Weekly Urban News Update
June 16th, 2017
In This Update
As countries urbanize, new research has shown that their cities' contributions to greenhouse gases and carbon emissions start to become disproportionately high in comparison with their population and wealth, a statistic that is bound to change the conversation on urbanization and climate change from one that focuses on differences in emissions levels between the Global North and Global South, to one that focuses on emissions disparities between urban and rural areas globally. Because cities are urbanizing similarly across the globe, cities in developing countries often represent the majority of the carbon the entire country emits, while rural areas maintain low and sometimes negative carbon emissions per capita. According to Citiscope, as this urban-rural divide becomes more apparent, there is greater need to address these inequalities at a national level, and to use the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda to encourage city officials to manage their carbon emissions, for their city and their country at large. However, many urban officials are ahead of the curve, as cities are already leading the charge against climate change and are working together to implement global urban sustainability, and so the future of reducing carbon emissions rests in capable hands.

Read the full article here.

During the early hours of Wednesday morning, a devastating fire raged through a 27-story apartment block in West London, leaving dozens injured and at least 30 people confirmed dead, a number which is likely to rise. The fire, which allegedly started on the first floor, spread through nearly the entire building unbelievably quickly, scorching nearly every floor in a blaze that brought hundreds of firefighters and urban engineers to the scene. And in the aftermath of the revelation that members of the community repeatedly expressed their concerns over the building's fire safety measures, many questions remain, including what caused the fire, and what could have been done to prevent the disaster from reaching the catastrophic level it did. Grenfell is one of the many apartment blocks that have been refurbished in the past few years to both expand the amount of available apartments and attract tenants, in order to keep up with the London affordable housing shortage. And while the affordable flats did bring in new residents, protests regarding the safety hazards of the building were allegedly either ignored or pushed back. This, along with a 2011 study that warned that three quarters of Britain's social housing blocks were potentially unsafe in a fire, suggests that the urgent need to create new and affordable housing in London may have at least have contributed to insufficient attention being paid to core safety issues.

In the wake of the fire, the local community has come together to feed, house and clothe the residents of Grenfell tower, showing the best of humanity at the worst of times. And as the victims- among them a Syrian refugee- are mourned, much attention is being brought to improving living conditions in the area, and bettering communications in the event of a disaster. What this tragedy shows is how important it is for cities to create safe and adequate affordable housing for all, and for local officials to work together with residents and national governments to ensure that the communities are as secure as they can be.

Read the full editorial  here.

The United Nations held its first ever Ocean Conference, an unprecedented event that focused on the failing health of the world's oceans, and ended with a joint "call to action" made by member states, reaffirming the United Nation's support in implementing Sustainable Development Goal 14, which focuses on ocean conservation. Similar to the New Urban Agenda and the SDGs, the call to action is not binding or compulsory, but experts say that the conference may be the starting point for oceans to become the next big focus in sustainable international development. Since the majority of the world's oceans are ungoverned territory, adopting and implementing a global consensus on how to improve marine health and stability is (pun intended) unchartered waters. But IHC Global is hopeful that the enthusiasm displayed by UN member states regarding this cause will continue, and that it will expand to creating sustainable water resources on land- in both urban and rural communities- as well.

Read the full article here.
CHabitat for Humanity International and USAID fellowships now open

Habitat for Humanity International is facilitating USAID's new graduate student fellowships in Humanitarian Shelter and Settlements. The fellowships are available for first year Master-level students of city, urban, environmental or regional planning, as well as of architecture or architectural engineering. Students will be focusing on managing the transition of humanitarian shelter to permanent housing, incorporating hazard mapping into settlements planning, post-disaster rebuilding and emergency planning, measuring the effectiveness of current humanitarian shelters, identifying best practices for assessment tools, and promoting inclusive land tenure management that incorporates risk reduction. The deadline for applying is June 23rd.

Find out more about the open positions here.

As part of the larger Trans-Atlantic Symposium on ICT Technology and Policy, the Wilson Center will be hosting a panel, Best Practices for Academic/Industry Collaborations in Smart Cities, discussing what practices cross-sector partnerships in smart cities- specifically between the academic and industry sectors- need adopt to effectively implement technologically-driven urban development, and where public administration fits within these partnerships. The panel will feature the Wilson Center Senior Program Associate Anne Bowser, Turin Wireless Foundation Director and Italian Technology Cluster 'Smart Communities Tech' Secretary General Laura Morgagni, THHINK Wireless Technologies Ltd Managing Director and CPSoS Working Group Chair Haydn Thompson, and University of Wisconsin-Madison UniverCity Alliance Director Jason Vargo.

When:  Tuesday, June 20th, 2017
1:10 PM - 2:10 PM
Where: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Register and learn more about the event  here.
Feature IHC Global Urban Feature: Water and Sanitation
I live in Flint. All the justice in the world won't undo the damage.

The Issue
The Flint Water Crisis has topped headlines on nearly every American newspaper since its outbreak in 2014, when improper water treatment for the Flint River- the recently changed water source for the town of Flint- exposed over 100,000 residents of the city of Flint, Michigan to dangerously high levels of lead. This contaminated water has been linked to an outbreak of Legionnaire's disease and at least twelve deaths. Now, the crisis is far from over, but several Flint and Michigan officials- including the minister of health- have been convicted of involuntary manslaughter, for their failure to prevent or give early notification of the contaminated water system. Some across the country are feeling vindicated by these actions, but others, including Flint resident Connor Coyne, think that these arrests mean nothing to the thousands of lives that have been changed forever.
What We See
Coyne gives a break down of the way many people in Flint are feeling: that the manslaughter charges are warranted, but they do not get to the heart of the issue, nor do they completely hold the government at local, state and federal level responsible for this crisis, or question the legitimacy and effectiveness of the law that took away Flint's control of its water supply. But he also can give us a perspective that is not coming from a journalist or from an official that is looking at the outside facts. Coyne can describe firsthand the effects that the city is feeling nearly four years into the crisis. He says that while Flint's more affluent residents have been able to test their water, obtain water bottles, or gain access to other water sources, the story is altogether different for the poorest residents of Flint, who are trapped in disintegrating neighborhoods and do not have access to any improved water sources, or the attention from officials. This crisis, happening in the heart of America, is testament to the fragility of water systems everywhere, from the most developed countries to the most developing, and the importance of having adequate government cooperation through every level. The problems in Flint, especially the poverty disparity, are terribly familiar to those in many developing countries, and as water resources grow scarce, it is more important than ever to have stable, comprehensive and heavily monitored water systems in every country. SDG 6 is dedicated to creating sustainable water and sanitation for all, and IHC Global advocates for local and national governments to work together to make sure citizens like Coyne have access to clean water anywhere they are.

Read the full editorial  here.
To learn more about IHC Global's Key Policy Topics, which are both barriers and gateways to better, more equitable urban development, click here
In the news and around the web
  • The New Yorker takes a look into the urban Russian protestors that are taking an unprecedented stand against Putin.
  • Like cities, businesses are using data to counter the dangers of natural disasters.
  • People are leaving American cities, and immigration doesn't make up for the population loss.
  • Brazil's poorest communities are squatting in abandoned government buildings after being priced out of favelas.
In case you missed it:
  • Millions of people are living in nuclear bunkers-turned apartments under Chinese cities.

This little boy is one of the millions of Chinese people that live in converted nuclear bunkers below the country's biggest cities.
     Source: National Geographic
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IHC Global: changing cities for good.
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