Thought Leadership piece
Thought Leadership piece
This vision is becoming reality in cities across the world, right now, through a model of urban renewal that puts nature and people at the front and centre of all planning decisions. The need for a completely different form of planning, which restores health and prosperity to the world’s cities, has never been more pressing.
A 2017 survey showed that long urban commutes are linked to higher levels of stress and poorer work performance, costing firms around a week’s worth of productivity on average. According to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), almost the entire global population (around 99%) breathe air that exceeds WHO air quality limits, and people in low- and middle-income countries suffer disproportionately from its ill effects. At the city level, almost nine out of ten people living in urban areas (equivalent to 2.5 billion people) are exposed to illegal levels of air pollution, contributing to 1.8 million excess deaths in 2019.
It’s becoming clearer to everyone – city leaders and residents alike – that the 20th century model of urban planning is no longer fit for purpose. Designed around the car rather than people, it leads to congested streets and long commutes, dirty air, urban sprawl and carbon pollution. It’s time for a new model of sustainable, resilient and inclusive urban planning that reduces emissions, and enhances people’s quality of life, health and wellbeing.
The 15-minute city approach is being adapted in a variety of urban contexts, and known by many different names, from Portland’s “complete neighbourhoods”, to Shanghai’s “15-minute community life circles” and Bogota’s “vital neighbourhoods.” What they all share is the vision of a polycentric city made up of green and thriving neighbourhoods, with improved access to basic services for all, interconnected with accessible and affordable public transportation.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the compact and resource-efficient nature of the 15-minute city model, which combines co-location of residences and jobs, mixed land use and good access to public transport, can help cut urban emissions by 25 percent. It represents a major opportunity to transform the world’s cities for the better, by engendering a holistic form of urban renewal that puts people first, delivers lower emissions, improved quality of life, enhanced community cohesion and significant health, social and economic benefits. Most importantly, it is also a model that has equity and inclusivity at its heart, prioritising low-income and marginalised communities, as well as local small and medium-sized enterprises.
That’s why C40 (a network of the world’s 100 biggest cities) and Urban Partners are collaborating on the Green and Thriving Neighbourhoods programme, aimed at supporting cities to turn the 15-minute concept into reality, and ensuring concrete projects aligned with it reach fruition. We have agreed to provide support for 22 pilot projects in cities around the world, from Austin, Texas, to Guadalajara, Mexico. These pilot projects are city-led and show the transformative power of urban planning and design.
Neighbourhoods have the ideal scale with which to experiment: they encompass different facets of city life, yet are small enough to allow for high ambitions, community engagement and new approaches tailored toward local needs.
One of the most ambitious projects we’re supporting is focused on the Jernbanebyen area in central Copenhagen, Denmark. This 365,000m2 former railyard is being transformed into a thriving and sustainable neighbourhood with 25% social housing, car-free zones and 11 acres of green space. Another exciting development is happening in Dakar, Senegal, where the city will expand public green spaces, promote micro-gardening, and build pedestrian and cycle paths to connect public and commercial infrastructure. An integrated solar energy production system will be set up to improve waste management at the household level.
Projects like these serve as a reminder that cities are climate leaders and incubators for the kind of innovations that will help us meet global climate targets.
C40 and Urban Partners will continue to work with partners to empower cities around the world to create net-zero neighbourhoods and advance climate actions at the neighbourhood level that can be scaled up to transform the world we live in.
As the world gathers for New York Climate Week and the UN General Assembly, we urge leaders to step up and join us in our quest to create greener, healthier, equitable and livable cities. We also encourage urban developers, city leaders and other stakeholders around the world to work with us to scale up science-driven, locally-led initiatives that deliver a better quality of life for all urban residents.
Better Finance, Better Built environment