Integrating the Environment in Urban Planning for Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is multidimensional. It requires an understanding of complex and often conflicting relationships, which require an integrated approach and an integration culture. After all, the city is a mosaic of different neighbourhoods with different functions, qualities, problems and opportunities. A city development strategy which fails to take due account of the environment may achieve its other objectives, it will not contribute to the ultimate goal of sustainable development.

A city can choose to target its environmental activities at different levels. It may choose to take action for the city as a whole, using supra-sectoral concepts and strategies such as Localising, which has provided many local authorities with an innovative and effective approach to urban management which combines social, economic and environmental aspects, or the Eco-City Planning approach.

It may choose to focus on integrated local environmental management, utilising information systems, environmental monitoring and eco-budgeting. Urban managers may decide to implement ecological construction and living policies, using sustainable construction material, technologies and supply systems and encouraging ecological user behaviour.

Cities may also choose integrated strategies for certain sectors and environmental commodities. These can include

  • reducing energy consumption
  • controlling air pollution in urban areas,
  • reducing industrial and traffic emissions
  • improving water quality
  • reducing the amount of solid waste generated, or developing overall strategies for traffic and transport which avoid negative impacts on the environment.

Another way that urban decision-makers can make environmental interventions is through the development of institutional, legal and market-policy frameworks. These can include

  • legal and political regulations
  • management instruments
  • technical consultancies
  • private sector involvement
  • citizen participation and public relations
  • introduction of cooperation arrangements, and – partnerships with the private sector.
Urban Planning

Overview of Instruments for Environmental Integration Instruments can fall into several categories

  • policy instruments
  • process instruments
  • planning instruments and management instruments
  • Policy instruments provide guiding principles for urban decision-makers.
  • Process instruments provide ways of doing something, steps that can be taken to reach a desired goal.
  • Planning instruments offer a variety of methods by which urban development plans can be developed and implemented.
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Management instruments provide tools to direct and administer urban planning decisions. Many environmental instruments are supported by specialised tools or toolkits, and samples of these are included in the next chapter.

Policy Instruments Environmental Integration

A variety of policy instruments are available to cities. These can be broken down into four main categories: information, voluntary, economic and regulatory.

Information Instruments

Information instruments can include written, internet or face-to-face advice. Some cities have set up environmental information offices to provide the general public with information on environmental issues. Information instruments can also include training, research and development, and awareness-raising campaigns.

Information campaigns work best to redress a situation where a lack of information about how best to reduce environmental impacts is in itself a significant barrier to people changing their behaviour. Other information instruments can take the form of clearinghouse mechanisms where communities can learn about other city experiences, such as Germany’s “Agenda Transfer” initiative.

Voluntary Instruments

Voluntary instruments work best where people already have an incentive to change their behaviour. Just bringing different players in the market together and helping them agree to common aims, or providing a scheme for people to join may be enough to change environmental behaviour.

For example, companies may work towards attaining environmental management standards because it provides them with a marketing advantage, and helps to reduce potential environmental liabilities or environmental liability insurance costs.

Examples of voluntary instruments include

  • voluntary product labelling or branding
  • voluntary codes of practice or standards
  • voluntary (but externally accredited) environmental management standards or audits, and
  • voluntary agreements.
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Economic Instruments

Economic instruments come in many different forms but generally work by making people face the environmental costs they impose on society. Economic instruments can include charges or taxes on emissions or products.

These provide an economic incentive to reduce production or use of harmful substances. There are also tax refund schemes where environmental taxes are refunded in proportion to the taxpayer’s environmental performance improvement.

Deposit/refund schemes encourage people not to discard empty containers or used products. Tradeable permits or quotas can be used to control the overall level of a particular type of pollution or the use of a specific resource but allow individuals to buy or sell permits to meet their own requirements.

Economic instruments can also come in the form of direct public spending subsidies for environmental improvements, including production subsidies with environmental pre-conditions, tax breaks, tax rebates, financial support or tax credits. Lastly, economic incentives also include enforcement incentives such as fines for noncompliance with regulations, legal liability for environmental damage, and environmental performance

Regulatory Instruments

Regulatory instruments are useful where a general improvement in environmental performance is desired, and it is impossible to dictate exactly what changes in behaviour would be appropriate for a wide range of operators and local environmental conditions. Regulatory instrument are used where a high level of certainty of outcome is required, or where there is little flexibility allowable on the timing or nature of the outcome required.

Regulatory instruments include controls on emissions, activities, use of resources and toxic substances through bans, permits, quotas and licensing, or controls on the choice of technology or standards for the environmental performance of the technology.

Regulatory instruments can also include extended producer responsibility, a range of mandatory environmental management standards, mandatory environmental audits, mandatory environmental labelling or product standards, mandatory training or operator licensing.

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Lastly, economic regulation which promotes competitive markets can also have a significant environmental impact. For example, utility companies should not be given disincentives to make environmental investments.

Often a single instrument does not operate in isolation. Combinations of different types of instruments can be used together to achieve a desired environmental outcome. Some elements of the package may have an effect, in the long run, others may work in the short run. The mixture of instruments in the package can continue over time to adapt to changing circumstances. highly participatory.

Today, it is generally recognised that increasing the level of stakeholder participation in the planning process results in greater focus, relevance and enhances execution in urban planning strategies. The urban planning process can be used to build consensus, to develop horizontal cooperation and create new partnerships. It can be used to prioritise issues and to create a vision or roadmap for the future, offering a highly effective entry point for the integration of environmental issues.

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About the author

I am Adegboyega Tunde Temitayo. A registered Town Planner with the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) and Town Planners Registration Council (TOPREC).

I love to think differently and possibly on various Urban and Regional Planning issues to proffer solutions to Urban and Rural Environmental Problems. You can subscribe to my YouTube Channel

As the Chief Editor of Town Planners Diary, I humbly welcome you to this platform which is about enhancing Planning Education through research on various Town Planning and Environmental issues.

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