Urenio Watch Watch: Cities

New paper: COVID, CITIES and CLIMATE: Historical Precedents and Potential Transitions for the New Economy

According to the author, the 2020 collapse of the global economy due to Covid-19 pandemic has enabled us to think about long term trends and what the future could hold for our cities and regions, especially due to the climate agenda. Having as a starting point the current pandemic, this paper sets out the historical precedents for economic transitions after collapses that unleash new technologically based innovation waves.  These are shown to be associated with different energy and infrastructure priorities and their transport and resulting urban forms.

The paper suggests that the new economy, for the next 30 years, is likely to be driven by the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agendas (summarised as zero carbon’“zero poverty) and will have a strong base in a cluster of innovative technologies: renewable energy, electromobility, smart cities, hydrogen-based industry, circular economy technologies, and biophilic urbanism. Zero poverty is presented as a major agenda as unemployment becomes widespread. Zero carbon is also widespread in its support, with the recent bushfire events highlighting its priority.

The author envisions that resulting urban transformations are likely to build on Covid-19 through “global localism’ and could lead to five new features: (1) relocalised centres with distributed infrastructure, (2) tailored innovations in each urban fabric, (3) less car dependence, (4) symbiotic partnerships for funding, and (5) rewritten manuals for urban professionals. He underlines that this period needs human creativity towards the revitalisation of the human dimension of cities. See also a related paper on working from home, becoming a common aspect due to Covid-19.

The paper picks up this theme and applies it to a range of other available innovations that could be and are likely to be mainstreamed in the next global economy. It builds on the literature of historic economic collapses towards a better understanding of the emergence of innovations.

The author predicts that the world’ s cities could create a new kind of civility based on zero carbon and zero poverty using the cluster of technological innovations.  Cities are presented as the focus of such development based on the fact that historically economic growth can best be enabled within them and new technologies that are supportive of the zero-carbon agenda are  more likely to be rapidly adopted there. However, it is also possible to imagine how technologies could be rolled out in a highly inequitable way, and so, the social, cultural and political agendas will always need to ensure the avoidance of inequitable economic growth.

The emerging processes are projected as a challenge for all urban leaders and professionals. The author recognises a need for solutions that combine this cluster of technologies with place-based designs: in dense city centres, inner-city corridors, suburban centres with estates for various functions, and periurban, rural and remote villages. The human and natural qualities of each context will be at the heart of how these new technologies can create relocalised places.

Find the paper  here