The world is buckling up to meet again in the fall and winter of 2022/2023. New ideas will gain political momentum. City policies are no exception. What may be the top ideas this year? Recent report releases by urban experts can give a clue.
Only in the past few weeks, a bundle of flagship reports have been released by leading city experts. The UN-Habitat published the World Cities Report 2022 and the WEF’s Global Future Council on Cities of Tomorrow published a package of not only one – but four new reports. All of them depart from pandemic recovery. However, in their policy advice, three priorities surface: climate, finance and digital.
UN-Habitat has the same message. In order to build resilience, financing instruments beyond the traditional fiscal tools at the disposal of cities and national governments are needed. In order to scale up the action, there are a number of options to consider, such as looking into new investment approaches, national and municipal debts, tax systems and reviewing fiscal policies.
By now, the climate angle is not a fringe perspective anymore. It is at the heart of these five reports. To stay below 1.5 degrees in cities, the UN has a full chapter of green urban ideas. However, the chapter dedicated to planning deserves praise too. It is particularly useful from a climate perspective, championing the "15 minute city" of walkable green city neighbourhoods.
For WEF, the bundle of four reports all have climate, net zero, sustainability as aims. In particular, the report Delivering Climate - Resilient Cities Using a Systems Approach is a deep dive on data-driven ways to redesign cities to achieve zero carbon by 2050. To do so, cities can involve stakeholders in the urban value chain, through the creation of working groups for a green recovery or by declaring a climate emergency.
WEF's third report Using digital technology for a green and just recovery lists 10 initiatives to deliver more efficient, inclusive & sustainable cities. This report has an approach that is not asking: 'What can we do with tech?' but instead suggesting: 'what can tech do for us?'
And it turns out, tech can do a lot for cities. Such as actively managing change, deploying agile processes and designing for privacy, security and equity.
The conclusion for the urban experts within the United Nations and the World Economic Forum, is that sustainable city planning must be facilitated by systems where finance, climate and technology are – in one way or another – integrated.