World Changing: Top Sustainability Trends of the Next Decade

World Changing created a list of the top sustainability trends they see occuring over the next decade:

Bike usage will continue to rise across cities worldwide: “Copenhagen residents use bikes for 37 percent of all their transit. But bikes in Europe represent more than utility; riding a bicycle with the Velib’s bikeshare program in Paris now easily competes (42 million registered users) with taking a spring walk along the Seine. Bike-sharing abounds in dozens of European cities as well as in Rio de Janeiro and Santiago, Chile. Look for North American burgs to continue their proliferation of bicycles-as-transit use and bike lane expansion (NYC bicycle use is up 61% in two years).” (see “Cities for Cycling,” a discussion among David Byrne, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, and Janette Sadik-Khan, NYC’s Transportation Commissioner)

Copenhagen UNFCCC meeting will eventually result in a set of targets for cutting GHG emissions: “The UN COP15 Copenhagen conference resulted in no binding treaty status among any of the attending 128 nations that attended for them to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. This year’s late fall gathering in Mexico City is likely to set national binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions. If enacted, these targets will set the stage the coming entire decade’s greenhouse gas reduction strategies, including sub-national efforts at the regional and city level.” (see earlier posts on the UNFCCC negotiations)

Cellulosic fuels will no longer cause higher food prices, and will instead become a key part of the energy mix: “Cellulosic biofuels, in contrast, offer the promise by the middle of the decade of creating a viable energy source (one of many that will be needed) from waste products, such as wood waste, grasses, corn stalks, and other non-food products. The trick will be to balance land use with energy production so that unintended consequences, particularly burning rainforests and urban food price riots will be a thing of the past.”

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) will drive advances in sustainable urban development: “Called “the great digital underbelly” of new and retrofitted sustainable cities by Gordon Feller of Urban Age, green ICT (information and communications technologies) holds promise for increasing the energy and resource efficiency of most aspects of urban development.”

Opportunity areas include: energy smart grids, urban “traffic congestion monitoring and pricing systems,” e-water management applications (including infrastructural leakage detection and water purity monitoring systems), e-green building applications (sensors that can monitor temperature, light, humidity and occupancy), and “intelligent public transportation” managment systems.

Carbon taxes will help integrate the real environmental costs of using fossil fuels into the actual price: “A handful of nations have some form of carbon tax, mostly in Scandinavia. On the sub-national level, British Columbia and the San Francisco Bay Area recently proposed some form of the tax tax. Costs for carbon taxes can be passed on to consumers directly, or they could be levied on industry, which would likely cause manufacturing and operating costs to be wholly or partially passed onto consumers.”

Drought will be the first major effect of climate change to cause significant investments in climate change adaptation measures: “A major effort at climate change adaptation is underway in California as well as other urban areas that are experiencing or are likely to feel the early effects from climate change. Prolonged droughts consistent with the impacts of climate change are being seen in Beijing, Southwestern North America (Mexico City/ LA, etc.) and urban areas in Southeast Australia.”

The end of “cheap oil” will make sprawl more expensive: “With market uncertainty for oil prices and oil supplies, this new decade will witness the sunset of exurban-style automotive dependant sprawl in the United States and in many overseas copycat developments, particularly Asia. The overbuilt market for large, totally car-dependent single family homes in outer suburbia is expected by even some developers to not be viable for almost a decade, even if oil prices and supply stay relatively stable.”

Rising fuel costs will make urban agriculture increasingly viable: “Existing cities in Latin America (Havana, Cuba–pictured above–and Quito, Ecuador), Africa (Dar Es Salam, Tanzania; Kampala, Uganda) and Asia (Seoul, South Korea), have produced significant quantities of produce or aquaculture within their city limits. Cities in North America that have maintained or are building or rebuilding strong regional food networks include Seattle, Honolulu, Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco.” (see a review of discussions at a recent National Building Museum forum and an interview with a leading vertical farming advocate, Dickson Despommier).

Localities will undertake resiliency planning: “Resiliency is about making a system or one’s self stronger and more able to survive adversity. As the previous items portend, there will no shortage of adversity during the coming decade from climate change and energy supply instability. One of the major social phenomena related to resiliency has been the emergence of the Transition Town movement.” (see an interview with Peter Newman on his book “Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change”)

A new sustainability cultural event will help make the issues more prominent: “There has yet to be a significant work of popular art that I am aware of that captures the modern systemic aspirations of sustainability.”

Read the article

To also understand how countries will need to make major investments in mitigating CO2 emissions and adapting to climate change, see the World Bank’s comprehensive World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change

Image credit: Xcel Energy

2 thoughts on “World Changing: Top Sustainability Trends of the Next Decade

  1. Don Arambula 02/05/2010 / 7:46 pm

    Great summary. Best compilation of trends and vision that I have seen this year.

  2. Jordan 02/12/2010 / 11:25 am

    Sounds like a politically charged wish list and not a true look into trends.
    I am not sure that climate change will be as big of a factor as time goes along. Petroleum will however, be very expensive and that will guide much of what happens.

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