Special Issue "Urban Transformations Towards Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Urban and Rural Development".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2019.

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Sigrun Kabisch
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Permoserstr. 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
Tel. +49 341 235 1237
Interests: urban transformations; demographic change; social vulnerability; socio-spatial differentiation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

By the new millennium, we entered the urban age with more than 50% of the world’s population living in urban agglomerations. This value is expected to reach approximately 70% by 2050. Today, cities are already responsible for up to 80% of global energy consumption, as well as around 70% of global emissions. Due to this tremendous urbanization process, land-use patterns, resource use and livability, additionally provoked by demographic and climate change, are adjusting worldwide. Therefore, according to the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN urban transformations towards sustainability are inevitable. To foster these transformations a strong political commitment and new modes of governance are necessary. From the scientific point of view, a convincing conceptual backbone is needed accompanied by robust empirical data to provide solutions and support decision-making.

This Special Issue will portray a comprehensive approach of urban transformations towards sustainability including inter- and transdisciplinary research. Within this project we ask for results using a wide range of different and interlinked scientific methods from social- and natural sciences in addition to models. Scenarios are being implemented to assess different options for urban transformations that reflect efficient, livable and resilient cities. Building on this, indicators, instruments and test sites (e.g., urban living labs) to pursue sustainable development strategies are highly welcome, too. Experiences of exchange between scientists, urban stakeholders and decision makers from politics and industry shall illustrate the way to bridge the gap between academia and real-life environments. The goal of this special issue is to demonstrate outstanding research in order to provide different urban stakeholders with robust knowledge. This strongly includes context related hands-on solutions with addresses pressing questions impacting the daily life in cities (e.g., weather extremes, traffic collapse, affordable housing, migration streams, demographic change, environmental justice, urban health).

Prof. Dr. Sigrun Kabisch
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1700 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Urban transformations
  • Urban sustainability
  • Resource efficiency
  • Urban resilience
  • Quality of life
  • Environmental risks
  • Vulnerability
  • Governance options
  • Urban land use
  • Urban ecosystem services
  • Social justice
  • Environmental justice
  • Urban health
  • Healthy city

Published Papers (11 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Research

Jump to: Other

Open AccessArticle
Sustainable Stormwater Management in Existing Settlements—Municipal Strategies and Current Governance Trends in Germany
Sustainability 2019, 11(19), 5510; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11195510 - 05 Oct 2019
Abstract
While a policy of more decentralized stormwater management is increasingly being pursued in areas containing new housing developments, the question arises as to how stormwater management is handled in existing settlements, where restructuring the drainage system is a much more complex affair and [...] Read more.
While a policy of more decentralized stormwater management is increasingly being pursued in areas containing new housing developments, the question arises as to how stormwater management is handled in existing settlements, where restructuring the drainage system is a much more complex affair and often requires the active involvement of property owners. Recognizing that the multidimensional objectives of stormwater management in settlements call for a range of local strategies, this article examines the interaction and strategic contribution of two key municipal institutions for regulating stormwater management, namely, compulsory connection and usage and stormwater charges, in order to examine how they meet these objectives when property owners are involved. The following questions are addressed: How do these two key institutions link the varied objectives of stormwater management with practical options for decentralization? Which institutional designs are capable of integrating property owners into a municipal stormwater strategy in a coherent manner? What is current local government practice? This article begins by analyzing the interactions between different objectives of stormwater management, the interplay of the two key institutions, and options for stormwater management on private properties. On this basis, we then present an empirical study of current practice in 44 medium to large cities in Germany. This shows that while local governments devise very different—and often inconsistent—institutional designs, decentralization is quite commonly pursued in existing settlements. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Transformations Towards Sustainability)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Sustainable Development of Urban Green Areas for Quality of Life Improvement—Argument for Increased Citizen Participation
Sustainability 2019, 11(18), 4868; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11184868 - 06 Sep 2019
Abstract
Considering the imperative need for sustainable urban development, this article argues for increased citizen participation in the decision-making process, as it generates better outcomes (due to a wider range of perspectives) and also makes people better citizens, as they will be partially responsible [...] Read more.
Considering the imperative need for sustainable urban development, this article argues for increased citizen participation in the decision-making process, as it generates better outcomes (due to a wider range of perspectives) and also makes people better citizens, as they will be partially responsible for the results. One major dimension of urban areas’ which needs a sustainable development is represented by parks, which can be directly associated to citizens’ quality of life (QoL). Thus, we have conducted direct research (face-to-face interviews) of park visitors in order to analyze the perceived impact of green areas on their quality of life. From all the QoL dimensions, we have selected six which are directly linked to park visits—health (mental and physical), social interaction, education and culture, family life, freedom, and connection with nature—in order to determine the perceived degree of association between them, as well as the specific activities done in the park that impact those six dimensions. The research results were used to develop a conceptual model which links quality of life to park visits, a model that can and should be used by public authorities in order to build a collaborative process for urban sustainable development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Transformations Towards Sustainability)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessCommunication
What Does Urban Transformation Look Like? Findings from a Global Prize Competition
Sustainability 2019, 11(17), 4653; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11174653 - 27 Aug 2019
Abstract
Different disciplines are grappling with the concept of ‘urban transformation’ reflecting its planetary importance and urgency. A recent systematic review traces the emergence of a normative epistemic community that is concerned with helping make sustainable urban transformation a reality. Our contribution to this [...] Read more.
Different disciplines are grappling with the concept of ‘urban transformation’ reflecting its planetary importance and urgency. A recent systematic review traces the emergence of a normative epistemic community that is concerned with helping make sustainable urban transformation a reality. Our contribution to this growing body of work springs out of a recent initiative at the World Resources Institute, namely, the WRI Ross Prize for Cities, a global award for transformative projects that have ignited sustainable changes in their city. In this paper we explain the competition-based approach that was used to source transformative initiatives and relate our findings to existing currents in urban transformation scholarship and key debates. We focus on one of the questions at the heart of the normative urban transformation agenda: what does urban transformation look like in practice? Based on an analysis of the five finalists, we describe urban transformation as encompassing a plurality of contextual and relative changes, which may progress and accelerate positively, or regress over time. An evaluative approach that considers varying ‘degrees’ and ‘types’ of urban transformation is proposed to establish meaning within single cases and across several cases of urban transformation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Transformations Towards Sustainability)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Sharing Cities and Commoning: An Alternative Narrative for Just and Sustainable Cities
Sustainability 2019, 11(16), 4358; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11164358 - 12 Aug 2019
Abstract
Sharing Cities are emerging as an alternative narrative which promotes sharing as a transformative phenomenon for just and sustainable cities. This article shows that Sharing Cities are conceived within the alternative political economy of the commons. Bringing a theoretical contribution into dialogue with [...] Read more.
Sharing Cities are emerging as an alternative narrative which promotes sharing as a transformative phenomenon for just and sustainable cities. This article shows that Sharing Cities are conceived within the alternative political economy of the commons. Bringing a theoretical contribution into dialogue with a practice-oriented book, this paper aims at checking the concept of Sharing Cities against the reality on the ground by reviewing 137 secondary cases: (1) Is communal (non-commercial) sharing a substantial phenomenon? (2) What is the role of technology—and more widely, of intermediation—in sharing practices? (3) If at all, what is being transformed by sharing practices? (4) Are commons depicted in each case? Results show that most cases display a communal form of sharing that is independent of digital platforms, i.e., that the sharing transformation affects all arenas of production and social reproduction across a wide variety of sectors, and it relies on translocal replication rather than up-scaling. With only 26% of cases apparently depicting a commons, this paper argues for a relational epistemology of urban commoning, shifting the focus to more-than-human commoning-communities. Thus, Sharing Cities are captured not only as a set of policy proposals and practices but as the performative depiction of an alternative worldview based on interdependence, ready for the Anthropocene. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Transformations Towards Sustainability)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Exploration of Sustainable Urban Transportation Development in China through the Forecast of Private Vehicle Ownership
Sustainability 2019, 11(16), 4259; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11164259 - 07 Aug 2019
Abstract
With the acceleration of China’s urbanization process, the urban transportation problem has become increasingly serious. The rapid expansion of private vehicle ownership, in particular, has become one of the barriers to the realization of sustainable urban transition. This paper applied the Gompertz model [...] Read more.
With the acceleration of China’s urbanization process, the urban transportation problem has become increasingly serious. The rapid expansion of private vehicle ownership, in particular, has become one of the barriers to the realization of sustainable urban transition. This paper applied the Gompertz model to analyze the non-linear relationship between private vehicle ownership and per capita GDP in China using provincial data. In addition, we forecasted private vehicle ownership for 31 Chinese provinces for the period of 2019–2030 and predicted the time to reach the upper limit of 1000 people vehicle ownership of each province according to different scenarios. The main findings revealed that the number of private vehicles owned in China’s provinces was in line with “S”-shaped development and was currently in the process of accelerated growth. Under the scenario of an annual per capita GDP growth rate of 6%, China’s private vehicle ownership will reach 246 million, 375 million, and 475 million in 2020, 2025, and 2030, respectively. This indicates that China’s expansion of private vehicle ownership will generate significant challenges, such as on-road vehicle-related fossil fuel consumption, pollutant emissions, traffic congestion, and scrapped vehicle recycling. These issues will become increasingly prominent. In provinces such as Hubei, Hebei, Hunan, and other central provinces that have a 50–60% urbanization rate, the large potential for income promotion will significantly stimulate the increase in private vehicle ownership, and the upper limit of 1000 people vehicle ownership in each province will be reached in 2032, 2037, and 2046 with annual per capita GDP growth rates of 8%, 6%, and 4%, respectively. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Transformations Towards Sustainability)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Transdisciplinary Responses to Children’s Health Challenges in the Context of Rapid Urbanization
Sustainability 2019, 11(15), 4097; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11154097 - 29 Jul 2019
Abstract
Urban transformations are complex, dynamic, and systemic societal phenomena that have many positive and negative consequences, including irreversible changes to land-use and loss of soil permeability, deforestation and accelerating losses of biodiversity, energy consumption and increasing volumes of green-house gas emissions, demographics and [...] Read more.
Urban transformations are complex, dynamic, and systemic societal phenomena that have many positive and negative consequences, including irreversible changes to land-use and loss of soil permeability, deforestation and accelerating losses of biodiversity, energy consumption and increasing volumes of green-house gas emissions, demographics and greater socio-economic inequalities, and accelerating incidences of non-communicable diseases. These omnipresent diseases (e.g., asthma, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes) have no cultural, geographical, or socio-economic boundaries and they impact all age groups including children and young adults. Local and national authorities North and South of the Equator, and international organizations and networks, have rarely responded effectively to children’s health challenges in the context of rapid urban development. The purpose of this article is to describe and illustrate more effective approaches. It proposes new ideas, founded on collective thinking involving several disciplines and professions, and new working methods, founded on collaboration with community associations in civil society. Both promote shared understandings about the complex, dynamic, systemic, and emergent nature of urban health risks for children. The article explains why transdisciplinary contributions should be distinguished from multi- and inter-disciplinary contributions, and it presents examples of participatory action research in the WHO European region about children’s health. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Transformations Towards Sustainability)
Open AccessCommunication
New Urban Transitions towards Sustainability: Addressing SDG Challenges (Research and Implementation Tasks and Topics from the Perspective of the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of the Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) Urban Europe)
Sustainability 2019, 11(8), 2242; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11082242 - 14 Apr 2019
Abstract
The paper presents the requirements and challenges of urban transitions towards sustainability from the perspective of the SAB of the JPI Urban Europe. Critical reflections on the achievements and identification of gaps in the activities of JPI Urban Europe, based on the Strategic [...] Read more.
The paper presents the requirements and challenges of urban transitions towards sustainability from the perspective of the SAB of the JPI Urban Europe. Critical reflections on the achievements and identification of gaps in the activities of JPI Urban Europe, based on the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda SRIA (2015–2020), reveal advanced research questions, tasks, and approaches that influenced the development process of the SRIA 2.0 (released in February 2019). The authors emphasize the dilemma approach, the local context and the co-creation concept to pursue urban transitions in real-world context. Considering this frame, they propose specific domains for further research on urban transitions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Transformations Towards Sustainability)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Towards a Neutral North—The Urban Low Carbon Transitions of Akureyri, Iceland
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 2014; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11072014 - 04 Apr 2019
Abstract
Climate change has made urban decarbonisation a global imperative. Cities are both a source of emissions and a leverage-point for the necessary transformation processes. Iceland is blessed with an ample supply of renewable energy sources. Hydropower and geothermal are widespread in the country [...] Read more.
Climate change has made urban decarbonisation a global imperative. Cities are both a source of emissions and a leverage-point for the necessary transformation processes. Iceland is blessed with an ample supply of renewable energy sources. Hydropower and geothermal are widespread in the country and they dominate the country’s electricity and district heating systems. Despite this huge potential, per capita emissions in Iceland are still way above levels required to meet the 2 degrees target. This is because decarbonisation processes have, so far, fallen short of addressing emissions from sectors such as waste and transportation. Against this background, this paper investigates the low carbon transition in the northern Icelandic municipality of Akureyri. With roughly 18,000 inhabitants, the town of Akureyri is the biggest urban centre in the north of the country. Here, a number of key actors have initiated an ambitious urban transformation process of local carbon flows. Based on 19 semi-structured interviews, we analysed the role of key actors and their resources and strategies. To better explore the transition’s underlying mechanisms, we analysed the dynamics through the lens of the multi-level perspective (MLP), applied in a descriptive context. We found that a key factor for success of the urban transition was a strategy that integrated several previously disconnected carbon flows of the community. Important success factors were close community connections, public-private partnerships, the enthusiasm of multiple individuals who drove the process, the establishment of a strong intermediary organisation, and stable political support. The case can teach us about the challenges of transitions that integrate disconnected carbon flows in an urban context. Furthermore, it provides valuable findings on the role intermediary organisations play in these processes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Transformations Towards Sustainability)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Urban Sustainability Strategies Guided by the SDGs—A Tale of Four Cities
Sustainability 2019, 11(4), 1116; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11041116 - 20 Feb 2019
Abstract
The United Nations (UN) 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, signed in 2015 and backed-up with its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), mentions cities as key players for evolving actively towards more sustainability. This underpins that living in the cities of the urban age is [...] Read more.
The United Nations (UN) 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, signed in 2015 and backed-up with its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), mentions cities as key players for evolving actively towards more sustainability. This underpins that living in the cities of the urban age is increasingly becoming the focus of sustainability discussions, which is particularly reflected in SDG 11 “Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. As urban sustainability strategies are playing a key role for the development of cities, this article sheds light on four cities’ sustainability strategies. The case studies highlight shortcomings, in terms of integrated visions, clear targets, and indicators in existing urban (sustainability) strategies. The article discusses these issues in light of an analytical framework, and stresses challenges and opportunities that SDG implementation involves. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Transformations Towards Sustainability)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
The Spatial-Temporal Characteristics and Dilemmas of Sustainable Urbanization in China: A New Perspective Based on the Concept of Five-in-One
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4733; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124733 - 12 Dec 2018
Cited by 2
Abstract
A large amount of ink has been spilled to paint the picture of China’s urbanization. However, more research might be done on the connotation of sustainable urbanization in China. On the basis of a literature review, this study is the first to propose [...] Read more.
A large amount of ink has been spilled to paint the picture of China’s urbanization. However, more research might be done on the connotation of sustainable urbanization in China. On the basis of a literature review, this study is the first to propose the perspective of evaluating the sustainability of urbanization from the five dimensions of urbanization: economic, political, cultural, social, and ecological. Based on the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) method and entropy method, a five-dimensional indicator system was established to evaluate the urbanization quality of 31 provincial regions in China during 2005–2015. Then, the coupling coordination degree model was used to calculate the coupling coordination degree of the five dimensions for each region. Furthermore, Moran’s I index and a local indicators of spatial association (LISA) cluster map were used to measure and describe the spatial disparity. Finally, a factor identification model was used to recognize the weaknesses of each region. This study leads to four major findings. (1) In 2015, only ecological urbanization had a high-quality and balanced development, while the development of cultural urbanization was inadequate and regionally unbalanced. Economic, ecological, and cultural dimensions had a significantly positive global spatial autocorrelation. The local spatial autocorrelation varies with dimension. (2) The quality of comprehensive urbanization increased during 2005–2015, while the regional disparity experienced a reduction. A positive global spatial autocorrelation was shown during 2005–2015. The High-High type in the eastern coastal areas centralized over time, while the Low-Low type in the western areas experienced a decline, and the Low-High type was stabilized in the central areas. Only Chongqing was in the High-Low type in 2015. (3) The increase of coupling coordination degree and decrease of coefficient of variation indicated a favorable situation. The coupling coordination degree also had a positive global spatial autocorrelation during 2005–2015. Both the High-High and Low-Low types experienced an obvious shrink and displacement. The Low-High type expanded and centralized in the central areas, while the High–Low type was in Guangdong in 2005, and in Chongqing in 2015. (4) The highest obstacle degrees of each region were all within the cultural dimension, while the ecological dimension caused the least resistance. The lack of innovation had become the biggest barrier in most regions. Based on the above conclusions, this paper concludes with recommendations for policy makers to advance sustainable urbanization in China. Meanwhile, this study can provide lessons and suggestions for other developing countries in the world. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Transformations Towards Sustainability)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Other

Jump to: Research

Open AccessCommentary
“Smart Is Not Smart Enough!” Anticipating Critical Raw Material Use in Smart City Concepts: The Example of Smart Grids
Sustainability 2019, 11(16), 4422; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11164422 - 16 Aug 2019
Abstract
Globally emerging smart city concepts aim to make resource production and allocation in urban areas more efficient, and thus more sustainable through new sociotechnical innovations such as smart grids, smart meters, or solar panels. While recent critiques of smart cities have focused on [...] Read more.
Globally emerging smart city concepts aim to make resource production and allocation in urban areas more efficient, and thus more sustainable through new sociotechnical innovations such as smart grids, smart meters, or solar panels. While recent critiques of smart cities have focused on data security, surveillance, or the influence of corporations on urban development, especially with regard to intelligent communication technologies (ICT), issues related to the material basis of smart city technologies and the interlinked resource problems have largely been ignored in the scholarly literature and in urban planning. Such problems pertain to the provision and recovery of critical raw materials (CRM) from anthropogenic sources like scrap metal repositories, which have been intensely studied during the last few years. To address this gap in the urban planning literature, we link urban planning literatures on smart cities with literatures on CRM mining and recovery from scrap metals. We find that underestimating problems related to resource provision and recovery might lead to management and governance challenges in emerging smart cities, which also entail ethical issues. To illustrate these problems, we refer to the smart city energy domain and explore the smart city-CRM-energy nexus from the perspectives of the respective literatures. We show that CRMs are an important foundation for smart city energy applications such as energy production, energy distribution, and energy allocation. Given current trends in smart city emergence, smart city concepts may potentially foster primary extraction of CRMs, which is linked to considerable environmental and health issues. While the problems associated with primary mining have been well-explored in the literature, we also seek to shed light on the potential substitution and recovery of CRMs from anthropogenic raw material deposits as represented by installed digital smart city infrastructures. Our central finding is that the current smart city literature and contemporary urban planning do not address these issues. This leads to the paradox that smart city concepts are supporting the CRM dependencies that they should actually be seeking to overcome. Discussion on this emerging issue between academics and practitioners has nevertheless not taken place. We address these issues and make recommendations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Transformations Towards Sustainability)
Back to TopTop