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New Research: Demystifying Compact Urban Growth

posted Sep 6, 2017, 10:28 AM by Austin Morton

Most developed countries now pursue policies that implicitly or explicitly aim at promoting compact urban form. This report analyses more than 300 academic papers that study the effects of compact urban form, and finds that 69% of the papers reviewed find positive effects associated with compact urban form. Over 70% of studies find positive effects of economic density (the number of people living or working in an area). A smaller majority of studies attribute positive effects to mixed land use (58%) and the density of the built environment (56%). 

These averages hid significant variation across specific dimensions of urban development. In order to understand the effects of compact urban form, the report estimates the monetary per capita value of the change in 15 outcomes in response to a 10% change in economic density. The major benefits of economic density arise from improved productivity and better access to jobs and services. Further benefits are generated through the preservation of urban green space, greater energy efficiency, pollution reduction and safer urban environments. The major costs of higher economic density are related to congestion, health and well-being. Increasing compactness can also contribute to higher land values and housing costs, which are borne disproportionately by renters and first-time buyers. 

Increasing economic density therefore requires accompanying policy interventions to maximise the benefits and minimise the costs associated with compactness. In particular, policymakers need to facilitate large-scale investment in housing supply and public transport networks to ensure efficient and equitable access to housing, services and jobs in compact cities. 

Download Demystifying Compact Urban Growth: Evidence From 300 Studies From Across the World, a new working paper from the Coalition for Urban Transitions and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), written by experts from the London School of Economics. 

New Research: Better Urban Growth In Tanzania

posted Aug 3, 2017, 7:35 AM by Joel Jaeger   [ updated Aug 3, 2017, 7:40 AM ]

Tanzania’s urban population is projected to grow from less than 15 million people in 2012 to more than 60 million people by mid-century. This rapid urban population growth offers the potential for structural transformation, as well as scale and agglomeration economies that can accelerate human and economic development. 

Planning and investment decisions made today will determine the performance of Tanzania’s cities for decades to come. National policy-makers in Tanzania have a critical role to play in providing adequate housing, services, infrastructure and jobs for current and future urban residents. 

This report provides an overview of the institutional, policy and financing landscape shaping Tanzania’s urban areas, and summarises some of the social, economic and environmental costs associated with current trends. While recognising the historical and ongoing constraints on the Tanzania’s urban development path, this report also highlights opportunities for the Government of Tanzania to drive a transition to more inclusive productive, inclusive and sustainable towns and cities. 

This report recommends the preparation of an integrated economic, spatial and tenure plan to manage urban growth at the country level. It underscores the importance of prioritising infrastructure investments that can help to address socioeconomic needs or bottlenecks, and could effectively anchor compact and connected spatial form. And it emphasises the importance of aligning and enabling the activities of municipal authorities, grassroots organisations, private enterprises and research institutes behind a shared vision of urban development.

Download Better Urban Growth in Tanzania: A Preliminary Exploration of the Opportunities and Challenges, a new working paper by experts from the Coalition for Urban Transitions, Economic and Social Research Foundation, Overseas Development Institute, International Institute for Environment and Development, and African Centre for Cities.

Release: Getting India’s urbanization right is a prize worth up to 6% of GDP

posted Apr 11, 2017, 8:19 AM by Austin Morton   [ updated Apr 11, 2017, 8:22 AM ]

New Delhi, November 29, 2016Better, smarter urban growth could be an economic opportunity for India worth up to 6% of GDP by 2050, according to the latest research from the New Climate Economy.

Continuing the current poorly planned, sprawling, unconnected pattern of urbanisation could impose an estimated cost of between US$330 billion and US$1.8 trillion by mid-century. At the household level, this equates to more than 20% of average household incomes.

The new paper also undertakes a first-of-its-kind analysis drawing on satellite data of night-time lights to compare cities’ urban form with their economic growth.

It finds that Indian cities that were more compact in 2002 experienced faster economic growth from 2002-2012. On average across a sample of 479 Indian cities, a 10% increase in a city’s dispersion index in 2002 was associated with a 0.4-0.9% point decrease in economic growth over the subsequent period.

There are a number of negative impacts or costs associated with India’s current urbanization model, ranging from increased costs of providing public infrastructure and services, transportation costs, traffic casualties, traffic congestion, air pollution, and health risks, among other considerations.

  • The costs of providing public infrastructure and services are likely to be as much as 30% higher in more sprawled, automobile-dependent neighbourhoods compared with more compact, connected locations.
  • 14 of the world’s 30 most polluted cities are in India, and outdoor air pollution in Indian cities is estimated to cause around 1.1 million premature deaths per year. India also has the largest number of total traffic deaths of any country: 137,572 were officially reported in 2013.

In India, urban sprawl is different than in other countries; it is best understood as a low density of built-up floor space per unit of land area, combined with severe overcrowding per unit of built-up area. For example, Mumbai homes have only about 30 square feet per person, less than a quarter of the comparable availability in urban China. Countering urban sprawl in India will require a greater emphasis on “appropriate” or “good” density combined with adequate provision of accessible and well-connected infrastructure and services.

The report recommends reforms and progress in three key areas to help deliver social and economic benefits for urban India.

  1. Reform of land regulations to manage urban expansion to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of land use.
  2. Expansion of sustainable urban infrastructure to encourage appropriately compact, connected, and coordinated cities.
  3. Reform to strengthen urban local government, accountability, and financing.

The research is being launched in New Delhi by members of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Lord Nicholas Stern and Naina Lal Kidwai.


Notes to Editors:

Better Cities, Better Growth: India’s Urban Opportunity has been prepared by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER); the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities; the New Climate Economy (NCE), flagship project of the Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate; and the Coalition for Urban Transitions, an NCE Special Initiative. The paper was prepared in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Global Spatial Research Program on Spatial Development of Cities at the World Bank.

For media inquiries contact:

Ferzina Banaji, Ferzina.banaji@newclimateeconomy.net

Joel Jaeger, Joel.jaeger@newclimateeconomy.net

Release: Major coalition launched to make economic case for better cities

posted May 4, 2016, 2:54 PM by Austin Morton   [ updated Aug 3, 2017, 7:39 AM by Joel Jaeger ]

The Partnership of over 20 major institutions will support national-level decision making, ensuring that city action is linked to broader economic planning.

Washington, D.C., May 5, 2015: On Thursday the New Climate Economy, along with C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) and the WRI Ross Centre for Sustainable Cities, launched the Coalition for Urban Transitions, the first major international initiative to make the economic case for better urban development globally.

Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo made the announcement during a breakfast briefing organized by C40 and the Compact of Mayors at the Climate Action Summit 2016 in Washington, DC.

“Cities are the key to achieving both the Sustainable Development Goals and the national climate commitments of the Paris Agreement,” said Mayor of Tshwane, South Africa Kgosientso Ramokgopa. “This Coalition will build the evidence base for policymakers on the solutions that can unlock the power of cities to support better development and a better climate.”

Many of the barriers to city level action lie in the hands of national leaders and Ministers of Finance, Energy, Transportation, and Economy, who often hold key levers shaping urban development. The Coalition will support decision-making on urbanisation at the national level in countries around the world, linking city-level strategies with broader economic planning. Through economic research and in-country engagement, the Coalition will help governments put effective urban infrastructure investment at the heart of their growth strategies.

“Mayors know about the economic and wider benefits of sustainable cities, which is why many are doing everything they can to act on the opportunities from low carbon growth,” said Eduardo Paes, C40 Chair and Mayor of Rio de Janeiro. “However, the scale of the urbanisation challenge is so large that we can’t do it alone. We need national-level policy makers and economic planning to complement city-level efforts. That’s where the Coalition for Urban Transitions will play a big role.”

Managing urban development better can trigger major dividends. Recent research has found that investing in compact, connected, and efficient cities could substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate global energy savings with a current value of US$17 trillion by 2050.

“The scale and pace of the global urban revolution happening now cannot be underestimated and the opportunities – if managed well – could be tremendous. For instance, just investing in sustainable transport offers not only social and environmental advantages but can also deliver savings of as much as $300 billion per year,” said Aniruddha Dasgupta, Global Director, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, the managing partner of the Coalition. “Getting this kind of information – about the clear economic benefits of building better cities – into the hands of decision makers can help set us on a path where each country can start to reap the benefits of an urban dividend.”

Over the next three years, the Coalition will work in a number of rapidly-urbanising countries, such as China and India, where the scale of the challenge is immense:
  • Damage to health from poor air quality, much of which is associated with burning fossil fuels, is valued at over 10% of GDP in China. Compact and connected cities can help to meet China’s urban challenge – a billion people are expected to live in Chinese cities in the 2020s. If tightly linked by mass transit systems, such cities will be more liveable, attractive, competitive and energy efficient. 
  • India’s urban population will cross 600 million in the next 15 years. Its cities will account for 75% of national GDP and 70% of all net new jobs. However, half the world’s most polluted cities are in India, including the top four in the world: Delhi, Patna, Gwalior, and Raipur. Outdoor particulate matter pollution caused an estimated 630,000 premature deaths in India in 2010, and costs the equivalent of 5.5–7.5% of GDP per year. By investing in smart cities, India could reduce congestion and severe air pollution, whilst boosting productivity. 

Notes to Editors:
The New Climate Economy is the flagship project of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate. It was established by seven countries as an independent initiative to examine how countries can achieve economic growth while dealing with the risks posed by climate change. Chaired by former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and co-chaired by renowned economist Lord Nicholas Stern, the Commission comprises former heads of government and finance ministers, leading business people, investors, city mayors and economists. Research for the Commission has been carried out by a partnership of 8 leading global economic and policy institutes.

The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, now in its 10th year, connects more than 80 of the world’s greatest cities, representing 600+ million people and one quarter of the global economy. Created and led by cities, C40 is focused on tackling climate change and driving urban action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks, while increasing the health, well-being and economic opportunities of urban citizens. The current chair of the C40 is Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes; three-term Mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg serves as President of the Board. C40’s work is made possible by three strategic funders: Bloomberg Philanthropies, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), and Realdania.

The WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities works to make urban sustainability a reality with global research and on-the-ground experience in Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Turkey and the United States. The Ross Center has a dedicated set of over 200 experts working in over 50 cities globally to affect sustainable urban change.

For media inquiries contact:
Joel Jaeger, Joel.jaeger@newclimateeconomy.net
Josh Harris, jharris@c40.org

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