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Measuring the environmental impact of cities

Measuring the environmental impact of cities

Aug 5, 2014

By Kathy Gibson at #UIA2014Durban

In South Africa, we have a range of different settlements, and we need to determine how they will develop and impact the environment in the future. Jeremy Gibberd, associated to the University of Pretoria, points out that carbon emissions are going to be a big factor in determining where our cities go in the future.

The trajectory of carbon emissions has the potential to fundamentally affect civilisation. At the same time there are growing problems with informal settlements, and per capita incomes also play a part on sustainability.

Sustainable development takes into account a number of factors, one of which is carbon footprint. Ideally this would be between 0.8 and 1,8 hectares.

Gibberd believes that it is possible to assess neighbourhoods in terms of their ecological footprint. This takes into account assessment criteria, existing performance, proposed performance, options evaluation, congruence and resilience, and a report that gives the development trajectory if proposed interventions are implemented.

The tool allows planners to measure what impact various interventions could have, and what the total outcome could be if they are all brought to bear. It allows planners to test interventions and change their plans according to the expected impact in various different region depending on the existing conditions.

“We have an ongoing discussion in terms of cities,” says Gibberd. “Often there are very large targets, and huge amount of funding. That is the uniform process across the whole country.

“We have lots of solutions. But we also need a framework that prioritises the different solutions and links them up in a coherent manner. Because there isn’t the finance for everything, and many of these interventions may have to be done by the communities themselves with limited funding.

“It a useful idea to measure trajectories and become more intentional. We need to achieve minimum capability, to have a standard and achieve it. WE can look at it over time and, using the resources we have, plan towards a particular point.”

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