Edited by Michael Lindfield and Florian Steinberg
Smart Concepts for Greener Cities
Enabling Green Cities The greening of cities will be a complex, fragmented, and multisector process. Among the constraints and barriers will be fragmented governance, issues of affordability, and consumer preferences, all of which can lead to lack of investment and risk aversion. Vested business interests in conventional technologies and irrational behavioral patterns will also affect the cost of switching to new green technologies and green lifestyles. Advocates of green city development on the government, nongovernment, and business sides are increasingly joining hands as the rationale for green technologies, energy savings, and a sustainable urban future become evident. The strategic Plan Sydney 2030 (“a green, global, and connected city”) is oriented to making Sydney a low-carbon city, as Australia’s contribution to fight climate change and global warming (City of Sydney; Siegel 2011). Similarly, Freiburg in Germany, which labels itself as a green city, has become one of the biggest pioneers in “passive energy” solar-based architecture and is home to the German solar panel industry. For coalitions and advocacy to work, practical approaches with mass appeal are needed, which can be funded through user contributions or private sector investment. On the planning and regulatory side, it will require basic ground rules, such as urban growth boundaries, land-use regulations, density regulations, encouragement of density through rewards and bonuses, establishment of entities with special planning and implementation powers, traffic and vehicular control, parking standards, car-fee developments, and emission controls (UNEP 2011, 477). This can go together with public awareness and information campaigns that monitor environmental performance, the carbon budget of a city, and its environmental quality. But the most clearly and well understood measures are incentives or financing instruments. Incentives and disincentives include (i) fuel taxes that internalize the external costs of vehicle use and provide the financial capacity to invest in green development; (ii) reduction of perverse subsidies such as fuel subsidies, which support long-distance commuting; (iii) tax incentives for investments in energy-saving home technologies and retrofitting of buildings; (iv) road user charges in city centers and peak hours; (v) parking charges for on- and off-street parking; and (vi) limitations on the number of car license plates and auctioning of new ones. Financing tools for green city developments include (i) value-captureafter-public-transport investments to finance transport investments through land-related taxes; (ii) cost recovery of green infrastructure services; (iii) encouragement of private sector participation through innovative public–private partnership projects; (iv) pooled purchases of technology to bring down individual costs of investment; and (v) carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism for green investments by cities or the private sector.
Lifestyle Changes Behavioral changes by all urban citizens will be vital (McDilda 2008), but this does not suggest a need to reduce the quality of life. There is merely a need to adjust to new environmental realities, such as how we use water and energy, how we insulate homes and work spaces, how we travel, what goods we buy, and how we process and recycle our wastes. Green is the new way of living; sustainable solutions are the new goal (Von Weizsäcker et al. 2009). Many private sector corporations and industries that are ready to go green have started to market green as a fashionable and necessary style of life and consumption. Politicians are also joining this trend. European companies have set their eyes on exporting green solutions to emerging markets, and see this as a new export opportunity to the PRC, India, and South America. In turn, even the PRC is banking on development of environment-friendly, green, industrial products. Going green is not only a matter of following and implementing new environmental legislation. Achieving a green lifestyle and green economy will also create new forms of wealth. Urban planners and designers will take this into account. Our future cities will need to become carbon-free, with carbon-negative buildings. New technologies will help, and new social patterns of green city life will complement these developments (Battle 2009). With the speed of developments in turbulent times, however, it appears as if we are crossing a watershed, not being aware of it.