perspectives on

sustainable development

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Air quality
Climate change





Sustainable Cities

Sustainable cities demonstrate resilience, flexibility and innovation to respond to unanticipated crises - which could be anything from war, epidemics, shortages in water, food or energy, alongside a range of environmental scenarios involving change of climate (e.g. hotter temperatures, rises in sea level, increased rainfall leading to mudslides). At one extreme they exhibit vulnerability, and in other cases, resilience - dependent on inherent design, architectural and structual development. For example, high rise buildings are vulnerable to any failure in their electricity supply as all their services are dependent on it.

City initiatives

City-level governments all over the world take decisions about transport, water, waste, and building development . The C40 group of cities, set up by London and supported by the Clinton Foundation have pledged to work together on climate change.

  • Dongtan, in China, is a satellite city planned for 1 million people on the outskirts of Shanghai to be self-sufficient in energy, food and water, and near-zero transport carbon emissions.
  • 10 eco-cities in Britain are planned, of around 25,000 people each.
  • Curitiba, Brazil, has been recognised as one of the greenest cities in the world.
  • Copenhagen, Denmark, has extensive district heating systems, with 97% of the city connected.
  • Berlin: energy efficiency measures in public buildings have reduced CO2 emissions by 60,000 tonnes p.a.
  • Bogota, Colombia, has a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, carrying 1.4 million passengers a day. and a network of 340km of dedicated cycle paths.
  • London's congestion charge has led to reduction of 30,000 tonnes ap.a. in the 22km central zone, with saving estimated at 1000,000 tonnes p.a. across the city.
  • Seoul has a Weekly No Driving Day with incentives to encourage participation. Estimated reduction in CO2 emissions are 160,000 tonnes p.a.
  • Stockholm has reduced by an estimated 200,000 tonnes p.a. by the whole country switching from petrol to E5 - a blend that includes ethanol (now mainly imported from Brazil, but with plans for production from Sweden's forests).
    Hammarby Sjostad, a suburb, 25,000 people and considered one of the world's most sustainable communities, aims to have half the environmental impact of other towns. The Hammarby Model, links reduction and re-use of water, waste and energy.






By the end of 2008, more people will live in cities than the countryside, according to the UN. 200 years ago, less than 3 people in 100 lived in cities. Now 75% of energy is consumed within cities, from where 80% of greenhouse gases are emitted.

Nearly half the global urban population live in cities that are short of water. - or 500-700m in Asia and 100-150m in Africa.

Melbourne Australia, plans to cut water use by 40%

London leaking water would fill more than 300 Olympic-sized swimming pools a day. Planning approval has juse been given for a desalination plant that will increase CO2 emissions by 22k tonnes p.a.

US: in some cities, up to half of all electricity used goes on pumping and processing water.

Nearly 60% of fresh water in Dubai and the Arabian Gulf is supplied by desalination plans.

Nearly 22% of Spanish agriculture depends on desalinated water.

Sources: Guardian, Streetsmarts supplement, 05.12.07