Six Steps towards a ‘One Planet’ City
This is a summary extract from the book One Planet Cities. For explanation and detail please read the book.
Below is just one suggested blueprint for how a community from a neighbourhood up to a megacity or nation in size may decide and set a pathway to One Planet status. These ‘One Planeteers’ would take on responsibility for making a better world. They could choose to guarantee their town’s security and resilience into the future, and that it would pay back the debt to nature that civilisation has built up over the last few decades. Here it is, in summary form, followed by some simple suggestions for individual topics.
The basic One Planet requirements
- That to aim towards living within planetary limits should become an underlying principle of all planning and official policy as de facto the only objectively-verifiable regenerative strategy
- That the same set of social and environmental criteria should be used to assess all planning applications and procurements
- That these criteria should be informed by appropriate indicators including lifecycle and ecological footprint analysis, to enable all potential and actual projects to be compared and evaluated for their impacts
- Official policy should support all areas and sectors to use One Planet principles and methods to become more productive and more biodiverse – regenerative
- Reduction of excessive consumption should be the next social revolution: this entails doing more with less, and believing that meeting basic needs is sufficient for everybody.
The six-step path towards One Planet cities and communities
- Obtain community buy-in and feedback at all levels
Hold a series of public meetings and online and off-line consultations to explain the context and aims in order to obtain feedback and community buy-in. This might take a year.
- Decide which standards and objectives to us
These will include a methodology and accounting system and be applicable to all sectors such as soils, biodiversity, water, energy, buildings, transport, well-being, etc. They must include ecological footprinting.
- Set baseline – the current situation
Use data and surveys to ascertain the starting point from which goals will be set: On the supply side, the productivity of its ecological assets (greenspace and water bodies). On the demand side, the ecological assets/resources required to produce the natural resources and services it consumes.
- Set targets for each sector over realistic timescale
A system similar to that applied by the UK Climate Change Commission could be adopted., along with a version of NPV+ to test the results of different scenarios. A set of five year plans may result, each with a budget and a set of targets. The overall target could be, say, 40 or 50 years away, to meet everybody’s basic needs within planetary limits. Each short-term target will be a step closer to the overall one. Each sector (biocapacity, water, energy, buildings, transport, industry, etc.) will have its own schedule.
- Set in place ways to measure them
This should be based on what data is easy and cost-effective to gather, and relate to the baseline situation, chosen metrics and sector targets. The data should be transparent and publicly available. Everybody should be able to view the progress being made.
- Ratchet down consumption over one or two generations.
Each five-year plan will have its own evaluation period to check that all expected benefits are resulting, to share experiences, to accommodate criticisms, to potentially revise plans, and to celebrate successes.
Planning conditions, procurement policies, and all governance procedures should adopt the following principles and approaches:
Working with people
- Respect and include all views and all citizens
- Public bodies to use the Five Ways of Working
- Recognise and award or celebrate achievers in all areas and sectors
- Actively solicit ideas and solutions
- Foster virtuous feedback loops.
Bringing nature back
- Planning conditions to specify net gains in biodiversity for all development
- Regenerative cities (green walls, roofs and other infrastructure)
- Parks: lots of biodiversity
- Trees and bushes: plant more, preserve what you have, make them all productive – nuts and fruit
- Indoor, vertical, rooftop, food growing, incl. mushrooms, aquaculture
- Vertical farms: can be all scales from large warehouses to inside homes, shops and cafes, and can include aquaculture and poultry
- Allotments, community gardens, therapeutic gardens
- ‘Incredible edible’ plants at every opportunity
- Plenty of opportunity for a land-based jobs and jobs in food-processing
- Procurement along supply chains to include conditions to yield net gains in biodiversity.
Low-tech, cost-effective infrastructure and development
- Life cycle analysis to reduce overall demand and cost to the natural world
- Make developments human scale
- Deploy low-impact and natural materials that sequester carbon where possible
- Keep it simple: eco-minimalism – do more with less
- Keep it local: support the local economy by procuring locally
- Plan for easy maintenance and end-of-life removal and recycling
- Design out the possibility of less sustainable behaviour.
- Conserve water use
- Reuse water
- Prevent water pollution
- Rainwater collection from roofs
- Replenish underground aquifers.
- Energy efficiency, reducing demand and need
- Passive design new buildings; older buildings deep retrofitted for energy efficiency
- Decarbonise travel
- 100 per cent renewable energy supplies
- Supply (local): heating, cooling, electricity
- Investigate feasibility of district heat mains
- Distributed generation; 4th generation solar will be almost invisible, often building integrated
- Some wind turbines
- Combined heat and power
- Anaerobic digestion for biogas and compost
- Heating: geothermal, ground and water source heat pumps, solar thermal, passive solar, biogas;
- Interseasonal storage
- Demand management technology
- Building Information Management systems in larger buildings
- Incinerate only absolute waste in CHP plants
- Climate-appropriate street layout and vegetation planting to either reduce heat island effect and therefore cooling energy demand and or reduce heat demand, depending on location.
Sustainable mobility and transport
- Minimise need to travel far by locating housing near jobs, services, shops etc.
- Separate vehicular traffic from pedestrians and cyclists
- Plan networked, latticed town and neighbourhood centres around transport hubs
- Use efficient, cheap public transport: metro, subway, buses, trams, light rail and intercity
- Promote walking, cycling by design of streets and neighbourhoods
- Separate local and longer-distance traffic
- Lots of bikes and bike hire schemes
- Rickshaws, cargo bikes for people and goods delivery
- Electric vehicle hire and share schemes.
- Design out waste
- Design out plastic
- Design products to be reused and recycled
- Reward waste minimisation and sorting of waste, especially plastics
- Reclaim nutrients from food, agricultural waste, and sewage
- Repair and upcycle workshops in every neighbourhood
- Replace throwaway with a culture of exchange, swap, repair, and reuse
- Use local industrial symbiosis systems.
Adapting to climate change
- Prepare for extreme weather
- Storm swales and underground lagoons
- Raise areas of potential floods
- Sustainable urban drainage
- Protect against overheating
- Use vegetation to tackle heat island effect
- In areas of high winds, put buildings close together to prevent funnelling.
- Human scale, people-centred design
- Markets – formal and informal, street and covered, valued for small traders and social interaction
- Conserve amenity value and embodied energy of old buildings while retrofitting for efficiency
- Preserve communities through provision of affordable housing and full mix of housing and land use
- Respect and support all cultures
- Work, education ideally located near to home
- Public transport and parks within walking distance
- Leisure, shops, entertainment and museums nearby.
Health and well-being
- Neighbourhood level drop-in health centres and hospitals
- Some consultations may be distance tech-based
- All people to have access to cheap, fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables
- Cooking workshops and education
- All-ages-friendly cities
- Mental health support
- Accessibility everywhere: ramps, not steps
- Walking, cycling, pathways, wayfinding.
Democracy and justice
- Implement ‘the Right to the City’
- Root out corruption
- Independent watchdogs and transparency
- Use technology to maximise participation in decisions, campaigns
- Smart sensors, feedback loops and algorithms to help manage some basic services
- Smart involvement uses the wisdom of crowds, open data, etc.
- Sensitive, anonymous surveillance is part of data collection, linked to algorithms which attempt to model and predict needs so they can be met efficiently.
Existing legal frameworks, tools and standards can help save reinventing the wheel. Standards help with setting up processes and monitoring progress. I would recommend looking to adopt the following, that have been explored earlier within the pages of the book:
- General: the UN Sustainable Development Goals
- For governance: Wales’ Well-being of Future Generations Act (Chapter 16)
- For reducing the impact of consumption and increasing biocapacity: the ecological footprint (Chapters Three and Four), and One Planet Development (Chapter 16)
- For reducing the impact of imports and exports: The PRINCE model in Sweden, and EEMRIO (‘environmentally-extended input-output modelling’) (Chapter Four)
- For promoting energy efficiency in organisations and industry: ISO 50001 (Chapters Three and Six)
- For smart and sustainable communities: ISO 37120 (Chapter Three)
- For environmental management: ISO 14001 (Chapter Three)
- For promoting the circular economy: ISO 14040 Life Cycle Analysis (Chapter Three)