Well I thought it was about time I begun my own blog! My Twitter account is a fabulous resource, but 142 characters is a bit limiting, although it does encourage the art of precis-writing!
But what will my blog be about? And what is a Green Urbanist you may well ask?
Maybe my view on this is informed in three ways.
Firstly, there is quite a nice overview of a traditional approach to “Green Urbanism” published in the journal Sapiens in 2010. It is certainly a readable and comprehensive overview of the principles which green urbanism should embrace – energy, natural environment, mobility, housing, food, water, waste, etc. And by setting down 15 principles it provides a base for how cities approach their sustainability.
Secondly, when the European Commission introduced the European Green Capital award and awarded it to Stockholm in 2010, it was with the intent of celebrating the commitment and innovation of cities striving to resolve the environmental challenges facing our society. Because, today more than two thirds of Europeans live in towns and cities. Already Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Vitoria-Gasteiz, and Nantes have all, through their EGC award, shown their commitment to date. And I am looking forward to Bristol in 2015 and Llubljana in 2016 where we will see powerful urban leadership to make european cities the most sustainable cities in which to live.
But thirdly, in my view, Green Urbanism is not just about the physical attributes of a city. It concerns whether it has the ability and indeed the freedom to plan, make and implement its own decisions on the 15 Green Urbanism principles.
In the UK we have a highly centralised system of governance dominated by the political, financial and media structures in London. This has greatly impacted on UK, but especially on english cities since the OPEC oil crisis in the 1970s and the introduction of greater financial control over “public expenditure”. The crisis caused a seismic shift on economic structures on western oil-dependent economies. But its also caused a seismic shift in the relations between cities and central government. Especially as the role of HM Treasury increased to “manage” the financial tensions imposed by the IMF and the jitteriness of the financial markets.
Cities became subject to imposed central diktats. These included major local government reorganisation in 1974; centralised revenue and capital expenditure controls were introduced; greater government interest in the oversight and setting of standards; and through the 1980s with nationalisation of the Business Rates, and imposition of controls on local rates (now the Council Tax). And yet it was also clear at the time that improvements to local council structures were required.
But the question has to be at what stage the restoration back to cities of the centralisation of these local responsibilities, powers, and finance will be achieved.
Because. I believe firmly that Green Urbanism and its 15 principles can only be achieved, through a radical return of the responsibilities, powers and finance raising powers, which were taken away.
I hope that my subsequent blogs will explore the many dimensions of delivering true Green Urbanism.