Sustainable Urban Futures

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  • Cities and urban spaces are key elements for achieving sustainable development at the local, regional, and global levels. As populations become more concentrated in the world’s cities, the future growth of urban centres becomes a particular concern for planners and policymakers in both the developed and developing world. However, contemporary patterns of urban growth do not conform to previous experiences or expectations. Large cities in the developing world have been attracting millions of people, many of them living in sprawling slums without the most basic necessities like housing and sanitation. They figure among the most vulnerable to natural disasters. The urbanization process also stresses the environmental resources within and beyond a city’s boundaries. This UNU Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) programme will address the following questions: How and where will the cities grow? What drives their growth? What impacts will they have on the environment? How best to manage them?

    Twinning

    The Sustainable Urban Futures Programme has no official twinning partners, but it holds partnerships with universities in China, India, Indonesia and Brazil.

    Focal Point

    Jose Puppim de Oliveira, UNU Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) Assistant Director and Programme Head, will be the focal point and lead the Sustainable Urban Futures Programme.

    Purpose

    The programme seeks to understand the causes, consequences and solutions of urban environmental problems, particularly those of global concern, such as climate change and biodiversity loss. We are particularly interested in examining how and why successful actions can emerge to tackle urban environmental problems in developing countries.

    Approach

    The programme will study some of the largest cities in the developing world using qualitative and quantitative methods to understand the institutional and organizational mechanisms cities use to address new and emerging environmental problems. The programme will try to establish relationships with local academic and governmental institutions to encourage these to participate in the research.

    Gender

    The programme will seek the participation of several women researchers to take the lead in case studies. The participation of women and women’s groups in the solution of environmental urban problems will be an aspect addressed by the research.

    Target Audience

    The audience will be researchers, activists and policymakers in local, national and international organizations dealing with urban issues. UN officials working in related areas will also be one of the targeted audiences.

    Intended Impact

    Impact: Rethink/revisit existing theories/policies
    Target: The research aims to influence researchers, activists and policymakers in local, national and international organizations dealing with urban issues.
    How: The programme will revisit urban theories and policies in the face of new and old environmental problems and rapid urbanization processes. This will help the target groups to rethink the way urban policies are designed and applied.

    Research Findings

    The programme embraces a core project called the Urban Development with Co-Benefits Approach, which identifies the problems and potentials for aligning climate policies to urban and local environmental policies in five countries: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and Japan. The research will focus on co-benefits of greenhouse gas emission reduction by reducing local pollutants and vice versa. The team will develop empirical research as background information to developing evaluation tools to measure effectiveness of co-benefits. The team will also prepare the research framework to understand the innovative capacity of cities to adopt co-benefits approach, which will be studied in 2012-13.

    The research on cities and biodiversity has identified policy relationships between cities, local governance and biodiversity. Initially, the programme looked at the major influences cities have on biodiversity loss or conservation within and outside the city boundaries, as well as the benefits of biodiversity conservation to cities, such as the provision of ecosystem services, and then moved to understand the main urban processes and governance mechanisms that can be improved to make cities effective to implement the directives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

    Policy Bridging

    The Sustainable Urban Futures Programme links with local and national actors that influence urban, environmental and climate policies, with local partners acting as contact points in different countries. The Sustainable Urban Futures Programme will start linking to international partners in the same research areas, such as UN-HABITAT and ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability).

    For the Urban Development with Co-Benefits Approach project, the programme intends to address a comprehensive approach to the multiple, often competing, policy environments in which urban management takes place, thus proposing a cross-sectoral interdisciplinary investigation of urban environmental management in developing countries, focusing on opportunities for co-benefits. The objective of the research is first to understand the barriers that hinder an integrated approach to management at the different levels, and to look beyond particular projects. The project aims to combine thematic interdisciplinary institutional analyses using a case study-based methodology to identify where, how and why policies related to co-benefits have succeeded.

    The research project on cities and biodiversity disseminates the results through the Global Network on Cities and Biodiversity, of which UNU-IAS is a part. The programme also has close links to ICLEI-LAB (Local Action for Biodiversity) and CBD.

    Value Added

    The research will bring new insights in environmental and urban issues, particularly in developing countries. This will help the UN system, member states and international and local organizations to engage in more effective and sustainable urban policies.

    Dissemination

    The programme will disseminate its research findings through publications (e.g., books, reports and working paper series), media releases, website, meetings with the community of academics and practitioners in the area (including UN staff) and possibly training workshops.

    Timeline/Programme Cycle

    The programme started in the beginning of 2010, and the projects were in full implementation by mid-2012, with results for Rio+20.

    Evaluation

    The programme will have internal and external evaluation committees to assess its results. An internal evaluation will be carried out every year and an external evaluation every two years. The external committee will be composed of some of the best academic people in the area available in Japan and/or abroad.

    Challenges

    The programme has only recently begun and needs funding to reach its projected scale. UNU-IAS management is talking to the Ministry of the Environment of Japan to secure greater funding to develop the programme in the Asia region.

    Expected Duration

    Program Start: 31 December 2013

  • Activities within the programme will involve cooperation between the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies and five partners:

    • UNU International Institute for Global Health
    • UNU Institute for Natural Resources in Africa
    • UNU World Institute for Development Economics Research
    • Convention on Biological Diversity
    • United Nations Environmental Programme
  • Title: Barriers to Environmental Management in Clusters of Small Enterprises: Case Study in Japan, Kanazawa, Cluster of Traditional Products
    Author(s): Puppim de Oliveira, José Antonio with Jabbour, C. J. C.
    Publication/Output Type: Article (submitted, under review)

    Title: Can Success in Commercialization of Non-timber Forest Products (NTFPs) be Translated into Success in Forest Conservation?
    Author(s): Puppim de Oliveira, Jose A.
    Publication/Output Type: Journal article (in preparation, to be submitted)
    Available at: Environmental Management

    Title: Challenges and Opportunities towards Achieving Environmental Co-benefits through Land Use Planning and Management: Experiences from Asian Metropolitan Cities
    Author(s): Shima, N., Balaban, O., and Moreno-Peñaranda, R.
    Publication/Output Type: Conference paper for 11th International Congress of Asian Planning Schools Association (APSA), University of Tokyo Hongo Campus, Tokyo, Japan, 19-22 September 2011

    Title: Cleaner Technology and Sustainable Development in Brazil: Contribution of CDM
    Author(s): Puppim de Oliveira, José Antonio, Andrade, C. and Nascimento, L. F.
    Publication/Output Type: Journal article (submitted, under review)
    Available at: Business and Society

    Title: Design and Evaluation of Co-benefit Approach to Climate Change in Energy Sector in City Scale
    Author(s): Jupesta, J., Suwa, A., Castillo, A.
    Publication/Output Type: Conference paper for 11th International Congress of Asian Planning Schools Association (APSA), University of Tokyo Hongo Campus, Tokyo, Japan, 19-22 September 2011

    Title: Differences in Environmental and Development Perceptions: The Case of the Eucalyptus in the Pulp Industry
    Author(s): Puppim de Oliveira, José Antonio
    Publication/Output Type: Journal article (under revision, to be submitted)
    Available at: Society and Natural Resources

    Title: Ecosystem Services and Human Well-being Impacts of Palm Oil Expansion in Indonesia and Malaysia
    Author(s): Moreno-Peñaranda, R., Gasparatos, A., Puppim de Oliveira, J., Suwa, A., Stromberg, P.
    Publication/Output Type: Book chapter
    Available at: Takeuchi, K., ed. Biofuels for Sustainable Development

    Title: Global Carbon Markets and Local Realities: The Developmental Effects of Clean Development Mechanism in Brazil
    Author(s): Puppim de Oliveira, José Antonio; Andrade, C. and Nascimento, L. F.
    Publication/Output Type: Journal article (in preparation, to be submitted)
    Available at: World Development

    Title: How to Increase the Contribution of Urban Regeneration to Climate-friendly Urban Development: Lessons from Two Case Studies in Japan
    Author(s): Puppim de Oliveira, José Antonio; with Balaban, Osman
    Publication/Output Type: Journal article (submitted, under review)
    Available at: Urban Studies

    Title: Managing the Transition to Sustainability in an Emerging Economy: Evaluating Green Growth Policies in Indonesia
    Author(s): Jupesta, Joni; Boer, Rizaldi; Parayil, Govindan; Harayama, Yuko; Yarime, Masaru; Puppim de Oliveira, Jose A.; Subramanian, Suneetha M.
    Publication/Output Type: Journal article
    Available at: Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions
    Publisher: Elsevier

    Title: Measuring Socio-Ecological Sustainability of Palm Oil: From a Global Multi-Stakeholder Perspective to Local Community Perceptions
    Author(s): Moreno-Peñaranda, R., Gasparatos, A., Stromberg, P., Suwa, A.
    Publication/Output Type: (in preparation)

    Title: The Decoupling of the Implementation Networks: Lessons from Five Regimes
    Author(s): Puppim de Oliveira, Jose A.
    Publication/Output Type: Book chapter
    Available at: Kanie, N., Haas, P.M. and Andersen, S., eds. Best and Worst Practices for Improving International Climate Change Governance
    Publisher: MIT Press
    Date Published: 2012

  • United Nations University
    Institute of Advanced Studies
    6F, International Organizations Center, Pacifico Yokohama
    1-1-1 Minato Mirai
    Nishi-ku, Yokohama
    Japan 220-8502