2012 in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Rio+20 marks the anniversary of the historic 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development ("The Earth Summit") and will draw upon the broad themes of The Green Economy and Sustainable Development. In Rio, the UN 193 Member States, along with groups such as business and NGO representatives, will evaluate global progress made and setbacks encountered in achieving sustainable development, and will try to define ways to create a more sustainable future for all.

My contributions as co-author of the Shanghai Manual include chapters on "Delivering Effective Urban Management", "Economic Transformation", and "ICT for Smart Cities". Other chapters are devoted to:

  • Towards a Harmonious City
  • Waste Management
  • Green Buildings
  • Science & Technology
  • Culture and Sustainable Cities
  • Mega Events

Release of the Shanghai Manual will be rapidly followed by training for mayors of 20 cities from 15 Asian nations. Invited to this training are Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India,Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Viet Nam: they will meet at the UN Centre For Regional Development in Nagoya, Japan, where I, along with other experts from the UN, will lead instructional sessions in November. The United Nations expects the training in Nagoya will influence:"Enhanced awareness of participants about feasible and attractive policy options for a green economy for rapidly growing cities of Asia

  • Increased exchanges between local and national levels of government in the participating countries, thus contributing favorably to the preparation for the (Rio+20) Conference by Member States themselves
  • Enhanced national capacity to identify common challenges and opportunities associated with a green economy and sustainable urban development" (photo by Warren Karlenzig) 
Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current. He is a fellow at the Post-Carbon Institute, and co-author of the forthcoming United Nations Shanghai Manual on global sustainable city planning and management. 
Last modified on Monday, 07 November 2011 10:45

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