World Sustainable Capitals (WSC) “Pyramidal” Rationale
By collaborating with sustainable cities, the UPC, the ADCED and the WEF seek to galvanize global and mega-cities in the adoption of successful urban planning decisions that favor sustainable economic growth. Vision 2030 is a result-oriented collaboration, focusing on defining the fundamentals of responsible and ethical sustainable practices. The partnership calls for a holistic approach to urban planning and for innovative and inclusive public participation in the planning process.
As it’s important to integrate and reconcile the economic, social, cultural and environmental aspects within a holistic and balanced sustainable development framework, WSC will first define the key elements of its sustainable development pyramid:
Unrestrained economic growth is unsustainable and clearly pointed out practical limitations in applying the economic sustainability equilibrium without integrating social, cultural and environmental safeguards.
What makes a city economically sustainable? Much research is currently underway in many universities and research institutes around the world on the issue of sustainability. However, most of these researches are focused on the issue of environmental sustainability and relatively less on economic sustainability.
A city must be able to generate jobs and provide all kinds of services to its inhabitants. To do so, it must be able to attract investments to the city. Hence it must be competitive and have an attractive business environment. It must be able to provide businesses with the services they need in order to operate competitively. To do this well, the city must have a government that is administratively efficient, financially sound, business oriented, and far-sighted in its planning.
Given the forces of globalization, in order for a city to prosper, it must be open to new ideas and participate actively in the global economy. It must be able to trade and exchange with other cities and economies of the world in order to benefit from the richness of the globalizing world economy. However, the process of globalization is not without pain. Globalization is restructuring the global economy and making it more competitive. Economies are therefore subject to more shocks because of the rapid changes in world economy. Hence cities must constantly reinvent themselves in order to remain competitive and relevant to the world. This requires the city to be agile and be able to shift resources from one industry to another in order to adapt to the changing market environment which in turn imply that the labor market is flexible, the business environment attractive, and the local government supportive and able to facilitate the changes.
Thus, an important factor determining economic sustainability of cities is competitiveness in terms of: ease of doing business, low taxes, low cost of doing business, availability of skilled labor and expertise, efficient financial sector, flexible factor markets. Good governance is an also an important factor (The provision of public services such as good transportation, safe environment, good healthcare system, education, housing, responsiveness to the needs of businesses, far-sightedness in planning, good regulations, efficient administrative system, and an efficient judicial system). The recent financial crises have also shown the importance of sound finances in order for an economy to be financially and economically stable and be able to continue to provide the full range of services for its residents without disruption. For example, many of the cities in the US (Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami) have had to cut back on their services and retrench workers because of the fall in fiscal revenue. Hence, it is critical for the local city government to be in a strong financial position to be able to withstand the shocks from a sharp decline in fiscal revenue when the economy is in an economic downturn and be able to maintain its services to the community and even provide some fiscal support to the local economy.
The environmental interpretation of sustainability focuses on the overall viability and health of living systems. In this context, natural resource degradation, pollution and loss of biodiversity are detrimental because they increase vulnerability and undermine system health. Sustainability may also be understood also in terms of the logical functioning and longevity of a nested and interconnected hierarchy of ecological, socioeconomic and socio-cultural systems.
Living systems provide ecological services that fully support socio-cultural and socioeconomic systems. Sustainability requires an understanding of the evolution of the city's living systems, ideally from pre-industrial conditions, to give a clear indication of the past, present and future capacity and potentiality for stability, to yield resources, and to assimilate and recycle waste.
From this foundation the sustainable cycling of water, and organic food and materials, (ultimately conceptualized as thermodynamic exchange), must be facilitated by integrated and efficient infrastructure and practices. The primary system is local, upon which is superimposed regional and increasingly global material exchange. Material exports must be environmentally sustainable, and not deplete the environmental capital upon which they depend. Material imports must ultimately be assimilated by the local system in a manner that is not detrimental in the long-term. Consequently, both the primary local system and superimposed modern industrial and globalized system must be reconciled with the coupling of natural and technological systems that determine capacity to assimilate solid and liquid byproducts and waste, at a local and regional scale in the case of terrestrial and aquatic spheres, and on a global scale in the case of atmospheric emissions including carbon and other 'greenhouse' gases.
Key to this exercise is the appropriate spatial allocation of uses within the city and immediate surroundings allowing the maintenance of biodiversity and continuous optimization to increase overall diversity, health and resiliency of the city's natural heritage. A hierarchical and spatially networked system that comprises a gradient of protected areas is required, as well as co-location of industrial processing facilities that can efficiently recover materials and energy from urban waste streams, along with careful control of material and energy exchange by all media (land, water, and air) between them and the city as a whole.
In the 21st century, people’s life is becoming more flexible and more globalised and implies a need for more complex social diagrams to be considered. Social development usually refers to improvements in both individual well-being and the overall social welfare that result from increase in social capital. It refers to the resource people draw upon in pursuit of their aspirations. Social capital is growing with greater use and erodes through disuse, unlike economic and environmental capital which are often depreciated. By strengthening social values, institutions and equity, social sustainability practices will improve the resilience of social systems and governance. It will result in asserting more sustainable link with communities and create opportunities for more meaningful participation.
Human capital (e.g. education, skills, etc.) and cultural capital (e.g. social relationships and customs) are not fully included within social capital as distinctions exist and ask to be treated separately. Preserving cultural capital and diversity remains a crucial asset for Cities. Through cultural sustainability WSC intends to assert parallels between the respective role of biodiversity and cultural diversity in protecting the resilience of ecological and social systems and the interlinkages between them.
The WSC is focused on four dimensions of sustainability; economy, environment, society and culture. Culture is considered to be of equal importance to the other three traditional “pillars” of sustainability, for globalization, like urbanization, brings challenges that could erode cities’ ability to contribute innovations that spring from their unique geographic setting, cultural identity and history.
UPC in Partnership with ADCED to Present “CitySense” Urban Indicators...