Despite growing interests in sustainable urban development, planning lacks unifying themes or directives for achieving sustainability in cities. While professional rating systems provide some guidance, they can be context-specific by country and may at best target weak sustainability as their intended outcome. The United Nations’ New Urban Agenda attempts to offer a singular vision for urban sustainability, and its language appears flexible enough to apply across contexts. In this research, we explore the extent that emergent themes from the New Urban Agenda can guide urban planning for sustainability, specifically in the United States (U.S.). We develop inductive codes from the New Urban Agenda and compare these emergent themes to the content of Asheville, North Carolina’s (U.S.) comprehensive plan, Living Asheville as well as to the STAR Community rating system (Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating Communities). We ask how well the New Urban Agenda can align with conventional U.S. planning processes and whether it offers value beyond the contributions of industry-standard practices like STAR Communities. We find that the New Urban Agenda voices common urban sustainability goals while making some new contributions, particularly in areas such as equity and governance. We conclude that in contexts like the U.S., the New Urban Agenda might be best carried out by integrating it into already existing frameworks like STAR, which have already been widely implemented. These conclusions are based on a reading of one case study city, and future research should analyze and compare themes of the New Urban Agenda and STAR and analyze case studies of multiple certified cities.
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