Friday, December 31, 2010

Toward Low Carbon Cities: Madrid and London

Judith Ryser and Teresa Franchini, Toward Low Carbon Cities: Madrid and London
45th ISOCARP Congress 2009

Why choose Madrid and London to discuss low carbon cities?
Madrid and London are both big cities for European conditions. Their metropolitan character, building stock, airports and motorway networks, and status as international hubs add considerably to their ecological footprint. If they manage to curb their CO2 emissions they will have a noticeable impact on climate change.
Could Madrid and London become low carbon cities?
Spain and the UK have set stringent targets to reduce CO2 emissions and have taken concrete actions to implement them. They have allocated fundsi, introduced changes to their own building and rolling stock and pledged to reduce their own wasteful energy use. Their campaigns have raised awareness among citizens and businesses to change their behaviour toward energy consumption,iii and they have launched actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change in all key sectors.iv Madrid and London have adopted similar targets and measures. Will they suffice though to transform them into genuine low carbon cities or ‘eco-cities’ in the long term.
1. The Critical Path toward ‘Eco-Cities’
In answer to the questions of this paper, it is necessary to define first what is meant by ‘low carbon’ or ‘zero carbon’ city or, more generally, by an ‘eco-city’.
1.1 Defining Eco-Cities

What is an ‘eco-city’ and where does the notion come from? Early settlements in Mesopotamiavi may be their precursors as they serve the collective needs of their communities with local natural, renewable materials. Such vernacular architecturevii remains an inspiration for ‘eco-design’.viii Is living in sustainable symbiosis with nature feasible in an urbanised world? In the developed world, Jane Jacobsix considered that cities which are integrated with their immediate hinterland are drivers of prosperity and capable of revitalising nature in overloaded rural areas. The American eco-city movement proposed alternative solutions for city planning.x Richard Registerxi coined the term ecocity in 1987. His ‘Ecocity Builders’xii defined an ecocity as ecologically healthy: “an ecocity is a human settlement that enables its residents to live a good quality of life while using minimal natural resources”. They perceive Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti in Arizona as the prototype of such an ideal ecocity. The European Union ecocity project on “urban development towards appropriate structures for sustainable transport” incorporated the sustainability visions of the participant cities, while the ecological cities movement produced international manifestos.The ecocity concept is gathering momentum in the developing world. For Akhtar Chauhanxiv a sustainable living environment is “based on climate responsiveness, appropriate use of technologies, and innovation of sustainable environmental design”. China is committed to realising ecocities, the most publicised among them Dongtan in the Shanghai conurbation and Tianjin ecocity, planned in cooperation with Singapore on a salt pan near China’s third largest city. Curitiba is Brazil’s avant-garde ecological capital with its ecological public transport system and university of the environment. Porto Allegre follows participatory ecoprinciples from the bottom up. African countries are starting to adopt ecocity principles; and the Middle East is preparing an “eco-friendly future after oil” with ecocities like Masdar in AbuDhabi.
At a more abstract level, the concept of eco-cities draws on analogies with biology and the notion that successful ecosystems are driven by innovation and shaped by human intervention. Ecocities constitute a context in which human beings can adapt and evolve. At a large scale, ecocities constitute whole Ecosystems of Innovation.

Ecocity, image by AnnaDiamantopoulou

related posts about the urbanism and urban planning in Spain and England:

skyline photos of Madrid 1

Anglo-American town planning theory since 1945: three significant developments but no paradigm shifts

Devastation of the historic city of Bath, England by the Germans During the WWII

Howard Park and Howard Garden, Letchworth Garden City, Herts: Archaeological Desk Based Assessment

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