October 2011 Archives

logoBig_rio+20.jpg

As Rio+20 takes shape (officially, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, follow-up to the historic UN 1992 "Earth Summit," held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), the issue of sustainable cities appears to be taking center stage in planning for the June 2012 event dedicated to marshalling the global Green Economy.

"Cities provide a great framework to galvanize public opinion and citizen participation," said Jared Blumenfeld, Administrator of Region 9 of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "Cities also have a lot in common: New York and Beijing have more in common in terms of challenges they face than do the US and China."

On the road to Rio, the UN's "Shanghai Manual for Sustainable Cities" will be released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs on Nov. 7 as a playbook for mayors of global cities so they can deploy triple bottom line strategies (I co-authored the manual with the UN). Blumenfeld, who spoke last week at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, said that the US Department of State and EPA are preparing by next week a Rio+20 submittal that is "cities focused." (Previously, the United States and Brazil recently announced the US-Brazil Joint Venture on Urban Sustainability.) Meanwhile, non-governmental organization Ecocity Builders has begun high-level discussions with the UN and NGOs ICLEI and C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, on potential Rio+20 standards for ecocities including the International Ecocity Framework and Standards (IEFS).

Out of the 1992 Earth Summit, with 110 heads of state and thousands of non-governmental leaders, emerged pivotal treaties and frameworks for decades to come, including the Kyoto Protocol and Agenda 21. Other products of the first Earth Summit include the Global Environmental Facility at the World Bank, and national sustainability agendas in 86 countries based off Agenda 21, according to Jacob Scherr, director of global strategy and advocacy for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Scherr, who also spoke with the EPA's Blumenfeld, cited UN Secretary General Ban Ki-
moon's declaration that, "We are running out of time," in reference to global environmental species and habitat destruction, combined with human-caused climate change. Scherr pointed out that in 1950 there were only 50,000 cars on earth--soon there will be 1 billion. Illustrating the trend toward species extinction and habitat loss, he noted that one-third fewer animals inhabit the planet than there were only 40 years ago.  

Such unchecked developments combined with fast-growing global urban populations--not to mention increasing difficulty in forging successful national-level sustainability agreements--make cities the best means of addressing global sustainability, Blumenfeld said. 

Blumenfeld, the former director of San Francisco's Department of Environment, said that the most effective strategies for Rio+20 may rest upon enabling local actions such as significantly increased city recycling goals (including zero waste) and banning plastic bags. "In ten days you can get the word out in cities and you can make a difference," he said, "which is very different than getting people to focus on international agreements."

Scherr implored those in their twenties or younger to take an interest in the UN Rio+20 proceedings and participate in whatever way possible, since it will be so vital to shaping a planet's future that will be decidedly urban (75% by 2050): "It shouldn't be called Rio+20. It should be called Rio for Twenty Somethings."

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.

IMG_4972.JPG

2010 Shanghai Expo Closing Summit

We all need to reinvent urban planning for the 21st century.

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.

Add 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. On Nov. 7, 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
  • Transport
  • 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.  
 

About the Author

    Warren Karlenzig
Warren
Warren Karlenzig, Common Current founder and president, has worked with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (lead co-author United Nations Shanghai Manual: A Guide to Sustainable Urban Development in the 21st Century, 2011); United Nations Center for Regional Development (training of mayors from 13 Asian nations on city sustainable economic development and technology); provinces of Guizhou and Guangdong, China (urban sustainability master planning and green city standards); the United States White House and Environmental Protection Agency (Eco-Industrial Park planning and Industrial Ecology primer); the nation of South Korea ("New Cities Green Metrics"); The European Union ("Green and Connected Cities Initiative"); the State of California ("Comprehensive Recycling Communities" and "Sustainable Community Plans"); major cities; and the world's largest corporations developing policy, strategy, financing and critical operational capacities for 20 years.

Present and recent clients include the Guangzhou Planning Agency; the Global Forum on Human Settlements; the Shanghai 2010 World Expo Bureau; the US Department of State; the Asian Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the non-governmental organization Ecocity Builders; a major mixed-use real estate development corporation; an educational sustainability non-profit; and global corporations. Read more here.

Follow Green Flow on Twitter


About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

September 2011 is the previous archive.

November 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Technorati

Add to Technorati Favorites
Technorati search

» Blogs that link here


Locations of visitors to this page
Powered by Movable Type 4.1