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The Warsaw Voice » Business » September 28, 2012
Innovative Poland
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Future Cities Must Be Sustainable, Attractive and Competitive
September 28, 2012   
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Cities reflect the social nature of humanity and have been at the center of developing civilizations and cultures since the earliest times. They have long been the natural gathering places for people to socialize and exchange ideas, knowledge and experience. But now over half the world’s population lives in cities, and by the middle of this century it is estimated that they will be home to an estimated global population of 9 billion.

This is urbanization on an unprecedented scale and it is one of the most significant challenges that society faces today. As they grow, cities and citizens will be responsible for more of the consumption that is presently leading to climate change, resource depletion and pollution, unless we radically change our behavior and the way our cities function.

What is a sustainable city? There are many ways of answering this. Core to it all is the need for it to be attractive, competitive and sustainable. The latter means that its resource use is neutral, and not depleting or wasteful. For example, energy consumption equals energy production with no pollution. No city is there yet, but many recognize the need to move in that direction. As engines of national economic growth, cities need to achieve the balance between providing a quality of life that meets society’s expectations and the reality of what the environment can sustain. In addition they need to be future proofed, providing better transport connections and secure supplies of energy, water and food, and with the flexibility and resilience to adapt to future uncertainties such as climate change, world economics and politics. Future jobs and economic growth will depend upon getting this balance right. All stakeholders—regulators, local government, business, local communities and NGOs—play an important role in creating the sustainable city.

If cities are to drive economic development, tackle traffic problems and climate change, a number of issues need to be considered. The resource use of a city needs to be mapped out—energy (lighting, heating and cooling), water, food and the infrastructure required to support residents and workers (housing, commercial buildings, transport systems). Understanding the interrelationships between them can identify a more resource-and cost-efficient way of doing things that can drive climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Sustainable development is about making cities attractive and competitive as well as about controlling their environmental impact. And it’s the only option if cities are to become or remain attractive and competitive in the long term. To make it happen, the concept of sustainable development should be embedded in every planning process and each decision made by the local government, business community and the citizens. It is already a fundamental part of the Polish constitution and Polish law and only a thorough understanding and applying this principle to practical solutions can really create resilient fundamentals for a sustainable city.

Paul Toyne, Group Head of Sustainability WSP Group Plc
Magdalena Stretton, Country Manager WSP Enviro Sp. z o.o.

The sustainable city:
- Is a lean city where resources are managed and transported efficiently;
- Is a clean city where the urban development is protected from pollution;
- Is an attractive city where its people can connect with nature, build and enjoy a shared environment that contributes positively towards their quality of life;
- Is a healthy city where highly livable outdoor environments encourage opportunities for exercise, activity and interaction;
- Is a city which respects and interacts with natural resources, preserves and enhances biodiversity within urban development;
- Is continually evaluating, improving and reporting its performance to stakeholders
- Is an intelligent city, where modern technologies and solutions are employed to reduce impact on environment and improve quality of living;
- Is a respectful city, transparent and accountable to its citizens;
- Is economically, culturally and socially competitive and successful;
- Is a community where everyone plays their part.
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