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In the past few years, large commercial building owners and managers have expressed growing interest in using behavioral strategies to improve their buildings’ performance. That interest often takes the form of “occupant engagement,” whereby tenants are encouraged to adjust their habits to save energy or water. Researchers estimate that behavioral strategies can save 25 percent of energy in homes and between five and 30 percent in commercial buildings. However, despite burgeoning interest, commercial building owners and their facilities managers have barely begun to unlock the potential of behavioral strategies. Achieving these tremendous benefits first requires an understanding of the people and culture of a building.Big Potential in Need of Better Strategies
Building owners and managers often overlook the many simple changes they have the power to make. “Energy efficiency is a complex societal problem that needs a multi-pronged approach. Policy, rate structures and utilities all make a difference, but in the end, the motivation for change remains with corporate entities and individuals,” says Stephen Selkowitz, a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In a recent research paper, Alan Meier and co-authors argue that building owners and operators “have the technical means to reduce energy use, [but] social, organizational and technical constraints limit ability and motivation. These include low status, customer service practices, poor feedback on occupant environment, little energy data, and technology shortcomings.” Understanding and addressing these human factors is essential to creating effective behavioral strategies.Managing a Changing Building Culture
Technology is only as good as how it is used. Often overlooked is the fact that this relationship works both ways—any technology incorporated into a building can ultimately change behavior. If building operations staff encounter new or unfamiliar technology, then it is important to understand the impact on the “culture” of the building. Just as technology and science are some of the biggest drivers of deep changes across societies, the same is true at the scale of a building.
To manage cultural change in buildings and enable cooperation among all the participants in the building lifecycle, researchers Lamberto Tronchina and Massimiliano Manfren have recommended that building owners use common terminology and definitions; performance metrics; and building design and operation management approaches (particularly those that are integrated, data intensive, model based). These steps provide the foundation for better building operations and greater energy savings.Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches
Why does one building and its staff perform flawlessly while another similar building struggles to keep up? It often depends on the management approach used in the building’s operations group: top-down vs. bottom-up.
For example, someone operating within a top-down paradigm is more likely to put together a training program that emphasizes instructions and references to authoritative sources—rather than creative problem solving and peer-to-peer networking. A top-down manager will expect thorough and rapid adoption and compliance with their “system.”
But imposing an unfamiliar system may end up creating changes for staff that are unwelcome, imposed and superficial, lacking meaning for their everyday lives. If so, the manager will have set themselves up as the sole authority and will probably experience more unexpected failures and disruptions to the system they established. They will receive more calls to come fix things, rather than staff fixing problems themselves. The result will be an account that requires heavier, more intensive servicing. This means higher costs and more demands on time, in addition to poorer results.
On the other hand, a bottom-up or social approach requires patience and a belief that a few changes can move operations and management staff in the direction they need to go in order to better manage the building. Understanding the mechanics of a building includes understanding people. Meier and coauthors recommend:
“(1) recognizing the building as a social system and using real buildings and users to experiment with solutions; (2) supporting increases in the visibility and professionalization of building operators and operations; (3) improving technical capabilities for seeing and managing energy in buildings; and (4) improving coordination between indoor environmental quality and energy efficiency, helping ensure that efficiency technologies meet their energy performance expectations without leading to unnecessary deterioration of the workplace environments.”
People matter. Considering their habits and their subtle differences when making management decisions can create more engaged occupants and managers and tilt future outcomes in desired directions. Deeper buy-in among personnel leads to greater support over the longer-term and, with it, more consistent outcomes and realized savings.
On July 25, over 4,000 participants and negotiators from 142 countries came together for Habitat III’s Preparatory Committee Meeting in Surabaya, Indonesia. The purpose of the meeting was to finalize the New Urban Agenda (NUA)—a vision for the cities of the future and a path for achieving it. While Surabaya didn’t change the core message of the New Urban Agenda—that the future of cities is of vital importance, and that the nations of the world must come together to ensure that our urban future is a sustainable, equitable and prosperous one—there are still numerous issues of contention to resolve in the months ahead. Negotiators must now reconvene in New York later this summer before the final compromise can be affirmed in Quito in October.
One of the biggest challenges moving forward is coming to consensus about Part C of the declaration: Follow-Up and Review, one of the most hotly debated areas of the New Urban Agenda. A primary criticism of Habitat II was the lack of structured follow-up processes, which led to a lack of momentum in driving action in pursuit of its commitments. Creating an implementation mechanism that mobilizes action across sectors and levels of government will be critical.The Intricacies of Implementation
The challenge here lies in the diverse governance structures of many of the big players. If the New Urban Agenda contains language that is too strong, will countries find themselves in hot water for agreeing to conditions they aren’t prepared or legally allowed to implement? And who has the power to execute and implement the New Urban Agenda’s vision—will this responsibility lie with federal governments? Or does that power primarily lie in subnational and local hands? Because the NUA is not a legally binding document, perhaps the best way forward is to create text that encourages countries to act within their own legal and governance frameworks, rather than coming to agreement on lowest common denominator verbiage that lacks the strength to push the envelope on what cities can and should be.
Similarly, how closely should the New Urban Agenda align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their indicators? Some argue that the NUA should serve as an implementation mechanism of the SDGs in order to give it additional strength and visibility on the global stage, whereas others prefer it be a stand-alone platform. If the NUA does link with the SDGs, does it align with all Goals, or only Goal 11 on cities?
Furthermore, there is the issue of how the UN Development System can support and enable the New Urban Agenda, and what the role of UN-Habitat will be moving forward. On the one hand, some argue to keep the role and future of UN-Habitat separate from the declaration, find a solution later under a new Secretary General and wait for a potential overhaul of the entire UN System. Others want to strengthen the role and prominence of UN-Habitat.
However, the key question that must be answered, but which has been discussed the least, is what can be done differently within the UN system to support the fundamental changes needed for more sustainable cities. Skipping this question to immediately distribute responsibilities and power amongst UN agencies will not help realize the New Urban Agenda.A Possible Solution?
Anticipating these vexing issues of implementation, the UN-Habitat Secretariat debuted their Action Platform—the Quito Implementation Plan (QIP). The QIP will serve as an online gateway for different types of stakeholders—including the private sector, NGOs and grassroots organizations—to publicly present their commitments and implementation initiatives in one centralized place. The idea is to raise awareness around different activities and opportunities for collaboration.
While the Implementation Plan is a step in the right direction, there is still considerable work to be done. The platform currently allows stakeholders to add initiatives and classify them according to six types of commitments—like Social Cohesion and Equity and Urban Housing & Basic Services. However, some stakeholders have advocated expanding the types of initiatives and aligning the platform more closely with the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA)—a similar platform created around the Paris Climate Agreement. Doing so will allow stakeholders to align and build upon the existing initiatives emerging from other global processes. Linking to other, more prominent frameworks with global support (like the LPAA and the SDGs) will help build momentum and bring credibility to the platform.
Additionally, the QIP lacks quality assurance, clarity around the initiative approval process and the follow-up and reporting mechanisms needed make the New Urban Agenda a success. A good idea would be to draw upon the lessons learned from the LPAA, to revise the categories and build on the momentum of strong existing initiatives like the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction and SLoCaT/PPMC, rather than starting something new.The Path to Quito
In the weeks ahead, the world will watch as the delegations negotiate the final intricacies of the New Urban Agenda and come to a final compromise in New York. Especially interesting to watch will be the future of the Secretariat’s new Quito Implementation Plan. As Quito draws near, the pressure on the negotiators to create a New Urban Agenda that is not only visionary but also actionable will be at an all-time high.
Facing environmental vulnerabilities like increasingly high temperatures, more frequent storm surges and a rising sea level, small island states have long been on the front lines of the fight against climate change. This existential threat has made some of the world’s smallest countries big players on the global climate stage. Now they have new weapon: more efficient buildings.
Building efficiency is already a part of the strategies of many island states to curb climate change and adapt to a changing climate. Of 189 nations submitting Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to address climate change, only 57 of them mentioned building energy efficiency, according to a WRI review. However, 12 of the nations that did include building efficiency are small island states.
Building efficiency has big potential to deliver long-term, cost-effective greenhouse gas emissions reductions, but it can also have adaption benefits, reducing the costs of achieving both mitigation and adaptation goals over the long haul. Research shows that every dollar spent on improving buildings saves an average of $2 in energy infrastructure costs—both in developed and in developing countries, like many small island states.Building Right the First Time
Buildings are long-term investments—they last for generations. Therefore, it’s important to make the right choices when they are built. Building codes can help ensure high-quality buildings, and they are some of the most affordable policy tools that decision-makers can use to reduce operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions from new construction. In addition, these policies can make buildings more climate-resilient by requiring buildings to be elevated (to keep them above flood waters and storm surges) and better ventilated and insulated (to cut down on fossil fuel use, especially in areas where fossil fuels are imported).
For example, the Bahamas has developed an adaptation plan that includes energy-efficient buildings. In its building code, the Bahamas will require new and renovated buildings to use efficient lighting, cooling systems, building materials and construction methods. The country also uses financial incentives for efficient buildings with on-site energy production to discourage energy use from the national power grid and encourage local, renewable sources. These measures will make buildings and their occupants more resilient to extreme heat and energy disruptions that may result from storm surges or other extreme weather events.
Similarly, the Caribbean country of Dominica plans to adopt and provide training for a Green Building Code, and Grenada called for energy efficiency building codes in order to reach its national goal of a 30 percent reduction in emissions from 2010 levels by 2025.Don’t Forget Existing Buildings
Because buildings last for 40 to 100 years or more, retrofitting the technology in existing buildings is an important opportunity for improving energy performance and resilience. For example, the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean, is retrofitting buildings to incorporate rainwater harvesting, solar cells and other sustainable building features. Grenada, Palau and Saint Vincent and Grenadines also listed retrofits within their NDCs as ways they plan to mitigate climate change.Reducing Emissions, Attracting Visitors
As climate change threatens beachfront resorts that provide a main source of revenue for many island nations, building efficiency strategies can encourage economic growth while also cutting emissions and resource use. The Bahamas plans to promote energy conservation, efficiency and renewable energy in hotels and other tourist destinations. According to the country’s national climate commitment, this will lead to a more sustainable tourism industry—a growing selling point for travelers. Grenada also encourages resorts to adopt energy-efficient infrastructure. In fact, the island nation plans to make hotels so energy-efficient that they will cut emissions by 20 percent. The plan includes a tax incentive for solar panels and solar water heaters at hotels.
Furthermore, the 32 national hotel associations in the Caribbean that participate in the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association have recognized the link between a successful island economy and climate change. The association created Caribbean Hotel Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Action (CHENACT), which works to increase the competitiveness of hotels through lower operating costs and an environmentally-positive image. Participating hotels have generated energy savings of 20 – 30 percent with a 5 year payback period. As demonstrated through CHENACT, improving building efficiency in tourism simultaneously strengthens the backbone of island economies, reduces emissions and helps local industries adapt to the effects of climate change.The Unfairness Factor
Climate change is a global problem, but its effects aren’t felt equally around the world, and small islands are among the most vulnerable places on Earth. There’s an unfairness factor here, since these islands generally have some of the lowest emissions on the planet, even as their citizens and leaders are taking some of the boldest climate action.
This is truly an example of leadership from which the rest of the world can learn. These small island states are demonstrating that, for building efficiency, climate change mitigation and adaptation are two sides of the same coin and that every nation, no matter how large or small, can contribute to solving climate change.
LEARN MORE: For updates on buildings as a solution for cities of the future subscribe to the Building Efficiency Initiative newsletter. For more on what you and your leaders can do, read Accelerating Building Efficiency: Eight Actions for Urban Leaders.
Every year, approximately 1.25 million people die in road traffic crashes. In 2015, India recorded 146,133 road traffic fatalities, which means that the country accounts for over 11 percent of the global numbers. While India is home to roughly two percent of all motorized vehicles globally, its roads are some of the most dangerous in the world. Experts agree that road safety needs a safe systems approach. A big deterrent to this in India, however, is the Motor Vehicles Act (MVA) 1998, which prioritizes vehicles. This is soon going to change.
In August 2014, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) drafted a new Road Transport and Safety Bill for public comment. Several revisions were made, but the bill still faced significant political opposition. The bill was criticized as being too revolutionary, and too top-down. In November 2015, India became a signatory to the Brasilia declaration and committed to reducing road fatalities by 50 percent by 2020.
To meet this commitment, MoRTH took a consultative approach by establishing a Group of Ministers to look into the issue and get buy-in from state governments. This group decided that an amendment to the Motor Vehicles Act 1998 which upheld the key principles of the Road Transport and Safety Bill would be the best way forward. As a result, on August 3rd, the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, finally approved the amended Motor Vehicle Bill 2016.
Some of the key provisions of the amended bill include:
- Promoting Public Transport: State governments will be allowed to grant exemptions for stage carriage and contract carriage permits in order to promote public transport services. Studies show that investments in public transport have the potential to improve traffic safety, and reduce crashes, thereby saving lives.
- Protecting People: The Bill puts great emphasis on the safety of children and vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. State governments have been empowered to enforce strategies for safer public spaces.
- Using Technology: Electronic enforcement in high density areas, especially in cities with populations of over one million, centralized databases for issuing licenses and permits, and capitalizing on new technologies in vehicle design, alternative fuels, and retrofitting will help India keep its commitment to the Brasilia declaration.
- Increasing Penalties: The Bill proposes harsher penalties to serve as a deterrent for unsafe driving practices, like drunk-driving and over-speeding. This will be done via enforcement practices like a points-based system that has a co-relation between the severity of the offense with the penalty imposed, which will be a combination of fines, imprisonment, impounding of vehicles, and cancellation of licenses or permits.
While the Bill is yet to be debated in Parliament, one thing is for sure, India’s roads have claimed far too many lives, and this amendment is bringing us closer than ever to having a comprehensive piece of legislation that is aimed at positively impacting traffic safety.
Nossa Cidade (“Our City”), from TheCityFix Brasil, explores critical questions for building more sustainable cities. Leaning on the expertise of specialists at WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities, the series features in depth articles on urban planning, sustainable mobility, resilience, road safety and other key themes for a healthy urban environment. Each month, a new subject explores the sustainable development of our cities from a different angle.
Traffic kills: every year more than one million people lose their lives in accidents, and, within just 15 years, this number could more than double, reaching 3.6 million deaths annually. In Brazilian streets, the fourth most lethal in the world, nearly 47,000 people died in 2013. This number is still growing—proof that the country is not giving road safety the attention it deserves.
The price of road insecurity is high—16 billion reais ($5 billion USD) per year, according to the National Observatory for Road Safety—but improving road safety doesn’t have to be expensive. In July, World Resources Institute released the Portuguese version of Cities Safer by Design, a practical guide for urban planners and local governments to transform their streets into safer places for all.
Past editions of Nossa Cidade discussed making streets safer through sound urban design principles, how accidents can be avoided with infrastructure changes and Brazil’s plans for the Decade of Action for Road Safety. This edition of Nossa Cidade will explore São Paulo’s urban design intervention to reduce accidents and save lives.
Urban design has the power to change the city. By designing cities that focus on walking and cycling, developers can create a safe and accessible urban environment. Expanding sidewalks, reducing speed limits, implementing safe crosswalks and refuge islands and creating access to public transport are some implementable measures that can help achieve this goal.
One example is the city’s “Area 40” zones, where signs and built infrastructure limit car speeds and keep people safe. In São Paulo, eleven of these areas already exist, but São Miguel will be the first area to see a design overhaul, with the implementation of new infrastructure beginning later this year. The other ten areas have yet to schedule similar projects.
Located in the east of São Paulo, 24 kilometers (15 miles) from the city center, São Miguel is home to approximately 370,000 people. The high concentration of department stores makes São Miguel a major center of commerce and causes an intense flow of pedestrians in the area. Many of the neighborhood streets, however, cannot support this demand—the sidewalks are narrow and often clogged, the crossing times for people are short and there are few crosswalks available. In 2015, Marechal Tito Avenue, the main street in Sao Miguel’s central zone, was considered the most deadly street in São Paulo.
São Miguel needs a safer environment for all residents, especially for the most vulnerable road users: pedestrians and cyclists. In order to facilitate this change, WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities, together with the city of São Paulo and other partners, is working on an urban renewal project for the central area of São Miguel.
São Miguel Mais Humana (“A More Human Sao Miguel”) involves a variety of neighborhood projects, including putting in new crosswalks, revitalizing public squares, expanding sidewalks and creating new bike paths. This is a pioneer project for Latin America—no other Latin American city has developed similar proposals for as large of a space as São Miguel, which has a contiguous area of 500 thousand square meters (.2 square miles).
The Mayor of São Paulo, Fernando Haddad, believes that the interventions will contribute to more diverse transport use. The mayor has also highlighted the area’s potential for revitalization and public activity: “Neighborhood centers are active, vibrant areas where many people walk every day. That’s why it is so important to focus efforts on these locations. By improving urban neighborhood centers, we are also improving people’s lives. This process improves pedestrian mobility by giving them space, and therefore their right to move and feel good in their city,” he said.
The changes are an opportunity to show the local community that the city can work better for them. In an interview with WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities, Adalberto Dias de Souza, Deputy Mayor of São Miguel, said “this is the first project to be implemented in the periphery. And for São Miguel this is very important. Access to transportation, the redesign of public spaces and the reduction of accidents and deaths—these are fundamental changes to the community, “he said.
The São Miguel redesign project has two main objectives: saving lives and revitalizing a peripheral area of the city, rather than a central area that typically receives attention. “São Miguel is the region of São Paulo with one of the highest accident indexes, when considering the accident rate per square kilometer. We want to help the neighborhood change that. This is the main goal: to save lives,” emphasizes Brenda Medeiros, Urban Mobility Director of WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities, during an interview.Changes That Save Lives
Road safety interventions in São Miguel will be implemented in different phases. The first stage of the project involves 18 different mechanisms to improve safety for the local population. One project involves raising the crosswalk to the level of the sidewalks, easing pedestrian crossing and forcing drivers to slow down as they pass by.
At a prominent roundabout, developers will work to widen sidewalks and install a bike path. In addition, the area will receive new vegetation and street furniture to make the environment more pleasant for pedestrians.
Square José Caldini, the heart of São Miguel, will also undergo a process of redesign to give more space to the people. The sidewalks will be expanded, the tree in the center of the square will be preserved and the area will receive new signs, refuge islands and street furniture to provide more comfort and safety.
Measures such as these are life-saving. For example, for every meter subtracted from the distance of a pedestrian street crossing, the chance of fatality falls by six percent. For longer journeys across streets, refuge islands can reduce the number of pedestrian accidents and pedestrian deaths between 57 and 82 percent. Furthermore, when crosswalks and refuge islands are elevated to sidewalk level, ten percent of cars slowdown in the middle of the block.
These changes will be gradual, but they will help transform the center of São Miguel into a safer, more accessible and attractive place. As Luis Antonio Lindau, Director of WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities, encourages “we need to shift the concept of progress away from the expansion of road capacity. Cities can do more than that, engineering offers more than that. And people deserve more than that.”
Milton Bevington is Senior Advisor to the City of Boston under the City Energy Project. He guest-authored this post on the City of Boston’s work on sustainable infrastructure finance.
The potential threat which climate change presents to the economy, public health, and structural integrity of cities worldwide has recently become hard to ignore. Mitigating climate change requires a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and adapting to its effects will require cities to prepare buildings and people for changes like sea-level rise and extreme weather events.
It happens that some of those strategies can reduce operating expenses as well: more efficient buildings use less energy, more resilient buildings reduce catastrophic costs associated with storms. A complicating factor is that those projects often require a sizeable capital investment, while governments everywhere are already challenged to fund basic social needs like education, public safety, and sanitation. As it turns out, finding sustainable ways to finance sustainability without raising taxes is quite difficult.
To address that issue, a small group of finance experts working around the world are developing promising new models of sustainable infrastructure finance — that is, ways to fund necessary investment in upgrades to city infrastructure without raising taxes. The group recently met in Brazil to share ideas and work together to develop best practices. The City of Boston currently chairs this elite group, known as the C40 Sustainable Infrastructure Finance Network, and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh currently co-chairs the C40 steering committee.
This recognition is due in part to the inception of the City Energy Project in 2014, and Boston’s sponsorship of the Climate Finance Series, which aims to make the City a global center of climate finance excellence. A centerpiece of the City’s response to climate change is Renew Boston Trust, a market-based, self-funded finance program that aims to supercharge local investment in building efficiency, renewable energy, and climate resiliency.
At the recent Financing Sustainable Cities Forum, hosted by C40, the City of Rio de Janeiro, the Citi Foundation, and WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, participants heard how cities in the Americas, Europe, and Africa are using the tools of finance to create more sustainable models of funding infrastructure, among them new ways of procuring, budgeting, contracting, and financing projects without the use of taxpayer funds.
A key takeaway of the forum was that capital tends to flow where it is treated best, and there was consistent emphasis on improving cities’ access to private risk capital by enhancing the so-called bankability of projects. Translation: in order to attract private investors (the most sustainable financing model in the long run), infrastructure projects must guarantee them both a return on their money as well as the return of their money.
Bankable projects are characterized by guarantees and self-liquidating business models – for example, a building efficiency project which generates more reductions in operating costs annually than is required to repay its construction loan and which carries savings and cost guarantees from a large multi-national with triple-A credit. For a city government, making that happen requires new ways of thinking about project development, implementation, and financing.
Even without climate change, a city’s infrastructure ages and it costs money to deliver important services. Perhaps the greatest value of more sustainable models of financing infrastructure is that so-called bricks-and-mortar investments compete far less with important mission-critical investments like fire fighting apparatus, squad cars, and textbooks. Instead, projects pay for themselves by capturing operating savings, relieving taxpayers of their normal responsibility to support that funding through their taxes.
For the benefit of current and future generations, the City of Boston intends to continue leading the effort to bring these new methods for financing sustainable infrastructure to light.
Boston is a leader in climate change mitigation and adaptation at the city level through its membership in other city-based organizations like 100 Resilient Cities and the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, and will host the US-China Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities Summit in the Summer of 2017.
In the past few weeks, if you’ve seen people roaming around, staring at their phones and spontaneously shouting with glee, or crowds of people inexplicably congregating in parks, there’s a good chance you’ve witnessed someone playing Pokémon Go. Since its release on July 6th, Pokémon Go has taken over cities around the world. With an estimated 26 million players in the United States, it’s the biggest mobile game in U.S. history. In fact, on a daily basis, more people have used Pokémon Go maps than Google Maps—the developer for the maps in the game.
In contrast to its strictly visual predecessor, Pokémon Go requires a more active gaming lifestyle. The smartphone app utilizes GPS, geotagging, cameras and maps to integrate the gaming experience into a semi-virtual reality. Like the original Pokémon, the objective of the game is to catch different Pokémon creatures. However, in the new version, players must leave the confines of their homes and roam city streets, parks and popular landmarks to find Pokémon. Some Pokémon prefer certain environments over others, inspiring players to visit nearby bodies of water and recreational areas. Users visit “Pokéstops,” which are mapped to real-world public spaces, to collect Pokémon and assorted items, encouraging the use of public transit and walking over private vehicles.
Urban developers and city officials have been trying to inspire smart city planning for years, underscoring the environmental, health and economic benefits of a walkable city. What planners have continuously struggled with, Pokémon Go has achieved overnight. Pokémon Go has enhanced urban exploration and engagement, leaving us to wonder if the cartoon has uncovered the secret to effective urban planning.Encouraging Urban Exploration to ‘Catch Em All’
Pokémon Go goes against the grain of indoor and sedentary videogames, as it promotes active exploration and engagement with people and places around the city. It pushes people out of their homes to enjoy sunshine and fresh air. Players get to explore new neighborhoods, restaurants, parks and landmarks, developing a newfound appreciation for their city and breathing life into public spaces that were previously empty. Gamers are even meeting new neighbors and talking to strangers about how many Pokémon they’ve caught.
This dynamic gaming experience is introducing exercise to a previously motionless activity. Many have reported sore legs from walking and running miles at a time. In the game, players collect eggs that will hatch only after they’ve walked two, five or ten kilometers (one, three or six miles). The game may also incentivize use of public transit due to the large number of Pokémon on and near transit stops. The Metro in Los Angeles created a Twitter account for gaming riders, tweeting tips on where to capture the cartoon creatures.
Pokémon Go is even impacting local business by attracting Pokémon, as well as humans, to their businesses. Signage promoting the game, as well as a purchasable “Lure Mode,” which attracts Pokémon for 30 minutes at a time, is helping business owners increase their revenue.An Innovative and Powerful Tool for Civic Engagement
With greater pedestrian activity and exploration comes enhanced awareness. Players are not only developing a greater sense of what their city has to offer, but some people are also becoming more aware of mobility and environmental issues. Many are now noticing their neighborhoods do not promote walking, detecting flaws in transit infrastructure and discovering unhealthy, urban ecosystems.
This newfound awareness has triggered dialogue between gamers and city leaders, heightening civilian engagement. Pokémon Go’s popularity has inspired some city officials and stakeholders to play into the game culture. Some are using the app as a platform to shed awareness to local issues, promote political events and incentivize visits to landmarks. By sparking conversation with players, leaders are harnessing the interactive power of Pokémon to awaken a new generation of urban stakeholders and activists.
But is this engagement always civil? There is a fine line between genuine interest in visiting landmarks and inappropriate, even dangerous behavior. Some players are capturing Pokémon in the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, Arlington National Cemetery, the 9/11 Memorial in New York and Auschwitz in Poland. For some, merging the game world with reality has proven quite dangerous, even resulting in robberies and getting hit by a car.Future Urban Planning in a Pokémon World
Pokémon Go has exhibited successful aspects of urban planning that cities may learn from. The mobile game integrated cities, pedestrians and local officials to form a more cohesive, lively and well planned urban system. Through aligning city programs with interactive incentive, leaders may be able to expand upon the success of Pokémon Go to promote smart and sustainable cities while enhancing civilian awareness and respect.
This week in Surabaya, Indonesia marks the last preparatory session (PrepCom3) before the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016. The conference will bring together national governments, sub-national actors, decision-makers and civil society to create a vision for the next 20 years of sustainable, equitable, prosperous urban development—a document referred to as the New Urban Agenda.Day 1
Surabaya is a fitting place for PrepCom3. As Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, referenced in his opening statement Monday, the name Surabaya comes from the words “suro” (shark) and “boyo” (crocodile), which—as legend has it—fought each other for supremacy. Eventually, the two creatures agreed to a truce and set boundaries—the shark had dominion over the sea, while the crocodile took the land. Over the years, they fought over the river, but in the end, the crocodile ruled over the estuarine area that forms the foundation of present-day Surabaya. This begs the question—can the member states at PrepCom3 come to an agreement and lay the foundation for a New Urban Agenda (NUA) for 2030 and beyond?
The Indonesian Government has shown a strong commitment to the NUA, and this spirit should help lead the way toward a declaration for inclusive, sustainable and resilient urban development. The member states’ statements have indicated general acceptance with the current text, but there are some places where there needs to be stronger language and more clarity. Delegates have until Wednesday to finalize the text of the New Urban Agenda before its release in October at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador.
As outlined in World Resources Institute’s response to the Zero Draft of the New Urban Agenda, member states should focus on several key aspects in the coming days:
- Create a robust process for review and reporting. The draft text of the Zero Draft calls for UN-Habitat to prepare biennial reports, consistent with the reporting on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but it is vague on the types of reporting and review by member states, as well as the roles of the private sector, civil society and other non-state actors.
- Strengthen linkages with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement. While the text references the SDGs many times, the final declaration should more fully commit to aligning NUA implementation, monitoring and reporting with SDG frameworks. While the draft recognizes the need to be consistent with the objectives of the Paris Agreement, including pursuing efforts to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 °C, the final declaration could emphasize the active role that cities can play in achieving the nationally determined contributions. Cities are responsible for more than 70 percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions, and many cities have proven to be leaders on climate action.
- The role for the urban agenda in the UN System. There is some disagreement among member states on what is the role of UN-Habitat post-Habitat III. This needs to be resolved vis-à-vis other UN organizations, as the implementation of Habitat III UN system needs to be rooted in a strong UN city agenda.
Stay tuned for daily updates from Surabaya. To read more about the New Urban Agenda and WRI’s response to the Zero Draft, click here.
Surprising many in the architectural community, this year’s prestigious Pritzker Prize went to Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena. Though the award—often regarded as the Nobel Prize of architecture—prompts images of iconic skyscrapers or cultural centers, Aravena initially achieved fame for his firm’s work with the Quinta Monroy community, an affordable housing project that took a novel “incremental” process to house 100 families.
The award underscored the importance of affordable housing. An estimated billion homes are currently needed in order to meet the world’s demands for urban housing. While traditional affordable housing solutions have either focused on government-created social housing—which is frequently expensive and often leads to social deterioration for communities —or on private production—which has a dismal track record of meeting the urban poor’s needs—Aravena’s project and others like it prove there’s another way. An “incremental” approach, where the urban poor are involved in constructing their own homes slowly over time, can reduce housing costs while giving community members a say in designing their residences.
Numerous examples from across the globe illustrate that government-supported incremental construction—particularly with meaningful participation and input from residents themselves—can create dignified, sound and affordable housing for underserved communities.Designing for Incremental Growth in Chile
In 2002, the Chile Barrio program, a national initiative led by Chile’s Ministry of Housing and Urban Planning, contracted Aravena’s firm, Elemental, to find a way to re-house a community of 100 families living in a slum settlement in the northern coastal city of Iquique. The government would subsidize the housing costs at $7,500 per family, and residents could keep living in their same 5,000-square-meter area.
Through community engagement and planning workshops, Aravena arrived at the idea of taking an incremental approach, building only the physical foundations, walls, stairs, kitchen and bathrooms of the homes. These components comprise the half of a house that’s typically the most difficult for a family to provide for themselves. Families could then incrementally design and build the rest of their homes over time.
The scheme allowed Aravena’s team to cost-effectively construct homes, and residents secured a more stable place to live that they could customize to their liking. Some were even able to rent out extra rooms and develop home-based livelihoods, while children enjoyed new open spaces to play right in front of their homes. Hailed as a success, the project ensured community members were neither alienated nor displaced to the urban periphery, and property values reportedly (PDF) exceeded $20,000 within a year.Community-led Planning in Thailand
Thailand’s Baan Mankong Program also offers lessons in incremental housing through a decentralized, community-led process. Launched in 2003 by the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI), the program directs small but flexible government subsidies and loans to community-level lending and savings groups, with a strong emphasis on an inclusive, collective process. Receiving input from all members of the community, these resident-led groups decide how they’d like to invest the money—from reconstructing or upgrading individual homes to reblocking or relocating entire neighborhoods. Additionally, the Baan Mankong Program provides technical and financial support from government staff, community architects and planners where needed, enabling residents to address complex tenure security needs, land redistribution, housing improvements, service delivery and more.
With control in the hands of residents and flexible financial support, the collective process at the heart of Baan Mankong has allowed communities to build larger units at half the cost of hiring a contractor. Within five years, the program had engaged more than 1,000 communities in hundreds of cities and towns, and as of 2014 had reached almost 100,000 households.Recognizing the Incremental Approach as Part of a Greater Housing Policy
These programs illustrate a central lesson: that giving residents control of both housing construction and funding can be an effective solution for meeting housing demand. As housing researcher John Turner noted as far back as 1972, “The satisfaction of housing needs by central institutions is an impossibility for governments with very small budgets and faced with rapidly growing masses of people with very small incomes.”
While this kind of approach certainly can’t serve all urban residents—projects can take longer than conventional social housing efforts, and can be constrained by the level of public sector support they receive—any inclusive housing policy should consider resident-led, incremental processes.
A forthcoming WRI working paper looks at informal housing in the broader context of access to affordable housing within the city and urban services challenges. This paper will be part of the next World Resources Report (WRR) on Sustainable Cities, which explores how cities can become more economically prosperous, environmentally sustainable and socially equitable.
Gaurav Sharma is a property developer in Thane, a satellite city of Mumbai. His family firm prides itself on supplying high-quality, environmentally-friendly residential housing to India’s growing urban middle and upper-middle class. By setting ambitious efficiency goals for this new housing, Mr. Sharma’s company can play a leading role in addressing the energy and emissions impacts of urbanization and economic growth.
In 2014, global investment in buildings’ energy efficiency reached $90 billion and total building efficiency investment is expected to grow to $125 billion in 2020. To guide these investments and achieve energy and emissions savings, developers like Mr. Sharma and city policymakers need tools to prioritize actions, measure building efficiency performance and track progress against climate, energy and efficiency goals. As India pursues its Smart Cities challenge, target-setting and tracking resources can facilitate timely and cost-effective implementation.
There are dozens of publicly available tools to help all stakeholders develop building efficiency actions and track progress toward implementation. These tools can assist policymakers, project stakeholders and developers like Mr. Sharma in constructing and reaping the benefits of more efficient buildings.
Policy tools provide insights and information for effective design and implementation of policy packages, as well as their impact evaluation. A few examples include the Common Carbon Metric (CCM) and the Co-Benefits Evaluation Tool for the Urban Energy System. Project tools help to design a building construction or renovation project, calculate a building’s energy performance, simulate the effect of various building components and technologies and estimate potential savings from various energy-efficiency measures. Project tools may take the form of freely available software, such as the IFC’s Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (EDGE) tool.New York City Makes Efficiency Tools a Priority
New York is a leading example of how cities have used data, tools and tracking to achieve integrated energy and climate goals. As part of its target to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, New York City has introduced building efficiency policies, data-collection programs and implementation tools. With city-wide targets supported by robust monitoring and reporting processes, New York’s experience illustrates the challenges and opportunities of data-driven building efficiency improvement programs.
Three things to consider in light of New York’s experience and the range of existing tools:
- As a starting point, baseline inventories and building energy-use datasets are useful for assessing materiality of different city emissions sources, identifying key metrics and bridging stakeholder perspectives. In its recent inventory, New York City found that buildings are responsible for 73 percent of citywide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the use of natural gas, electricity, heating oil, steam and biofuel.
- Once baseline data are collected, numerous policy and project tools are available to guide program- and policy-level goal development. NYC convened a Buildings Technical Working Group and launched a 10-year building efficiency action plan.
- Subsequent monitoring, reporting, and verification can preserve accountability and assess cost-effectiveness. Moving forward, New York has identified seven building efficiency improvement actions to put the city on the pathway to achieving its 2050 targets.
To guide building efficiency stakeholders through the vast range of resources that has become available in recent years, WRI’s Building Efficiency Initiative and the Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency have compiled a list of publicly available project and policy tools for improving building efficiency. In addition to introductory webinars on building efficiency resources, the organizations have produced a decision tree that identifies tools based on available data and stakeholder objectives.
As Mr. Sharma and other stakeholders move toward improved building efficiency, these resources can help bridge stakeholder perspectives, inform actions aligned with best practices and track performance. Leaders in building efficiency are now better-equipped than ever to achieve their goals.
Leia este post em Português.
Serious water crises have plagued Brazil’s major cities in recent years. Severe pollution in Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay is jeopardizing sailing and other water sports at the upcoming Olympic Games. A historic drought from 2013 to 2015 in São Paulo dramatically slowed farm and factory production, threatening the national economy. Residential water rationing forced people to stockpile water in canisters, which became breeding grounds for mosquito-borne dengue and may have contributed to the recent Zika outbreak.
Some causes are familiar: inadequate enforcement of regulations, leaky water distribution systems, and population growth and urban development outstripping available water supplies. But looking outside the cities’ boundaries, a lesser-known cause emerges: degraded natural infrastructure.
Natural infrastructure (sometimes called “green infrastructure”) refers to natural and open spaces like forests or wetlands that are strategically managed to protect downstream water supplies. If these natural areas are lost to urban sprawl, converted to farms, or are otherwise degraded, city water supplies are more likely to suffer shortages or become polluted. When managed properly, natural infrastructure directs more clean water to cities by controlling water flows, preventing sediment buildup that would otherwise choke streams and rivers, and absorbing pollutants before they flow into waterways.
While some innovative solutions have emerged to protect and restore natural infrastructure—such as Water Funds, public-private partnerships that jointly invest in natural infrastructure—these are still more the exception than the rule. Most cities in Brazil and throughout Latin America rely exclusively on “gray infrastructure” like water treatment plants and man-made reservoirs for their water supplies, even as environmental threats intensify.How to Scale Up Natural Infrastructure?
Brazil may not yet fully embrace natural infrastructure, but two central elements could help secure more investment: a clear understanding of the business benefits and knowledge-sharing on managing natural infrastructure programs. A few new projects and tools are emerging to achieve these two goals.Making the Business Case
Natural infrastructure can safeguard and complement traditional water infrastructure systems, for example, by avoiding water pollution that would otherwise need to pass through a conventional water treatment plant, thus reducing costs.
In some cases, the return on investment can be substantial. Like 19 other cities in Latin America, São Paulo has a Water Fund supported by The Latin America Water Funds Partnership, an association of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), FEMSA Foundation, Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), in partnership with many other partners. TNC estimates that restoring at least 14,300 hectares (35,000 acres) of degraded land in São Paulo’s supply watersheds would reduce sedimentation by 50 percent, saving $2.5 million every year and reducing water treatment costs by 15 percent over the course of 10 years.
WRI and a network of partners developed the “Green-Gray Assessment” method, an economic analysis tool that helps decision makers compare the potential values of natural infrastructure investments alongside the costs and benefits of traditional infrastructure. WRI and others have tested the assessment in places ranging from the United States to Kenya, finding that natural infrastructure oftentimes offers significant cost savings over or when complemented by gray infrastructure.
This year, WRI and FEMSA Foundation will evaluate the costs and benefits of natural infrastructure investments in São Paulo and Monterrey, Mexico, while the Natural Infrastructure in Brazil initiative—led by WRI, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, TNC, BioAtlantica Institute and the Boticario Group Foundation—will conduct case studies in São Paulo, Vitória and Rio de Janeiro.Sharing Knowledge and Building Capacity
Implementing natural infrastructure programs requires know-how on a range of topics, from prioritizing which lands to protect and restore to identifying sustainable financing mechanisms. Traditionally, water managers and other decision-makers in Brazil have lacked information on how to carry out these practices, but here, too, tools are emerging.
The Restoration Opportunities Assessment Method (ROAM) guides stakeholders through the development of strategies to restore degraded or deforested natural areas. Experts have already applied ROAM in several regions of Latin America. Other tools such as InVEST, RIOS and ROOT can also evaluate the costs and benefits of natural infrastructure, including the potential value of ecosystem services. And in Brazil, the 10-year-old Oasis Initiative has provided technical assistance to more than 300 landowners supporting natural area conservation, shedding light on how rural development and water stewardship can be compatible.
This year, the Natural Infrastructure in Brazil project and FEMSA Foundation will build on this knowledge by releasing guidance to help decision makers realize profitable investments in natural infrastructure. The guidance will inform strategies for the Latin American Water Funds Partnership’s 40 water funds.
Brazil’s water systems may not be secure yet. But with the right tools and collaboration, the country can start investing in natural infrastructure projects that can provide clean, sufficient water supplies in vulnerable cities for decades to come.
This post was developed by WRI, FEMSA Foundation, Inter-American Development Bank, the Boticario Group Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Instituto BioAtlântica, which are joining forces to scale up natural infrastructure investments to help secure urban water supply in Latin America.
“If you want to win the climate change battle, it will be fought in the cities of the world,” WRI President and CEO Andrew Steer told participants at a forum on the role of urban areas in the global shift to clean energy.
New research from the International Energy Agency (IEA) confirms that cities represent 70 percent of the cost-effective emissions-reduction opportunities between now and 2050. In short, metropolitan areas will be crucial in determining whether the world succeeds in limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) to prevent the worst effects of climate change.Cities at the Frontlines of Climate Change
IEA Director for Sustainability, Technology and Outlooks Kamel Ben Naceur shared this and other findings at WRI’s June 24 event, “The Role of Cities in the Global Transition to Clean Energy.”
While Naceur underscored the vast challenges with curbing climate change in cities—they represent half the global population but 70 percent of emissions—he said that with an energy transformation, the 2-degree C target is still within reach.
Major areas for action include:
Heating and Cooling
About two-thirds of projected energy demand growth between now and 2050 will come from emerging and developing economies. “The elephant in the room is heating and cooling,” Naceur said.
It’s also an area rife with opportunity. The IEA report found that cities can reduce their heating and cooling demand by 25 percent without sacrificing comfort, through solutions such as solar-powered air conditioning. “This could be a very good combination because the max demand is in the daytime, when you have the maximum capacity for solar PV,” Naceur said.
Cities can also tap into efficiency to curb power demands for heating and cooling. Jennifer Layke, director of WRI’s Building Efficiency Initiative, pointed to theBuilding Efficiency Accelerator, which will help 30 cities in emerging economies scale up energy-efficient building practices and policies.
Investments in roads and gas-powered cars may dominate the transport sector today, but IEA analysis finds that shifting much of this money toward electric vehicles (EVs) and metro and light rail could dramatically reduce emissions without increasing costs. While there were 1 million EVs in operation in 2015, Naceur says a 2-degree world would see a thousand times that many—1 billion EVs—by 2050. That’s a tall order, but emerging success stories like Beijing (where EV sales have grown exponentially over the past few years) offer hope.
Bridging Local and National Policies
Reinventing energy systems means national and local governments need to work together on complementary policies—a feat that’s proven difficult historically. “There’s significant potential for synergies,” Naceur said.
Take Norway: About 25 percent of the nation’s new cars are EVs, thanks to a combination of national policies like tax breaks and a network of charging stations in cities throughout the country. The Netherlands has Europe’s second-highest rate of EV registration, at just 1.8 percent of total cars.A New Urban Future
These are just some of the bigger opportunities to spawn a clean energy revolution. To really bring down emissions to safe levels, cities will need to take action across all economic sectors. And with 80 percent of the world’s GDP, they’re in the best position to lead the charge against climate change.
As home to more than half the world’s population, cities are some of the places most vulnerable to the impacts of a warmer world. Yet in many ways, they’re still not equipped to deal with the challenges climate change presents.
While more than 450 cities committed to reduce their emissions as part of the Compact of Mayors, few urban areas have comprehensive adaptation or resilience plans in place. And even in cities with adaptation initiatives, too often these plans are treated as a separate initiative rather than integrated into core city planning decisions like land use or transport planning.
That’s why 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) and WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities are teaming up to help cities see urban planning through a resilience lens. The partnership works to ensure that cities can build resilience into their very foundations, learning from the adaptive successes of their peers and mainstreaming adaptation into city operations and planning decisions. The partnership also works to open up routes to finance cities’ climate-resilient projects.
We’re already starting to see some cities take the lead on these two issues, offering powerful lessons for other urban centers to follow:Making Resilience Mainstream
Careful climate-minded planning can make a city more resilient. Resilience is necessary not only for adapting to climate change, but for maintaining cities’ social, infrastructure, and economic integrity.
Adaptation and resilience planning will not achieve their intended impacts if they are considered side issues. Rather, these measures must become a part of the regular narrative in cities, incorporating locally adapted projects into every aspect of urban development, from land use planning to transport and housing decisions.
Porto Alegre, Brazil is one city that’s already making strides in this area. The city hired its Chief Resilience Officer and launched a Resilience Strategy to integrate resilience into all aspects of city planning. Drawing on input from the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, Porto Alegre also developed an integrated resilience strategy, which lays out goals like improved land regulation, increased access to sustainable mobility options, and participatory budgeting.
Rio de Janeiro is using a similar resilience lens to examine its urban planning. The WRI Ross Center integrated resilience research with community consultation to produce an innovative set of new indicators of individual and community-level resilience, including factors like social cohesion, institutional reach, climate change risk perception and economic resources. By focusing on resilience for city residents, this research served to inform the people-centered plan put in place by city leaders and has contributed to Rio’s recently launched Resilience Strategy. WRI and 100RC are now looking to scale some of these practices to other cities, such as Sao Paulo.Funding Resilience
Recent research estimates a finance gap of approximately $4-5 trillion per year for sustainable, resilient infrastructure. This deficit means that cities will have to do more with less. Resilience thinking is a way to do just that. By orienting city planning around resilience practices, cities can uncover new efficiencies in investments to achieve multiple benefits.
Some cities are already taking steps toward dedicated funding for resilience. In two dozen cities in the 100RC Network, mayors and city leaders have pledged 10 percent of their city budgets for resilience projects and initiatives. While gaps in funding for urban infrastructure may persist, this is an important first step.
Innovative sources of capital are emerging, and the WRI/100RC partnership will unveil further possibilities. For example, WRI’s Climate Resilience Practice has partnered with the UN Capital Development Fund to help countries develop national systems for channeling global climate finance to local-level resilience projects.
The cities of the future will be determined by the decisions that urban practitioners, local leaders and others make today. WRI and 100RC are ready to help these decision-makers put resilience at the very core of their urban agendas.
This is a cross-post from 100 Resilient Cities.
This article was originally posted on the Pacific Standard.
For the past five years, the World Economic Forum has listed water crises among the world’s top global risks, alongside others like “major systemic financial failure” and cyberattacks. Unfortunately, the ranking has proven accurate. The past year alone has seen historic drought conditions in California, devastating floods in India, and water-supply crises in cities including São Paulo, Brazil, and Flint, Michigan.
Now, as attention turns to reducing exposure to water risks, innovators are looking closer at what’s driving our growing, global thirst. While agriculture accounts for 70 percent of the world’s water use, future projections from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development indicate that energy and industrial activities are the fastest-growing sources of future water demands.
Companies and countries should be looking for partners and solutions that address these growing water and energy demands, including efficiency and re-use. These are more cost-effective means of meeting needs compared to investments in supply solutions like desalination and new power plants.
Companies will find themselves asking: Who can we partner with to develop new technologies and business models that will work for our customers?
Countries will find themselves asking: How will we support economic development while also ensuring all of our citizens have access to clean water and energy?
Among the more intriguing answers to both of these questions: cities and women.Why Urbanization and Gender Equity Matter
Cities and women happen to know more about water and energy than anyone.
It takes a tremendous amount of water to cool the power plants that keep a city’s lights on. Thermoelectric power plants account for about half of all water use in the United States. Likewise, it requires a significant amount of energy to heat, treat, and transport water — and even more to convert saltwater into fresh water.
Meanwhile, in emerging economies and rural areas, women are best positioned for — but too often excluded from — informing decisions on water and energy use. They spend 25 percent of each day collecting water and an additional 40 hours each month collecting fuel for their families. In many cases, women who are in charge of household decisions on water and energy have the most direct and important insights on meeting future needs.Cities as Water Innovation Demonstration Grounds
Consider China’s 15 power-hungry megacities — urban areas with populations of 10 million or more. They are actively looking for win-win solutions that meet energy needs while minimizing water requirements and air-quality impacts. Today, most of these cities are dependent on coal-fired power plants, which can be among the most water-intensive options for electricity. Some 60 percent of existing plants are located in areas of China facing significant or extreme water stress. That suggests China’s massive urban areas will need to invest in low- or no-water cooling technologies for their power plants, while expanding wind and solar power and alternatives to fresh water for cooling thermoelectric power plants (such as brackish water or seawater). Indeed, these shifts are already starting as part of China’s climate and water action plans and other government mandates.
Other smaller but growing Chinese cities are helping companies test and prove new technologies. A partnership effort in Xiangyang, for example, is harvesting untapped energy in wastewater, converting sludge into natural gas that can power buildings and vehicles. Look out for more partnerships between cities and companies with solutions on the demand side of the equation, like energy efficiency and water re-use, in China and around the globe.Women as Essential Business Partners
It’s increasingly clear that gender equity is a fundamental part of not only water and energy resource planning, but overall economic development. Development agencies, understanding that gender mainstreaming leads to better decision-making, are investing heavily in projects that more actively involve women in energy and water planning. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 include priorities like universal energy and water access, as well as specific targets for mainstreaming women’s roles in such breakthroughs.
Companies, including WRI partners Coca-Cola and Unilever, meanwhile, are participating in initiatives focused on empowering women. They are investing millions in programs that, for example, support entrepreneurship and increase local water access and distribution. Expect women to play critical roles as countries and companies look for ways to balance competing demands for water and energy and ensure access for all.A New Approach
The world faces a future of extreme water variability. Water risks and supply disruptions are already affecting business in California, China, India, and elsewhere. This is true not just for the electric power and water industries, but for customers and suppliers who rely on them. One study suggests that, over the past four years, Californians paid $2 billion in electricity costs related to drought conditions.
But this is not strictly a supply problem. It is just as much a demand challenge, and innovators should pay attention to opportunities to reduce overreliance on limited fresh water resources. In particular, there is a glaring need to reduce the amount of water needed for energy and the energy needed for water.
Fortunately, necessity is the mother of invention. Those who need and use water and energy the most will be the best partners in finding ways to address demand. Companies and countries alike should find ways to work with cities, women, and others who can help change the way we manage the world’s most important resources.
The world’s two-largest emitters have a lot to learn from each other—especially on transport.
Transportation is already a major source of CO2 emissions in both China and the United States—at 20 percent and 30 percent, respectively. The percentage of people traveling by car is increasing in Chinese cities, rising from 15 percent to 34 percent in Beijing between 2002 and 2013, creating air pollution and fuelling climate change.
It’s the reason officials and experts from the two nations came together at the recent US-China Transportation Forum in Los Angeles.
The annual event, bringing together public and private sectors, aimed to boost trade, accelerate knowledge-sharing and inspire solutions to common challenges.
Experts discussed ways to create more sustainable transport in cities—such as public transit, bike paths and pedestrian walkways—and coalesced around four big ideas:1. Learn from the Game-Changing Pilots.
Local “complete streets” campaigns are popping up throughout U.S. cities, rethinking streets’ functions to be more multi-modal, multi-functional and focused on people rather than cars. For example, New York City has created slow traffic zones and closed some of its streets to cars entirely. These low-cost solutions produce tremendous benefits, including increasing foot traffic and revitalizing neighborhoods. In Seattle, reengineering streets with permeable pavements and rain gardens helps manage polluted stormwater runoff.
Now federal programs are emerging to help local pilots like these spread more quickly. For example, as the first federal bill endorsing complete streets, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act encourages cities to report progress on complete streets, requires the use of an Urban Street Design Guide, and provides grants to pertinent projects. Consequently, U.S. cities have issued more than 900complete streets local policies.
Similarly, mandated by the Urban Road Design Code, Chinese cities have some of the most extensive cycling infrastructure in the world. With WRI’s support, the national government will soon introduce a safe station access manual designed to help cities make streets safer for pedestrians.2. Set Up the Right Performance Metrics.
The frequent failures of metro systems in New York City and Washington D.C. suggest not only a lack of maintenance, but inadequate performance metrics adopted by the transportation industry. For example, most transit authorities use a metric called “on-time performance,” which notes whether a train deviates from its schedule, but not how late it is. This type of benchmarking creates an inaccurate picture of a system’s strengths and weaknesses, which prevents problems from getting fixed.
New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is considering a better metric, known as Excessive Wait Time. It quantifies the lateness of a train compared to the scheduled frequencies, thereby capturing the waiting time of average transit riders and revealing real problems with transit operations.
Similarly in China, WRI has worked with governments to employ transit users’ satisfaction ratings as a key performance indicator of transit service quality, as required by the national 13th Five-Year Plan. The ratings will help provide a comprehensive assessment of transit services that would otherwise be overlooked in traditional metrics, like comfort.3. Work Across Silos.
Urban transport projects often involve multiple agencies, like those dedicated to urban development, transport and law enforcement. Since priorities, funding cycles and performance metrics of different agencies do not always align, working across silos is extremely important.
In China, national grants from different ministries are sometimes are pooled to single local agency for coordinated usage. For example, biking improvement funding from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Rural Development is merged with transit funding from the Ministry of Transport for more holistic and comprehensive improvements.4. National Programs Can Scale Up Local Successes.
National programs are essential vehicles to accelerate the adoption of sustainable urban transport ideas at scale, and the momentum is gathering.
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 authorized $60 billion— about 42 percent of the nation’s transit capital investments – to enhance transit services in next five years. Likewise, China’s 13th Five-Year plan (2016-2020) provided unprecedented support to the National Transit Metropolis Demonstration Program. This initiative aims to empower half of Chinese cities financially and technically by 2020 to improve transit service and promote transit-oriented development.
Building on these lessons, both countries can drive great changes in their transport systems.
WRI is currently supporting China’s Transit Metropolis Demonstration Program. It tests ideas and develops solutions in Suzhou, Guiyang, Kunming, and Zhuzhou. It also scales up local success through national policy-making, handholding with the Ministry of Transport and other ministries.
More than half the world’s people live in cities, and cities are responsible for more than 70 percent of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions on Earth. These dramatic statistics meancities have a critical role to play in addressing climate change. This is especially crucial in China, where fast-growing metropolitan areas like Chengdu – with a population of 14 million — have become engines for economic, scientific and technological progress. Until recently, Chengdu has not focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, even as it emphasized sustainable development.
That changed today during the 2016 China-US Climate-Smart / Low Carbon Cities Summit in Beijing, when Chengdu formally announced its commitment to control carbon dioxide emissions so that they reach a peak around 2025 and decline after that – a target five years ahead of China’s national aim to peak carbon emissions by 2030. With support from WRI and partners, Chengdu completed its 2010 greenhouse gas inventory, set its emission peak target and developed a low carbon-strategic plan to reach its target.
At the summit, China’s Alliance of Pioneer Peaking Cities (APPC) announced that 23 cities and provinces are now members and committed to peaking emissions by or before 2030. These cities and provinces represent about 16.8 percent of China’s population, 27.5 percent of national GDP, and 15.6 percent of national carbon dioxide emissions.Why China’s Cities Matter
In China, cities play an integral role in helping the country achieve its national climate goals. Cities bore most of the responsibility for achieving the medium-term target set out in the 2011-2015 five-year plan of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent per unit of GDP from 2010 levels by 2015. The 2016-2020 five-year planspecifically mentions that more developed cities should peak their emissions ahead of national peaking target.
Recognizing cities’ importance, China’s National Development and Reform Commission selected 42 pilot cities and provinces to join the national low carbon program. These cities act as pioneers for low-carbon practices such as making greenhouse gas inventories, low-carbon action planning, low-carbon economic transition planning and low-carbon technology deployment.
In June 2015, China formally submitted its intended nationally determined commitment (INDC) and committed to peak its carbon dioxide emissions around 2030. Subsequently, the commission elevated its low carbon cities initiatives byestablishing the APPC in September 2015. The intention is to encourage cities peak their emissions ahead of the national target year. Eleven cities and provinces joined the APPC as founding members.Cities are Key to China’s Climate Targets
The voluntary APPC program is important for four reasons:
- Current national commitments are not enough to achieve the global 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) target. Cities’ early peaking could help China to reach its national emission peak ahead of 2030 and contribute to the global 2 degrees C target.
- This is the first time in history Chinese cities are committed to long-term emission reduction targets. Before this, they were only committed to five-year intensity targets in line with the national five-year plans.
- This pioneering group of cities are expected to encourage more cities to commit to more ambitious climate actions. This could include the cities currently designated as national low-carbon pilot projects, as well as the new batch of national pilots that to be announced later this year.
- Different parts of China develop at different speeds. Some cities, especially those in the Western region, are still rapidly industrializing and may need more time to get to peak emissions. To balances these cities’ progress, more fully developed cities need to peak emissions ahead of 2030. APPC cities will play an important role in this respect.
While committing to emission peaks is an important step, cities need to turn their commitments into action. They need well-designed plans to help make the transition to a low-carbon economy. They also need accurate data to help make the most effective decisions. They can look to cities like Chengdu and tools like WRI’s emission inventory, emission peaking, and low carbon action planning tools to reach their goals.
Around the world, urban leaders including university presidents, renowned architects, city mayors and financial managers are recognizing the need to manage explosive energy demand growth from rapid urbanization. But changing business-as-usual development is not an easy task.
Today, 12 new cities are committing to accelerate their efforts in making buildings more energy efficient by joining the Building Efficiency Accelerator, a coalition to achieve the UN Sustainable Energy for All initiative’s goal of doubling energy efficiency by 2030. These cities—Belgrade, Serbia; Bogota, Colombia; Coimbatore, India; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Eskişehir, Turkey; Medellín, Colombia; Porto Alegre, Brazil; Rajkot, India; Riga, Latvia; Santa Rosa, Philippines; Shimla, India and Tshwane, South Africa—join 11 other cities already in the Accelerator. Together, they seek to reap the many benefits energy-efficient buildings produce, such as reducing energy demand in new and existing buildings by 25-50 percent.
These new cities will work with WRI and more than 30 international organizations in a multi-stakeholder partnership. Five of them—Belgrade, Bogota, Da Nang, Eskisehir, and Raijot—will join Mexico City as part of a “learning laboratory” for the Accelerator, and will work with a technical advisor from the partnership to help them prioritize, engage local stakeholders, develop local materials and initiate their policies and projects. Over the past year, Mexico City has been localizing the national building code and planning to retrofit a set of its municipal buildings.
All 23 cities will also work with BEA partners to pursue new policies and projects. WRI’s recent guidebook, Accelerating Building Efficiency: 8 Actions for Urban Leaders, offers a menu of options, including 8 policy actions to scale up energy-efficient buildings:1) Enact building efficiency codes and standards to require minimum levels of energy efficiency in building design, construction and/or operation. This can decrease energy expenses throughout the lifetime of the building.
Brussels, Belgium has met great success with multiple Nearly Zero-Energy Buildings projects. Starting off as a response to a European Directive on buildings occupied and owned by public authorities, Brussels went above and beyond the requirements of the Directive to enact stricter standards at an accelerated pace for energy performance in new buildings.2) Commit to efficiency improvement targets. Many communities set local goals for energy performance in publicly owned buildings. Governments can also introduce voluntary targets to incentivize private sector action and create “challenge” programs for city-wide action.
Tokyo, Japan has implemented a cap-and-trade program that limits emissions from large-scale industrial and commercial infrastructure. The program engages tenants and owners to reduce emissions 17 percent between 2015 and 2019.3) Collect energy performance information on buildings. Understanding building energy use and benchmarking that information against other similar buildings is a good way to decide where investments can be made for the lowest-performing buildings. Having data allows decision-makers to track energy performance against improvement targets.
New York City has made progress on this action, passing a benchmarking law that requires owners of large buildings to report their energy use. Local Law 84, under which these policies were enacted, also spurred the development of a tool to predict energy savings at the building level, the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation’s Energy Savings Potential (ESP) Tool.4) Establish financial programs, incentives and other options to help efficiency projects overcome economic barriers such as upfront costs.
Armenia has been a pioneer in this arena. Its innovative R2E2 program created a revolving fund for efficiency and renewable energy projects.5) Lead by example. Successful government policies and projects undertaken on government buildings can create greater demand and acceptance for building efficiency technologies and approaches.
Buenos Aires, Argentina has launched its Energy Efficiency Program in Public Buildings in order to help meet its goal of reducing its overall emissions 30 percent below 2008 levels by 2030. The initiative has taken off, with more than 20 public buildings undergoing energy audits and implementing best practices for improved efficiency and building performance. City leaders are implementing energy management tools, as well as new standards for environmental sustainability in new public buildings, bringing the city closer to its emissions targets.6) Engage building owners, managers and occupants using partnerships, competitions and awards.
Singapore has created a Green Leasing Toolkit, which equips both tenants and landlords with information about monitoring and improving building efficiency. This tool boosts building performance from the ground up, and provides tenants and owners with the knowledge to take action.7) Work with technology, equipment and other service providers to develop skills and support business models to meet and accelerate building efficiency demand.
Bainbridge Island in Washington State is working with efficiency service providers on capacity-building by hosting workshops on technical improvements to buildings, such as air leakage control. Bainbridge Island has also increased standards for contractors’ certifications, better educating the technicians who make decisions about buildings’ features.8) Work with utilities to improve access to energy usage data and support efforts to reduce customers’ energy demand.
Brazil’s “Intelligent Energy Program” has mandated that utilities make annual investments in building efficiency projects. It has spurred programs like Conviver, which installs more efficient fixtures in lower-income communities, increasing performance of buildings for more vulnerable populations.
Cities are seizing the transformative opportunity that building efficiency best practices can provide—a chance to meet the energy needs of growing communities by stretching each kilowatt hour to more people. Building energy efficiency also helps cities reach their climate goals, reduce costs and improve productivity. With cities growing rapidly, their leaders face a myriad of infrastructure investment requirements – energy efficiency is one of the smartest investments they can make.
Barcelona is re-designing its streets; city planners released a new plan that takes city spaces back from cars, for the people. Re-orienting the city to the human scale, Barcelona’s leaders have decided to create more space for walking and cycling, while leaving less space for traffic jams. The goal is that this transformation will increase Barcelona residents’ access to the city, with new areas for recreation and social interaction along the historic city streets.
The new plan will return 60% of the space of the streets where cars circulate today to the citizens for pedestrian use. The city has an ambitious plan for the redesign of the blocks of neighborhoods, turning them into “super-blocks.” The idea is to join nine city blocks into one, forming a square. The cars on the internal streets will be replaced by boardwalks, bike paths, recreational areas and green areas. The Eixample district will be the first to participate in the project.
The design of the “super-blocks” will humanize public space, as it takes into consideration livability, sustainable mobility, green areas and biodiversity, while aiming to promote citizen participation. Local government leaders aim to create public spaces for the people, emphasizing social interaction, health and recreation for all. The measures, in addition to benefiting residents, are aligned with urban sustainability goals. The design of “super-blocks” re-organizes city streets to be oriented toward sustainable mobility options, like walking, cycling and using public transport.
Through the new design, cars, motorcycles and buses are restricted to the streets outside the perimeter of the blocks, while private vehicles will have even greater restrictions. People who own a car and live in areas restricted to pedestrians will be able to access the internal roads, but only at reduced speeds of 10 kilometers per hour, thus reducing overall congestion and the likelihood of fatal traffic crashes. From the point of view of urban planning, Barcelona’s approach to compact neighborhoods and plans for mixed urban land use is aligned with the recommendations outlined in the Manual for Transit-Oriented Development, also referred to as DOTS. This approach enhances green spaces for citizens, encouraging social interaction and healthy modes of transport.
A study released by the Environmental Epidemiology Agency determined that last year, about 1,200 deaths could have been avoided if Barcelona met the air quality standards recommended by the European Union. The study cites 18,700 hospital cases of preventable asthma attacks, as well as 12,100 cases of acute bronchitis and 600 hospitalizations related to cardiovascular problems. In addition, the city traffic is responsible for elevated noise levels, which have reached a level 61% higher than what is considered healthy by law.
However, the improvement of urban spaces for citizens depends on how the plan will be implemented. The project consists of adding over 300km of bike paths to existing cycling infrastructure. In addition, the city has a bus network servicing many of its main roads. Salvador Rueda, director of the Barcelona’s Urban Ecology Agency has predicted that these measures will ensure that buses have rapid and reliable service for public transport users across the city.
The new designs will be installed in nine different places across Barcelona, with an estimated project cost of €10 million. Barcelona is pioneering its urban development, using tactical urbanism to create healthier, more sustainable city spaces that are accessible to all. Returning city streets to the people, Barcelona is re-examining what a city block can be.
How do you liven up discussions around urban planning, get participants thinking outside of the box and get people to take a holistic and inclusive approach to community planning? Why not try a game?
Games are emerging as a useful platform for fostering meaningful dialogue on today’s most pressing urban development issues. Through simulations, role playing and even the use of LEGO blocks, interactive urban development and planning games can provide a fun and engaging way of bringing disparate groups of stakeholders to the table. These games remove the threatening atmosphere often felt in more formal meetings, and allow participants to more casually communicate with one another while collectively evaluating different paths of development.
Games can help simplify complex and seemingly insurmountable problems by detangling components and breaking them down into smaller, more comprehensible pieces. Furthermore, games that require role playing can force participants out of their comfort zone helping them to begin to understand and view problems from a different perspective, such as through the eyes and experiences of a bicyclist, bringing light to issues they may normally overlook.
Recognizing the value of games, the United Nations in collaboration with the makers of Minecraft, the Urban Land Institute, MIT and countless other institutions have developed interactive games as teaching and outreach tools to facilitate learning and decision making between stakeholders of all ages and backgrounds.
Putting TOD Games in Action in Mexico and Turkey
Recently, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities’ team in Mexico co-developed a role playing, LEGO-based game to supplement their Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Guide for Urban Communities, inviting players to explore a range of development strategies at different scales for a city and facilitating a discussions of the benefits of zoning and transit-oriented development (TOD).
Players are assigned roles, representing different government agencies or sectors, private developers and the public. With a map of a specific site, they use colorful LEGOS that represent different land use types (e.g. commercial, residential, industrial) and stickers to denote different types of sidewalks (e.g. with or without trees), cycle paths (e.g. two-way), and traffic lanes (e.g. dedicated bus lanes) to build and visualize different development scenarios.
The game serves as a vehicle for bringing to life the principles of TOD and has proven to be an effective technique in engaging the public and professionals from multiple sectors in talking about TOD.
Given the game’s success in Mexico, the Ross Center’s team in Turkey incorporated a session of the game into the 2015 Livable Cities Symposium in Istanbul in November 2016. The workshop introduced the topic of transit-oriented development (TOD) and allowed participants to explore the concept through the redesign of an actual squatter settlement (Kucuk Armutlu), located next to the university where the Symposium was held. The workshop provided an interactive environment for participants from various disciplines—from urban planning and environmental engineering to the private sector and academia—to learn how they can better design communities in an actual low-to-middle income neighborhood isolated from public transport, both by natural barriers and a major highway.
Players were divided into two teams. One group was assigned to represent a ‘business as usual’ approach, requiring members to develop recommendations within the confines of current legal restrictions, such as zoning that does not allow mixed-use development, and planning conventions that typically take a top-down strategy. The other group was tasked with taking a more ‘radical’ approach, allowing recommendations to include reforming laws and planning processes. Both teams focused on three main problems facing the community: disjointed scales of planning; disconnected modes of transit that are physically inaccessible by the community; and a lack of vibrant public space.
In addition to addressing real problems and facilitating an understanding of TOD in the design process, the game attempts to foster meaningful collaboration between players of diverse backgrounds. Each player must shed their professional and educational beliefs and take on an assigned character, making decisions through that person’s eyes.
This was the most challenging part of the game. Many of the engineers, urban designers, architects and others found it difficult to support new and contrary ideas to what they normally believe. Another challenge that the players faced was learning to interact with one another and accept different perspectives. In fact, what was most revealing about the workshop and the game was that with honest and enthusiastic participation and discussion, it was still possible to establish common ground.
Players acknowledged the importance of active participation from diverse stakeholders in the decision-making process. The participants’ motivation and excitement demonstrated the importance of instilling empathy in players during the strategic decision-making process. Greater empathy fostered better communication and collaboration and helped players to better plan for all people. Participants realized that planners in Turkey and beyond need to actively engage the public in the planning process—a practice that is largely non-existent today.
As Jane Jacobs explains in The Death and Life of Great American Cities: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
Beyond Emissions: 5 Cities Achieve Social and Economic Development by Reducing GHG Emissions from Transport
Low-carbon transport has many social and economic benefits that can accelerate local sustainable development and that deserve recognition beyond their role in addressing climate change. A new series of papers from the Low Emissions Development Strategies Global Partnership’s (LEDS GP) Transport Working Group highlights case studies that provide evidence of the variety of social and economic benefits of low-carbon urban transport—from job creation and saved time and money, to fight poverty, safer roads and cleaner air.
Here are five cities that are maximizing these benefits and leading the way:BRT Saves Guangzhou, China US $14 Million Annually
Bus rapid transit (BRT), can help reduce the amount of time and money people spend on transport, lower the government’s operations budget and cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. With about 12 million people in Guangzhou’s metropolitan area, the city suffered from an overloaded bus system and daily congestion. Launched in 2010, the BRT carries 850,000 passengers every day and has succeeded in shifting 10-15 percent of trips away from private vehicles. High capacity buses move 29 percent faster than pre-BRT traffic, reducing fuel consumption and making operations more efficient. In addition to generating annual savings of US $14 million and reducing 86,000 tons of CO2 every year, passengers personally save $103 million in out-of-pocket travel costs and 30 million hours of travel.Velib, Paris’s Bike Share, Employs 400 People
A broad range of jobs—in construction, management, sales and services—can be created by adopting low-carbon transport. With a 6.6 percent unemployment rate in Paris and young people making up a large number of the unemployed, Velib is looking to make a small dent by providing directly 400 full-time and part-time jobs to local youth. Employees have a variety of educational backgrounds and take up services, warehouse and call center jobs. While Velib already has about 20,600 bikes at 1451 stations spread throughout the city, the municipal government is playing an increasingly supportive role to create a bike friendly environment—developing road safety campaigns, speed restriction zones and about 125 miles of new bike lanes for more connectivity. This has helped increase ridership by 70 percent since Velib’s introduction, cutting emissions down by 32,330 tons of CO2 per year.Ahmedabad’s BRT Will Prevent 77 Percent of Traffic Fatalities by 2040
Globally, private vehicles cause about 70 percent of all traffic related injuries, and it is estimated that traffic crashes will be the third greatest cause of premature deaths by 2020 as a result of rapid motorization. With a focus on safety and access for pedestrians and cyclists, low-carbon transport can help improve traffic safety in cities. For example, strategic changes—protected stations, designated entry and exit points, level boarding for safe access to buses—to Ahmedabad’s BRT system, Janmarg, have led to 79 percent positive safety ratings for the system. Since 2009, Janmarg has carried over 140,000 daily passengers, and is slated to reduce a third of the city’s total CO2 emissions by 2040, an 84 percent reduction from the baseline.Stockholm’s Congestion Charge Cuts Hazardous Particulate Matter by Nearly 10 Percent
Fossil fuel consumption by motorized transport releases exhaust fumes that contain particulate matter hazardous to human health and detrimental to the climate. However, Stockholm’s congestion pricing system shows how cities can cut vehicle pollution to curb climate change. By pricing vehicles during peak hours in congestion-prone zones, the city is able to distribute traffic flow uniformly throughout the day and cut back on road blockages. Private vehicles are charged 15 kronas ($1.77) on workdays and double in evening and morning rush hours. This stimulated about a 9 percent increase in public transport ridership from 2005 levels and an 18 percent reduction in traffic volumes by 2011. Together, this cut down the particulate matter by 9 percent and mono-nitrogen oxides by 7 percent and has been generating daily revenues of $500,000 to 2.7 million for the city. These funds are then reinvested for expanding bike lanes and new bus lines.Lagos’s BRT Reduces Poor Households’ Transport Costs from 17 to 11 Percent of Income
Key to low-carbon transport is connecting low-income groups to social and economic opportunities in their city in a clean way. Nigeria’s Lagos BRT system, BRT-Lite, provides a high-quality, efficient and affordable service to the local population, about 61 percent of whom live under poverty. Lagos is the fastest growing city in Nigeria, and a high rate of private vehicle ownership has resulted in 27,500 vehicles congesting the city’s roads daily. On average, a resident of Lagos spends about 17 percent of his or her income on either private vehicles or public bus and minibus services. The BRT system has helped reduce the income spent by poor households on public transport from 17 to 11 percent, as BRT fares are 30 percent lower than those for traditional public transport.
These five stories from the LEDS GP’s series of papers demonstrates how cities can accelerate the provision of social and economic benefits for city residents by choosing low-carbon transport policies and projects. Many more national and subnational leaders should take note from these inspiring examples, innovating and enabling low-carbon transport through greater investment, public-private partnerships, new regulatory frameworks and more public participation.
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