New ISO standard for urban resilience in development

There’s no stemming the tide, so city leaders need to build resilience in order to cope. Work on a new International Standard for urban resilience, led by the United Nations, has just kicked off, aiming to help local governments build safer and more sustainable urban environments.

The development of the standard is being led by UN-Habitat, the United Nations programme for human settlements

City living is where it’s at. The top 600 cities in the world house 20 % of the global population but produce 60 % of the world’s GDP, and the numbers are growing. It is estimated that, by 2050, 68 % of us will be living in cities), increasing the scale of impact when disasters strike. Which they will. In 2018, for example, more than 17 million were displaced by sudden-onset disasters such as floods).

Work has now started on a new ISO standard for urban resilience, aimed at supporting national and local governments build their capacity to face the new challenges arising from climate change and shifting demographics. It will define a framework for urban resilience, clarify the principles and concepts, and help users to identify, implement and monitor appropriate actions to make their cities more resilient.

Read entire post New ISO standard for urban resilience in development | Clare Naden |

Urban resilience: Why should we pay more attention?

Think cities — how they form, prosper, interconnect, and yield exponential gains on all fronts. There are numerous reasons why cities are created — colonial ambitions; sea-connectivity; part of ancient routes of trades, including slavery; centre for learning; economic growth; sites of administrative and cultural centres; and religious importance. Thus, there are reasons galore why cities are formed but very few on why they disappear at the drop of a hat.

However, climatic events can cause catastrophe to cities that can render them grounded in minutes

Change in the structure of national and local economy, poor infrastructure, rising pollution levels and lack of physical safety leads to decline of cities at a glacial pace. However, climatic events can cause catastrophe to cities that can render them grounded in minutes. The floods of Mumbai and Chennai, Nepal Earthquake, Uttarakhand floods are few such instances where our cities, many hundreds of years old, became paralysed and inhospitable. Cities are at real risks.

By one estimate, every year, around 46 million people in cities are at risk from flooding from storm surges in the East Asia region alone. Many coastal cities, particularly in Asia, are staring at the risk of submersion due to rising sea levels. More than 1,000 people died and 45 million people suffered losses in terms of loss of livelihood, homes, and services in 2017 when severe floods hit south-east Asian cities, including Dhaka, Mumbai and Chennai

Read entire post Urban resilience: Why should we pay more attention? | DEVASHISH DHAR | OrfOnline

Change at 100 Resilient Cities program won’t affect city’s equity efforts, official says

“There might eventually be fewer networking opportunities with 100 Resilient Cities and fewer opportunities to consult with 100 Resilient Cities staff, but the impact will be negligible now that the city has our own strategy and staff integrated into city operations,” said Michelle Brooks, spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office.

The 100 Resilient Cities program was established in 2013 to provide financial and technical assistance to help cities implement strategies to tackle the social, economic and physical challenges of the 21st century.

Tulsa was selected to be part of the 100 Resilient Cities program in 2014. In early 2016, former Mayor Dewey Bartlett hired a chief resilience officer to focus on disaster management. After taking office in December 2016, Mayor G.T Bynum shifted the focus of the program to racial disparities and equity, and hired DeVon Douglass to be the city’s chief resilience officer.

Read entire post Change at 100 Resilient Cities program won’t affect city’s equity efforts, official says | Kevin Canfield | Tusla World

Rockefeller’s climate resilience program said to be in jeopardy

The Rockefeller Foundation intends to disband its 100 Resilient Cities initiative, the largest privately funded climate-adaptation program in the U.S., according to people familiar with the foundation’s plans who asked to be anonymous because they weren’t authorized to discuss the move.

The program was started by Rockefeller in 2013 to help U.S. cities — including Boston, Miami, New York and Los Angeles — as well as cities overseas prepare for threats related to climate change. Rockefeller pis said to plans to close the organization’s offices and dismiss its staff of almost 100 as soon as this summer.

The Rockefeller Foundation didn’t respond to requests for comment. Neither did 100 Resilient Cities, which operates as a separate entity.

Read entire post Rockefeller’s climate resilience program said to be in jeopardy | Christopher Flavelle | Bloomberg

Smart cities hold the key to sustainable development

Asia and the Pacific’s phenomenal development has been a story of rapid urbanization. As centres of innovation, entrepreneurship and opportunity, cities have drawn talent from across our region and driven economic growth which has transformed our societies. In southeast Asia alone, cities generate 65 % of the region’s GDP. Yet the ongoing scale of urbanization is a considerable challenge, one which puts huge pressure on essential public services, housing availability and the environment.

How we respond to this pressure is likely to decide whether recent development gains can be made sustainable.

How we respond to this pressure, how we manage our urban centres and plan for their future expansion in Asia and the Pacific, is likely to decide whether recent development gains can be made sustainable.

It is of primordial importance to Malaysia as its economy powers towards high income status. In ASEAN countries, 90 million more persons are expected to move to cities by 2030. Accommodating this influx sustainably will determine whether the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can be achieved, and the climate targets of the Paris Climate Agreement can be met.

Good resilience planning involves more than building barriers

This year’s theme for UN World Cities Day – building sustainable and resilient cities – holds enormous potential for urban areas across the globe. Visceral reminders of our generation’s greatest challenge are becoming more and more frequent; Hurricane Michael earlier this month being the most recent example.

Recent climate studies indicate we may soon hit a dire tipping point in global warming, with far-reaching implications for our communities.

The concept of urban resilience is gaining in popularity, though the hard work still lies ahead. Funding models are varied in their scope and projected outcomes, best practices are emerging and evolving, and measurable results are still being determined. Coordination on how to prepare communities for the next storm or shock will be key.

Whereas the conventional appeal is for higher walls, thicker concrete, and bigger barriers, it is essential to question the de facto response of creating an impenetrable line of defense. A resilience approach instead seeks to address the underlying challenges, designing systems that allow quick recovery back to normalcy following a shock – whether that’s a swift restoration of utility services or getting an assembly line back online.

> Read entire article Good Resilience Planning Involves More Than Building Barriers – It’s About Making Connections | John Malueg and Gary Sorge | 100 Resilient Cities

Writing the future on World Cities Day

“Building Sustainable and Resilient Cities” was the theme of this year’s United Nations World Cities Day, and ISO standards are proving to be essential tools to do exactly that.

How do you enhance a city’s attractiveness, and preserve its environmental, social and cultural assets, when faced with a growing population?

ISO 37101 is part of a suite of standards dedicated to future-proofing cities and making them sustainable and resilientSince becoming the first community in Europe to be certified to ISO International Standard ISO 37101, Sustainable development in communities – Management system for sustainable development – Requirements with guidance for use, Sappada in Italy now benefits from better managed local complexities, new initiatives for education and environmental protection, new ways of promoting their area and a system to measure and monitor sustainability performance – all the while increasing community engagement.

ISO 37101 is part of a suite of standards dedicated to future-proofing cities and making them sustainable and resilient, thus contributing to the goal of this year’s World Cities Day and United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11 for sustainable cities and communities.

> Read entire article Writing the future on World Cities Day | Katie Bird |

Slum tourism, ethics and local economic development

The importance of urban tourism as an economic activity has strongly risen in recent years. Not only have urban tourist numbers increased, but tourists also increasingly venture out in new parts of cities.

This ‘off the beaten track’ tourism offers opportunities for local economic development, particularly in economically impoverished areas. However, it can also cause disturbance and create conflicts between different groups of residents, visitors and industry actors.

The Global Urban Lectures are 15-minute lectures on themes related to sustainable urbanisation, delivered by renowned experts, UN-Habitat partners and UN-Habitat staff. The lectures have been ranked among the best MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) on cities.

Why Smart Cities are a golden opportunity for entrepreneurs

What makes a smart city “smart”? It’s a question that many entrepreneurs, enterprise executives and civic leaders are asking themselves today, but the answer can take many forms.

As an entrepreneur, I often think about “smart cities” in the context of disruption by entrepreneurs re-shaping the way cities function. With grassroots IoT incubators popping up here in the U.S. to first generation smart hubs like Singapore across the globe, smart cities offer entrepreneurs opportunities to meet needs that didn’t exist pre-2014.

Related: Solving the Smart City Puzzle

How are entrepreneurs actually fueling the creation of smart cities today? Let’s take a look at three important components of smart cities and the people powering them.

> Read entire article Why Smart Cities are a golden opportunity for entrepreneurs | John Wechsler | Chron

Raising the bar on sustainable consumption

Companies are in the business of selling products and consumers of those products want the best possible value for money, but this puts a strain on already depleted natural resources and supply chain transparency.

How does ISO 20400 help change the way we produce and consume goods and resources, and pave the way to meeting sustainable consumption? The world is in bad need of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the United Nations (UN) blueprint for a more prosperous and resilient world. There can be few among us who are not aware of the sometimes immeasurable and potentially catastrophic damage to the environment caused by carbon dioxide emissions, pollution from coal-fired power stations, the plastic waste clogging our oceans and killing marine animals, deforestation, the melting Arctic ice, climate change, urbanization – the list goes on.

These problems are economic as well as environmental and pose a huge threat to our future well-being. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2018, despite an improved economic background, with recent signs of “encouraging” global growth, there is no room for complacency. The report raises concerns in particular about the economic impact of the new technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the lack of progress in protecting the environment.

> Read entire article Raising the bar on sustainable consumption | Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis |

Smart Cities and a Sustainable Future

One of these latest “hot terms” is Smart Cities but what exactly is a Smart City and how can a Smart City deliver a sustainable future?

Firstly, it is worth saying that sustainability can mean many things but in general the aim is to ensure that going forward into the future people can lead a healthy, prosperous life without damaging the environment and compromising resources and opportunities for future generations. The United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals give a good view into the wide spectrum of issues that sustainability can cover.

The following numbers from the UN give some ideas of the challenges ahead:
  • 50% of today’s world population lives in urban areas (3.5 Billion), and by 2030, 60% of the population is projected to be urban;
  • 60% in 2030 will be much greater than 60% today;
  • By 2050, 75% of the world’s population will live in cities;
  • 1 in 8 currently live in one of the world’s 28 “Mega Cities”;
  • By 2050 it is predicted that 64% of the developing world and 86% of the developed world will be “urbanized”;
  • 95% of Urban Growth by 2050 is expected to take place in developing countries;
  • Cities account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions;
  • 75% of urban settlements are at risk from climate change impacts.

The challenges associated with these numbers include a greater demand for resources like water and energy, increased demand on services such as healthcare and education and an increasing pollution and impact on biodiversity. Equally increased demand on housing can lead to rises in crime and social problems. From an energy perspective, it is worth considering that cities take up 2% of Earth’s land surface but account for 80% energy use and 75% carbon emissions (UN 2014).

‘‘An urban ecosystem that uses information and data to anticipate problems and better utilize resources across multiple disciplines.’’ And the applications of data and analytics across the domains of an urban setting led to the term “Smart Cities”.

The idea of a Smart City is of one that tackles these real problems head-on in creative ways, not just by using technology but through new approaches, ideas and citizen engagement. It is quintessential to take a holistic approach when dealing with complex problems. A definition that further captures the dynamics of a Smart City development is the one adopted by the New Urban Informatics, a specialist in Smart City development.


The simplest way to grasp the concept of sustainability in the context of a city is to overview two examples:

1. Stockholm Carbon Reduction Strategy – Congestion Charging

Whilst the concept of congestion charging is politically controversial, Stockholm demonstrated how such an approach can actually lead to improvements in air quality and a drop in airborne pollutants. The aim of the project was designed to reduce congestion, emissions and improve health and well-being. One of the major points about this plan was the fact that it was established via a political consensus. Ensuring citizen support and engagement for any smart city initiative is imperative for success. There are many cases where solutions implemented top-down by the government have been treated with suspicion or not even utilised due to a lack of awareness, and conformity.

The solution included the implementation of the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to track vehicles traveling in and out of the designated central zone. Policies were adjusted to charge users based on vehicle type and exemptions for “green cars.” This also stimulated the market for electric and hybrid vehicles. Since the implementation of the ANPR, Stockholm has experienced a 10-14% drop in the airborne pollutants and an 8.5% reduction for (NOx).

2. London Heygate Estate Redevelopment (Elephant Park)

The Heygate Estate in London was a well-known residential area due for re-development. In this case, the major project to regenerate a housing estate had sustainability at its heart with clear sustainable construction principles. The project included ensuring that all construction was formed from energy efficient materials, and the solar energy was utilized for power generation with LED efficient lighting. It also incorporated the development of green spaces with 283 new trees and communal “grow gardens” to encourage community building and provide access to fresh local food markets.

The project was recognized by C40 cities as a climate positive development with the aim to be climate positive for 2020, meaning that the redevelopment will be carbon neutral by 2020.

The Heygate Estate in London was a well-known residential area due for re-development. In this case, the major project to regenerate a housing estate had sustainability at its heart with clear sustainable construction principles.
Potential Opportunities

The two examples above give a view of a smart city approach to sustainability but there are many others driven either by city authorities or governments, or citizens themselves. Ideas include:

  • Smarter public transportation and mass transit solutions;
  • Provision of alternative vehicle technology to reduce or eliminate emissions;
  • Use of sensor technology to measure real-world emissions allowing policy actions to be taken on factual data. This approach gives rise to the potential positive use of blockchain technology to accurately capture and measure such data and provide rewards for positive behavior e.g. Solar Coin;
  • Improved urban planning and public policy ideas to move living and workspace closer together, while reducing movements as well as improving green spaces to provide more carbon sinks. The development of urban agriculture such as vertical farming reducing the need for intensive farming and high food miles;
  • Improved water management means more supply of potable water, less energy spent on production, less pollution, and damaging climate impacts. Additionally, better quality of water means less diseases (A significant percentage of all human diseases is connected to water);
  • Improving reuse policies (and by extension recycling) results in less landfill and consequently a reduction in Methane and other greenhouse gas emissions. Equally this policy leads to more reclaiming on basic raw materials (glass, metals) resulting in less energy being spent on extraction/mining.

So, a Smart City is not simply a technology, its an approach aided by technology to tackling some of the major issues in cities, towns and municipalities which when adopted in the right way can increase efficiency, citizen engagement and quality of life and can help us directly tackle major challenges such as climate change and air pollution head-on.

Plague 101 | National Geographic

What is plague? How many people died from the Black Death and the other plague pandemics? Learn about the bacterium behind the plague disease, how factors like trade and urbanization caused it to spread to every continent except Antarctica, and how three devastating pandemics helped shape modern medicine.