Ten Principles of Sustainable Cities

By Ryan McGreal
Published October 14, 2007

The Danish Ministry of the Environment has published a report called Ten Principles of Sustainable Cities [PDF]:

To secure our urban future, we need quick action. Thus, we have asked 50 of the world's most important urban experts to tell us what it is will take to create sustainable cities.

Representing all parts of the world and from a wide range of disciplines, they all agree to that to make cities sustainable we need a radical change of mindset, new strategies, and – finally, but crucially – new governance models to support development and foster a new generation of urban leadership.

These statements and observations have been distilled into the following 10 principles for future sustainable governance, aimed at existing as well as future urban residents, academics, professionals and leaders – all with the aim of encouraging and strengthening the development of sustainable cities:

1. REDISCOVER THE CITY. We need a radical change of mindset: A city is much more than a consumption exhaust. It must become a self-sustaining organism – complementary to nature, rather than hostile opposition.

2. REDEFINE CITY VALUE. A sustainable city depends on the attitude and behaviour of each urban individual and user. We must encourage a sense of citizenship and individual responsibility towards sustainable values rather than plain consumerism.

3. INVOLVE EVERYDAY EXPERTS. Sustainable cities are participatory cities. We must encourage user-driven self-governance. Through new partnerships between city users, a common understanding of the sustainable city must be developed and initiatives agreed upon.

4. BREAK DOWN SILOS. Sustainable city planning is inherently multidisciplinary. Therefore, old administrative structures should be abandoned in favour of innovative, cross-sector cooperation.

5. REDISTRIBUTE URBAN DECISION-MAKING. Environmental changes do not respect city borders. Vertical cooperation between local, national and international public institutions is crucial to sustainable city planning.

6. DE-DESIGN URBAN PLANNING. City planning should be people centred, rather than design centred. A city is a constantly evolving organism, and city planning must take a broader perspective than the design of individual buildings.

7. PROMOTE CORPORATE URBAN RESPONSIBILITY. Sustainable cities and successful commerce are interdependent. Companies must be considered stakeholders and invited to participate in city planning and assume responsibility for urban sustainability.

8. GO GLOBAL. Climate change is a global challenge. Global cooperation on the development of environmental technologies is essential, and a joint effort to solve the massive problems of the developing world's cities is urgently required.

9. EMBRACE CHAOS, CRISIS AND CHANGE. A sustainable city must be adaptable to unexpected change. The ability to both fight current and future climate change is crucial. Flexible governance and an innovative mindset to overcome crisis is vital.

10. ENCOURAGE PASSION IN URBAN LEADERSHIP. More will be expected of urban leaders of the future. They must be able to manage the complex interconnection of new institutions and partnerships. A mix of business management, political leadership and creativity is demanded from the future generation of urban leaders.

Read the full report here: [PDF]/

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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