From Singapore's high tech congestion management system to New York's PlaNYC 2030 to Yokohama's zero-carbon emissions goal, the future greening of cities is becoming our global "Plan A" for survival--economic and species--and will be the topic of the "Global Green Cities" conference in San Francisco, Feb. 23-25. The invitation-only event will mash up top planners, designers, strategists, technologists, mayors and financiers on how design, technology and behavior can facilitate the cross-fertilization of critical ideas and perspectives.
By now most have heard that cities will be the century's Rosetta Stone to mitigating the resource depletion and carbon emissions of humanity. China alone will add 400-700 million people to its cities by 2050. Developing nation urban growth is set to double by 2030 the urban footprint that existed way back in 2000.
If you are old enough to read these words, you will be living in a whole new world than
the one in which you grew up.
The global cities of 2030 will be created with ten times the speed it took to cobble together the global cities of 2000, which has acute sustainability implications. That's why international organizations ranging from the United Nations to Natural Resources Defense Council are feverishly creating strategic plans and training for green city innovation including energy supply and energy efficiency, land use and planning, green building, water supply and use, food supply and production, green infrastructure, and enabling information and communications technologies.
The financial sector is well aware that 90 percent of urban economic growth will come in developing nations, so the leaders of The World Bank, the IMF and private banks and investment firms are scrambling to integrate financing in a dizzying array of new life-cycle costing instruments, revenue sharing agreements and public-private partnerships.
Consider Guangzhou's new bus rapid transit system (photo above, Karl Fjelstrom), now the largest in Asia, or Mexico City's Metrobus system. Both were supported by private foundations, while Mexico City's Metrobus also garnered support from an international and Mexican non-governmental organization. Green economic innovation is not just occurring in developing nation cities. San Francisco was able to achieve a leadership role in solar energy projects through a voter-supported bond measure, while Berkeley created its groundbreaking residential PV solar financing program through a mortgage-like approach that cuts costs and financial risks for homeowners.
Global Green Cities will host breakout sessions on the:
- design of livable, compact, transit oriented cities;
- technologies of digital, efficient and low-carbon urban systems;
- behaviors and lifestyles of the urbanite
A "Breakout Synthesis" will focus on how planning, technology and behavior can provide a specific vision for the future.
In a wrap-up discussion of the Global Green Cities plenary session, I will address the issue "Enabling the Green City of the Future," which will look at best practices and driving change in finance, policy and business. On Friday Feb. 25, the conference goes off-site to study planning for sea level rises caused by climate change. It will also analyze California's planning for its landmark state climate change bill of 2006, AB 32, and its companion, SB 375, a historic land use planning law trying to prevent further exurban sprawl while enabling denser, transit-oriented development in existing communities.
Here's a preview of who will address the invitation-only gathering of "Global Green Cities," which is sponsored by Deutsche Bank, Cisco, AT&T and the Bay Area Economic Institute and is advised by the London School of Economics:
Top confirmed speakers include Bruce Katz, of the Brookings Institute's Metropolitan Policy Program (recent Time magazine essay and video); Peter Calthorpe--he created the term "transit-oriented development"--of Calthorpe Associates; Khoo Teng Chye of the Singapore Public Utilities Board; Kent Larsen, of MIT's Smart Cities Changing Places Research Group; Siegfried Zhiqiang Wu, of Shanghai'sTongji University College of Architect and Planning; James Sweeney, Director of Stanford University's Precourt Energy Efficiency Center; Jeffrey Heller of Heller-Manus Architects; John Kriken of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Incheon, South Korea Mayor Young-gil Song; San Jose, USA Mayor Check Reed and Dmitri Zenghelis, of the London School of Economics.
Many others are invited, and I will provide another post reviewing this seminal symposium.
One last sober observation. By all appearances, there appears to be no "Plan B."
Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current. He is a fellow at the
Post-Carbon Institute, strategic adviser to the Institute for Strategic Resilience and co-author of a forthcoming United Nations manual on global sustainable city planning and management.