Cities tend to be planned and designed for people, with ‘green’ streets, new corridors and public spaces as centres of social life.
Urban areas are traditionally characterised by high population density and heavy construction to support modern amenities, such as transport and commercial buildings. They now face increasing pressure from expanding populations, limited resources and the growing impact of climate change. One of the indicators for measuring SDG 11 is the area of public and green space in a city.
Although the accepted minimum standard is 45 per cent (30 per cent for streets and 15 per cent for green spaces), cities do not meet it. On average just 15 per cent of land is allocated to streets even in planned areas of new cities. In unplanned areas, it is only 2 per cent.
This lack of natural space creates an unhealthy urban living environment. 1
Cities should be driving a decarbonisation agenda. Becoming low-carbon, and changing the way they are planned is the first step towards mitigating carbon emissions and achieving ecosystem resilience. At the same time, they should ensure that urban planning is capable of responding to the pressures of climate in the adaptation agenda. Green public spaces entail:
Cities around the world are recognising the benefits of a green approach to urban planning, as it has the potential to lower urban temperatures, mitigate air pollution and build environmental resilience. The World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Cities has included increasing green canopy cover in its list of top ten urban planning initiatives. 7
“Planting greenery, first and foremost, is one way for us to reduce the outdoor ambient temperature from rising to a high level. But it is not just that. A green city that is close to nature also offer greater livability.”
-Kok Yam Tan, Deputy Secretary of Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, Singapore
“Due to dysfunctional land and housing markets, poor people locate in cities close to jobs in the unbuilt spaces. These are mostly hazard prone areas such as landslides and flooding. Their lives stand to be at risk. This is what the resilience agenda aims to tackle.”
-Sameh Wahba, Global Director, Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice, World Bank