Sustainable Cities

Co-Chairs: Jose A. Gomez-Ibanez (Derek C. Bok Professor of Urban Planning and Public Policy, GSD and HKS); Julio Lumbreras (RCC Fellow, Visiting Scholar at Harvard's Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government).

Cities have been at the forefront of the world’s economic growth. Historically, urban areas worldwide have been closely linked to economic development. They have increased the quality of life of billions of people by providing employment, boosting productivity and fostering creativity and innovation.

However, social and economic inequalities are on the rise in most cities. An increasing number of cities face increasing disparities in poverty rates and unemployment which is also exacerbating gaps between urban neighborhoods. The immigration wave that many regions are facing is only likely to make the issue more salient. The increasing socio-economic divides within cities is thus negatively impacting their growth. For instance, research has shown that inequalities hamper a city’s innovation capacity.

Moreover, cities are also facing salient environmental problems such as air quality that is generating yearly around 3.7 million premature deaths (WHO, 2015). Cities are also suffering the effects of Climate Change through extreme events and long-term impacts such as sea level rising, and projections show much larger impacts in near future (OECD, 2015; University of Cambridge, 2014; UN Habitat, 2017).

The recently approved Sustainable Development Goals offer a new framework to transform our societies towards a different world, that should overcome the abovementioned problems. As part of the three main global agreements made in 2015, SDGs will shape our common future. Sustainable development goals are no longer related only to developing countries but to every country in the world. Moreover, developed countries are supposed to propose alternative ways of growing, alternative production-consumption patterns, and new governance systems that allow citizen participation and engagement. And cities could play a major role in this transformation.

Therefore, the study group sponsored by RCC, following previous experience both at HKS and RCC is aimed at exploring a multidisciplinary debate around cities, namely: new alternatives to increase sustainability at the local level, citizens’ participation in cities on decision making policies and policies design, addressing a debate on the global or integral sustainability of urban spaces, which is where most of the planet's citizens live, etc. This global approach seeks to overcome the idea of traditional sustainability, i.e. sustainability that not only covers environmental aspects, but also takes into account the economic dimension and pays close attention to the social dimension of life in cities and the role cities play in the development of their inhabitants’ lives.

As previously mentioned, one way of putting forward this transversal approach to cities sustainability may be the implementation of Agenda 2030 (SDGs). In particular, focusing on two of itsgoals: SDG 11 Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, and SDG 17 Encourage and promote effective public, public-private, and civil society partnerships.

Therefore, the study group will discuss broad issues related to resilience, implementation of a low-carbon economy, smart urban infrastructure, green urban economy, resource-efficiency, healthy & happy community, governance, and citizen participation. Working sessions will consist of workshops, open debates, role-playing, and conferences. Students from many groups such as the Spain Caucus, the City-Local PIC, or the Future Society will be engaged in the process.

The group will be formed by 3-5 Faculty, 2-3 HKS alumni, and 6-10 students, mainly at HKS. The main expected deliverables are:

· Annual workshop on the topic

· Three sessions per year to share ideas and discuss new approaches on the main elements of a sustainable city

· Working progress presentations with invited guest speakers and presentations of high-quality research

· Annual report with a summary of the main conclusions and proposals derived from the work done during the academic year.

All events sponsored by the Study Group will be free and open to the public.

The study group will foster collaboration with the HKS Spain Caucus (created last academic year), and the following HKS centers:

· Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government

· Taubman Center for State and Local Government

· Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation

· Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

· Center for Public Leadership