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Three Emerging Key Challenges for Urban Sustainability

Monday February 24, 2020, at 13:30
Room 24.120 (First floor). Mercè Rodoreda 24 building
Research seminar

James J.T. Connolly (UAB & BCNUEJ)

Cities have been essential vehicles for action with regard to global sustainability goals, but many city-makers are frustrated by the progress thus far. While there has been advancement in particular aspects of urban climate adaptation, climate mitigation, smart cities, urban resilience, and urban sustainability, there is a growing sense that these initiatives take one step forward while cities overall take two steps back. For example, despite cutting greenhouse gas emissions from various sectors of urbanization, overall emissions from urban regions continue to grow and overall socio-economic inequities continue to rise.

Given this state of affairs, James J.T. Connolly will discuss three key challenges for cities emerging from the initial epoch of urban sustainability initiatives. First, he will focus on the challenge of making cities socially just and environmentally sustainable at the same time. Second, he will describe the challenge of removing the institutional conditions that block transformation. Third, he will frame the emerging challenge of ensuring that planning does not shift risk burdens onto vulnerable communities. For each challenge, he describes how his current and emerging research can help planners and policymakers understand and respond. He will frame the examples and discussion in cities of the Global North, but will discuss how these challenges apply to cities of the Global South as well.

James J.T. Connolly is Research Scientist and Principal Investigator at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona; Co-Director at Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability (BCNUEJ) and Research Fellow Juan de la Cierva Incorporación at Institut Hospital del Mar d'Investigacions Mèdiques.

He obtained a PhD in Urban Planning from Columbia University where his research was supported by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. His research explores how urban planning and policy serve as an arena for resolving social-ecological conflicts in cities, and is primarily motivated by one question: How do we do more good than bad when planning our cities? He believes the answer lies partly in ensuring that the goals of social equity and ecological health are considered in tandem and proceeds from the conviction that if these goals are not considered at all, then we will certainly do more bad than good through urban development.