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Urbanization Notes Video
Urbanization, Energy Access and Justice: A Comparative Perspective

Dr. Vanesa Castan Broto presents a keynote on “Urbanization, Energy Access and Justice: A Comparative Perspective” at the Conference on “Governance for Sustainable Energy Transitions: The perspectives of the Asian Region” at Hong Kong Baptist University on 17 July 2017.

The Sustainable Development Goal 7, achieving affordable and clean energy, follows the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative and the declaration of the decade 2014 2024 as the decade of Sustainable Energy for All. The challenge, however, is massive. Figures published alongside the Sustainable Development Goals suggest that one in five people still lack access to modern electricity and three billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating. The challenges of energy access are paired with those of decarbonisation, because of the tradeoffs between providing energy access and reducing global carbon emissions. Carbon footprints of people who lack energy access are so small that considering reducing them, rather than providing affordable access, is immoral. Yet, the debate draws attention to the dangers of using energy access arguments to justify the exploitation of fossil fuel resources even in contexts where they do not provide direct energy access to those who need it. In this talk, I will argue for increased attention to energy access in urban areas, opening up the opportunities for experimentation and radical transformations that emerge from the confluence of people, resources, ideas, and from the spaces created by urban planning. This argument challenges misconceptions about how energy access happens and the notions commonly associated with energy access provision, such as energy needs, stakeholder engagement and energy planning, exposing their complex and multi-dimensional nature.

Dr. Castán Broto has been Senior Lecturer at the Development Planning Unit since 2011 and is one of the course directors on the Masters Course on Environment and Sustainable Development. Her current research focuses on possibilities to enhance the wellbeing of urban citizens through planning interventions and environmental management. She is the principal investigator of the project ‘Mapping Urban Energy Landscapes’ (MUEL), which seeks to understand the relationship between energy use, access to services and spatial transformations. She was also the principal investigator of the project ‘Partnerships for Climate Compatible Development in Maputo, Mozambique’ (4PCCD) which developed participatory planning methods through which communities can establish their priorities to develop resilient neighbourhoods. Vanesa has a doctorate from the University of Surrey (Environmental Strategy) and MSc degrees from Wageningen University (Environmental Sociology) and Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (Engineering).

Source: Youtube

What is Pseudo-urbanization

Pseudo-urbanization is a state when a city is unable to contain its populace in terms of providing livelihood, housing and infrastructure. Pseudo-urbanization means that the process of urbanization is not in tune with either industrialization of modernization.

Source: Youtube

This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.

What the New Urban Agenda tells us about building inclusive cities

Over a billion people—about 15% of the world’s population—have disabilities. Almost 80% of them live in the developing world, which is undergoing rapid urbanization.

While urbanization brings people closer to new economic and sociocultural opportunities, persons with disabilities still face a range of constraints in many cities, such as inaccessible buildings and public spaces, limited transportation options, inaccessible housing, and barriers in using technology-enabled virtual environments.

These urban constraints have a significant impact on those living with disabilities in terms of mobility, ability to engage in education and skills development, employability and income generation, and larger social and political participation.

Therefore, urban development must acknowledge and plan for the needs of a diverse population which includes persons with disabilities. And there is no better time than now to make that happen. 

The New Urban Agenda for inclusive, livable cities

The “New Urban Agenda” adopted at the Habitat III conference this October offers an unprecedented opportunityfor countries to work toward universal access to city spaces and infrastructure for persons with disabilities and older persons. This builds on the moral and legal imperative for accessibility through the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities—which is celebrating its 10th anniversary—as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Targets under Goal 11 specifically reference affordable housing, accessible transport systems, disaster resilient infrastructure, and universal access to green and public spaces.

Entry points for inclusive urban growth

How can we build inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable cities without leaving behind persons with disabilities? The New Urban Agenda and the SDGs point out several actions to start with:

  • Improving building codes and regulations: Designing universally accessible buildings has proven to be significantly more cost efficientthan retrofitting ones that are not. That’s why urban design and planning should incorporate accessibility into building codes and standards, and universal design and accessibility should be factored into the design phase of any urban development project. In addition, social assessments—including risk analysis, social impacts, and social sustainability—also need to include current gaps and barriers for persons with disabilities across sectors. Launched by GFDRR, the Building Regulation for Resilience initiative seeks to create an enabling environment for accessibility measures, and promotes the idea that building codes and standards must be developed and updated through inclusive, transparent, participatory, and resource efficient. 

  • Building the capacity of policymakers, civil society, and other stakeholders: Capacity development—including providing knowledge and tools—is an important part of implementing the New Urban Agenda. In terms of accessibility, capacity building must target (i) local and national policymakers on understanding and implementing disability-inclusive development, and (ii) persons with disabilities, Disabled Persons’ Organizations (DPOs), and civil society so that they can become effective and informed partners in engaging in consultations with policymakers. Moreover, inclusive development recognizes diversity and aims at involving everybody into the development process. It is crucial to raise awareness and build capacity of architects, designers, engineers, and product developers by integrating universal design and accessibility into degree, diploma, and certification programs.

  • Using information and communication technology (ICT) as an enabler: Technology innovations and ICT-enabled services are playing an instrumental role in shaping urban spaces and urban living. “Smart cities” use digital technologies to deliver improved and efficient public services, use interconnected mobile devices for improved information gathering, and improve relationships between governments and their citizens through new mechanisms for feedback, grievances, and interactions. Accessible digital technologies radically transform how persons with disabilities can communicate and manage information. Adopting accessibility design standards into digital technologies can break barriers to socioeconomic participation, financial inclusion, access to e-governance, disaster management services, civic participation, and community engagement for persons with disabilities. 

  • Respecting cultural diversity and promoting participatory design: Sustainable, universal urban design is local-environment specific, and should be responsive to cultural norms and sensitivities. Local community users—including the disabled and older community members—should be involved in consultations, planning, inspections, and monitoring. Developing sensitivity for the need and benefits of inclusion and generating a sense of ownership on inclusive design will also promote a culture of compliance rather than sole reliance on enforcement mechanisms. While top-down policy reforms, codes, and regulations are essential, cultivating bottom-up participatory processes to realize accessible urban development is key to converting policy into real change.


Why Cities Are Where They Are in the World

Have you ever wondered why the world’s largest cities sprout up where they sprout up? It has a lot to do with water, natural resources, history, and being in the northern hemisphere.

Wendover Productions took a really hard look at why cities are whey they are in the video below and it’s completely fascinating. Some of the reasons are pretty obvious: Being close to water helps because the ocean is what connects the world, and without access to drinkable water cities would die of thirst. Being near natural resources obviously helps, too, since living near the stuff you need just makes sense.

But what’s most interesting is probably how most of the big cities in the world are located in the northern hemisphere, and that’s because many of history’s largest empires were located in Europe and Asia. And many of history’s largest empires were located in Europe and Asia because the shape of both Europe and Asia is wider than it is tall. And being a wider continent means there’s a lot of land that’s roughly on the same latitude which means roughly the same climate, which means plants and animals that were successful on one part of the continent can probably be successfully raised in another part of the continent (or even a new continent along the same latitude like say, North America), which means towns and colonies can support more people, which means they can eventually become the biggest cities in the world.


This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.


Why cities should plant more trees

Over 3 million people die annually from air pollution. Planting trees can help lower that number. Trees help improve public health by cleaning and cooling the air around them. As the threat of climate change steadily increases, planting trees is a fairly simple way city leaders can help stem the negative consequences of rising temperatures and increasing population density.


World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments at Habitat III

On 16th October 2016, on the eve of Habitat III over a thousand mayors and locally elected leaders gathered for the World Assembly of Local and Regional Governments.

Source: Youtube