5 June 2021
The future of cities will be green and sustainable. Dense urban areas may become a distant memory, while increasingly green designers will offer new eco-friendly, nature-conscious living spaces, allowing sustainable design to become an economic and ethical driving force behind the urban, environmental and social policies of the coming decades.
This is one of the considerations offered by today’s World Environment Day, whose 2021 theme “Restoring Ecosystems”, promoted by the United Nations, focuses on individual and collective good practices to defend the environment and inhabit it in a responsible manner.
A practical guide offers a step-by-step description of what to do and how to do it in order to help restore all the components of our ecosystem: from forests to trees in our cities, from lakes to rivers, from cities to towns, from oceans to coastlines and even farmland.
Urban settings and their development are among the key areas for sustainable community development. This is an intervention area identified by the United Nations, included in the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and in the Next Generation EU programme approved by the EU, clearly demonstrating that the future of the next generations depends on rethinking cities with an environmental and sustainable approach. This change must take place both at a central level, facilitated by governments, institutions and local authorities, as well as through the responsibility and good practices of each and every one of us.
Many Italian cities and towns have long invested in new environmental and sustainability policies, implementing eco-friendly transport, creating green spaces in new-generation urban contexts, producing low-impact energy, and supporting responsible consumption by combining economic saving and protection policies to promote environmental progress. All these initiatives, with a view to long-term investment, have radically changed the appearance of cities and the habits of their residents.
Clearly, one-off measures, if not accompanied by a radical change of perspective involving adequate funding and forward-looking investment, is insubstantial and ineffective. The driving force behind eco-friendly urban redesign is the ability to achieve progress while respecting the environment, a goal that must necessarily be pursued through a range of coordinated and continuous actions.
To this end, urban transport networks, energy networks and environmental networks are the tools through which we can bring about a step change from the past. Real urban progress will depend on these three guiding principles and related investment. This will enable us to ensure future generations a world that is more mindful of ongoing changes and conscious of the importance of the environment and the planet.
THE THREE DEVELOPMENT ASSETS
Adopting sustainable transport by reducing the movement of private cars and polluting vehicles and promoting electric/hybrid or alternative transport (cycling, walking and sharing) is a first step, as is overhauling the rail and overground or underground (metro) interchange networks and revamping the energy networks from an eco-friendly standpoint. The latter, like transport, are important assets to invest in. LED public lighting would reduce consumption, while encouraging the use of wind, hydro, photovoltaic or biomass energy would result in savings and lower consumption, helping the environment and the ecosystem.
This list must include environmental networks such as water networks, sewage treatment plants, urban green spaces and separate waste collection networks supported by citizens’ responsible use. Combining the development of urban areas and the protection of the ecosystem in a shared vision will make it possible to make rapid progress towards the environmental ‘new deal’ that the international community considers to be an essential goal that can no longer be postponed and which modern societies are required to pursue.