Sustainable transitions in cities: local transformation in an urbanising world
AffiliationOffice for Environmental Programs
Document TypeMasters Coursework thesis
Access StatusOnly available to University of Melbourne staff and students, login required
Cities are recognised globally as crucial sites for sustainable development. There is increasing uptake of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by city governments, but complexities remain in how these goals are applied to urban planning processes and how to maximise sustainable transitions locally. Addressing this premise, this paper aims to examine how various methods of engagement with the SDGs by city governments can drive the transition toward sustainable urban development. This research applies an urban governance framework from sustainable transitions theory (Transition Management) to assess various methods of city-level engagement with the SDGs across the Asia-Pacific – the most rapidly urbanising region in the world. Eight SDG reports published by cities were analysed, and six interviews were conducted with city actors engaging in an active SDG localisation project. Regional commonalities are analysed using the four spheres of Transition Management – strategic, tactical, operational, and reflexive – to understand how cities undergo transformative change and assesses whether local engagement with the SDGs has the potential to drive global change. The findings indicate that city-level engagement with the SDGs does have the potential to influence urban development outcomes. A city government’s capacity to engage with, and more importantly, measure the impact of localising the SDGs underpinned effective implementation. Widespread uptake of the goals proved challenging due to urban heterogeneity, but city-to-city peer learning was identified as a key enabler for local-level engagement. This study underlines the need for flexibility in the format and process of SDG engagement, while also providing for the critical need for relevant local data to support local policy setting. The outcomes suggest that a more focussed approach to SDG localisation is needed, to better define and measure the factors for success, and to help city governments identify those mechanisms that will generate tangible impact at a local and global level.
Keywordscities; sustainable development; SDGs; urban transitions; transformative change
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