City-level Decoupling: Urban Resource Flows and the Governance of Infrastructure Transitions
|Type||Independent scientific assessment|
|Publication||2013, International Resource Panel|
The report Decoupling Natural Resource Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth is one of a series of reports researched and published by the International Resource Panel (IRP) of the United Nations Environment Programme. The IRP provides independent scientific assessments and expert advice on a variety of areas, including:
• the volume of selected raw material reserves and how efficiently these resources are being used
• the lifecycle-long environmental impacts of products and services created and consumed around the globe
• options to meet human and economic needs with fewer or cleaner resources.
About the report
This report builds upon previous work of the International Resource Panel on Decoupling Natural Resource Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth report, and examines the potential for decoupling at the city level.
It is generally accepted that the majority of the population lives in the cities at a time when we are trying to become more sustainable. This report recognizes the advantage of having the majority of the population living in cities for cities are centers of innovation, and where the pressures and potentials to find ways to reconcile economic growth, well-bring and the sustainable use of natural resources will be the greatest. The natural resources that are pumped through cities are called the "metabolic flows" in the report, and these resources are facing the problems of depletion and rising in costs, which threatens the resilience of cities. The main argument of the report is that to shift from unsustainable to sustainable metabolic flows, it will be necessary to reconfigure the urban infrastructure networks of the world's cities. It will no longer be to assume that resources are unlimited, that prices will not rise and that the purpose of the urban infrastructure is to maximize the consumption of resources.
The report also highlights the way that the design, construction and operation of energy, waste, water, sanitation and transport infrastructures create a socio-technical environment that shapes the “way of life” of citizens and how they procure, use and dispose of the resources they require. Its approach is innovative in that it frames infrastructure networks as socio-technical systems, examining pressures for change within cities that go beyond technical considerations. The importance of intermediaries as the dominant agents for change is emphasized, as well as the fact that social processes and dynamics need to be understood and integrated into any assessment of urban infrastructure interventions and the reconfiguration of resource flows.
There is also a set of 30 case studies which provides examples of innovative approaches to sustainable infrastructure change across a broad range of urban contexts.